Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Re-discovering Batoni

Pompeo Batoni (Lucca 1708 - Rome 1787)
Pius VI 1775
Oil on Canvas
cm. 98x135
Palazzo Braschi, Museum of Rome

Artists achieve the heights of popularity. Then often they are forgotten quickly and plunge the depths of oblivion. Maybe many years later, they are "re-discovered".

Pompeo Batoni (Lucca 1708 - Rome 1787) is one such artist.

The National Gallery in London has an exhibition of some of his works until May 2008.

He was an Italian painter whose style incorporated elements of the French Rococo, Bolognese classicism, and nascent Neoclassicism.

He specialized in portraits, for which he achieved international fame. He countedseveral popes among his patrons as well as Frederick the Great and Catherine of Russia. Members of the British nobility on the "Grand Tour" made a pont of having their portrait by him.

He was also a well established painter of religious and mythological pictures.

Amongst the important personages of his time who wished to be portrayed by him was Pius VI (pontiff from 1775 to 1799), who contacted Batoni immediately after his papal election. The above painting in the Museum of Rome is his "offiial portrait".

The pontiff is shown seated on his throne. In his left hand he holds a sheet of paper on which is written "To the Holiness of Our Lord Pope Pius VI for P. Batoni Pinxit 1775"

Throughout the 19th and for most of the 20th centuries few artists were more completely forgotten - or, if remembered, more thoroughly despised.

When the National Gallery of Wales bought one of his most impressive group portraits in 1947, it paid £200 - and that was mostly for the frame.