Collecting Art and the “Prestige of Painting” in the Seventeenth-Century
Nearly all of the collectors on this course were either of royal or aristocratic blood, or had some title or honour associated with the ruling houses of Europe. Seventeenth-century collectors were merely following the example set by their illustrious predecessors, a roll of call of famous families and dynasties who possessed the wealth, status and power to amass art: the Farnese, the Medici, the Gonzaga, the Borghese. The galleries of these puissant families boasted paintings, tapestries, sculpture and drawings that were the envy of artists, collectors and scholars. Their art is today hung on the walls of leading museums throughout the world and draws huge crowds. This is what Brown calls “the prestige of painting” reflected in the increasingly high prices that paintings are sold for today. Yet as Brown cautions us, other types of objects like silverware, tapestries and others would be valued far higher than painting. For example an inventory of Cardinal Richelieu values his paintings 80, 000 livres, but his silver was valued at 237,000 livres. And Mazarin’s pictures were estimated to be worth 224, 873 livres but the eighteen diamonds (les dix-huit Mazarins) were valued at a staggering 1,931, 000 livres. Here Brown is identifying the material value of the work, not what could be called its symbolic value, i.e the stylistic, art historical, aesthetic qualities which are difficult, if not impossible, to value financially. Another crucial difference between earlier collectors and the monarchs of the seventeenth-century is that families like the Gonzaga accumulated their art gradually, piecemeal over time. By contrast, rulers like Charles I, Louis XIV and Rudolph II acquired their collections almost at a flash. It took only a few years to transform the English royal collection into something outstanding by the purchase of the Gonzaga holdings in 1628.
|Domenico Morone, Battle between the Gonzaga and the Bonacolsi, 1494, Oil on wood Palazzo Ducale, Mantua|
|Hendrick Pot, Charles I, Henrietta Maria & Charles, Prince of Wales, later Charles II, Royal Collection|
|Attributed to Andrea Mantegna, Francesco Gonzaga 4th Marchese of Mantua, black chalk with some wash and white highlights on greenish paper, cut down on all sides, 347 x 238 mm, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin|
|Andrea Mantegna, Triumphs of Ceasar. Canvas III: Captured statues and siege equipment , a representation of a captured city and inscriptions (The Triumphal Carts), distemper (?) on canvas, 2.66 x 2.78 m, Royal Collection.|
Charles I and the Gonzaga Collections.
An illustration of the difference in patterns of collecting between the renaissance and the seventeenth-century can be seen if the links between Charles I and the Gonzaga holdings are compared. Links between the English and the Mantuan court begin about 1608. An Englishman, Thomas Coryat visited Mantua in that year and compared the Italian city to London. This theme is one of the themes (Mantua/London) running through the 1982 exhibition Splendour of the Gonzaga which surveyed the art collection of the Mantuan family, most of which the English crown would acquire in 1628. The Gonzaga collection involved generations of the family including Ludovico Gonzaga who was Mantegna’s patron. Mantegna’s splendid Triumphs of Ceasar would come to England and remain there. Mantegna also served Isabella d’Este the “First Lady of the Renaissance” whose portraits- or women that may be her- are in the royal collection. Isabella’s son Federigo was also a collector, though mainly of learned erotica by the likes of Guilio Romano and Correggio whose art found their way temporarily into the English collection. Nearer the seventeenth-century, painters like Peter Paul Rubens and Domenico Fetti were employed by the Gonzaga. Rubens painted a large altarpiece, Adoration of the Trinity which includes the Gonzaga family; this only exists in fragments. Fetti painted many heads of saints and martyrs; many of these came into Charles’s collection and stayed there. Another strand of Gonzaga collecting was their knot of Flemish pictures including two Jan van Eycks that Isabella is thought to have owned. An altarpiece attributed to Jan Provost was acquired by Charles in in 1627, sold in 1650 and then recovered by the Crown.
The Dutch Gift.
|Peter Paul Rubens, The Gonzaga Family Worshipping the Holy Trinity, 1604-05, Oil on canvas, 430 x 700 cm, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua|
|Andrea Mantegna, The Court of Gonzaga, 1465-74, Walnut oil on plaster, 805 x 807 cm, Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua.|
|Andrea Mantegna, Madonna della Vittoria, Louvre, Madonna of Victory, 1496, Tempera on canvas, 280 x 166 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.|
|Domenico Fetti, Margherita Gonzaga Receiving the Model of the Church of St Ursula, c. 1615, Oil on canvas, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua|
An engraving of the so-called Isabella at Hampton Court was made by Pieter Holsteyn II for a picture book of paintings in the collection of the Dutchman Gerard Reynst in the 1650s.The Reynst collection is one of the few of its kind made in the Dutch republic during this century, which to Brown illustrates how “the ideal of the princely gallery took hold amongst the mercantile class.” The question of the acquisition of Italian paintings cannot be gone into here, but the Reynst cache was mainly acquired from a Venetian collection. Like Teniers with his Theatrum Pictorium, Reynst used a book of engravings to publicise his collection. By this time however, about twenty-four of his finest paintings had been sold to the states of Holland and West Friesland and subsequently presented to Charles II of England in 1660. The so called “Dutch Gift” made to Charles II on his assumption to the throne in 1660, numbered masterpieces believed to be by Titian and Raphael, respectively. Of the latter, the “Portrait of Isabelle d’Este” is now attributed to Guilio Romano, and rather than Isabella it is thought to represent her daughter-in-law Margherita Paleogo. Perhaps the most impressive picture in this hoard is Lorenzo Lotto’s portrait of another collector, Andrea Odoni who lived in Venice. Other collection publications included the Cabinet du Roi, a huge collection of prints.
The End of a Century of Glorious Collecting.
|Antonio Verrio, The Sea Triumph of Charles II, c. 1674, oil on canvas, 224.5 x 231.0 cm, Royal Collection|
|Paolo Veronese, The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine of Alexandria, c. 1562-69, oil on canvas, 148.0 x 199. 5 cm, Royal Collection. (Dutch Gift, 1660)|
|Titian, Madonna and Child in a Landscape with Tobias and the Angel, 1535-40, oil on panel, 85.2 x 120. 3 cm, Royal Collection. (Dutch Gift, 1660)|
|Lorenzo Lotto, Portrait of Andrea Oldoni, 1527, oil on canvas, 104.3 x 116.8 cm, Royal Collection. (Dutch Gift, 1660)|
“Without being crudely determinist, we have to risk the hypothesis that English collecting in the early seventeenth-century was an anomaly, the outcome of a historical accident. It lacked a real substructure, such was its characteristic, in varying degrees, of the formation of all other private- and ultimately national- collections at different times and in different places. Collecting and the tastes associated with it had not spread widely or deeply in English society: it was not shared by the majority of the wealthy, powerful and educated, nor was it emulated in diluted form by many of more modest means, nor was it supported by a sympathetic public opinion, derived from some degree of familiarity with the arts. When the Titians and Raphaels began to flow back to England after 1789, all these conditions were in place. But that is another story.” Francis Haskell.
As should be obvious by now, collecting in 17th century Europe was the preserve of a favoured few; they were wealthy, implicated in the structures of power, and eager to acquire pictures for a multiplicity of reasons. This was an elitist taste, in no shape or form dependent on “public opinion” since that would only be formed with the rise of the middle-classes in the eighteenth-century and beyond. Though sumptuous and magnificent palaces to house large collections would survive, the trend would be towards more manageable depositories of art. And the name of painters that later collectors would seek out would not be exclusively Titian and Raphael, Reni and Mantegna, but Claude and Poussin (really only present in French and Italian collections in the seventeenth-century), Gaspar Dughet, Salvator Rosa, Gerrit Dou, Guercino and Murillo- the list goes on. It seems fitting to conclude this course with Francis Haskell’s observation: “it was not in fact until after the French Revolution and the Napoleonic invasion of Italy that significant numbers of pictures of the same nature and quality as those that could have been seen in Whitehall and the Strand in January 1642 began once again to be imported into England.” Many of these old masters would hang in the country houses of earls, dukes and lords, - but this is for another course.
|David Teniers the Younger, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria in his Gallery, 1651Oil on canvas, 96 x 129 cm, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels|
|Guilio Romano, Portrait of a Lady, traditionally called Isabella d’Este, oil on panel, 115. 5 x 90.5 cm|
|Guido Reni, The Toilet of Venus, 1621-23, Oil on canvas, 282 x 206 cm, National Gallery, London|
|Jan Provost, c. 1520, Triptych: The Virgin and Child enthroned with Saints (Baptist and Martha) and Donors, oil on oak panel, panels centre 78.1 x 59.4 cm; left wing, 76.2 x 24 cm, Royal Collection|
1) Hendrick Pot, Charles I, Henrietta Maria & Charles, Prince of Wales, later Charles II, Royal Collection.
2) Mantegna, Triumphs of Caesar. Canvas IX: Julius Ceasar on his Chariot, distemper (?) on canvas, 2.68 x 2.79 m, Royal Collection.
3) Domenico Morone, Battle between the Gonzaga and the Bonacolsi, 1494, Oil on wood Palazzo Ducale, Mantua.
4) Attributed to Andrea Mantegna, Francesco Gonzaga 4th Marchese of Mantua, black chalk with some wash and white highlights on greenish paper, cut down on all sides, 347 x 238 mm, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.
5) Mantegna, The north wall: The Court of Gonzaga, 1465-74, Walnut oil on plaster, Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua.
6) Andrea Mantegna, The Court of Gonzaga, 1465-74, Walnut oil on plaster, 805 x 807 cm, Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua.
7) Same: Marquis Ludovico Gonzaga and Barbara of Brandenburg with their family.
8) Same: Barbara Gonzaga (1455-1505)
9) Andrea Mantegna, Madonna della Vittoria, Louvre, Madonna of Victory, 1496, Tempera on canvas, 280 x 166 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.
10) Andrea Mantegna, Triumphs of Ceasar. Canvas III: Captured statues and siege equipment , a representation of a captured city and inscriptions (The Triumphal Carts), distemper (?) on canvas, 2.66 x 2.78 m, Royal Collection.
11) Guilio Romano, Portrait of a Lady, traditionally called Isabella d’Este, oil on panel, 115. 5 x 90.5 cm.
12) Lorenzo Costa, Young Woman with a Lap Dog, c. 1500, oil on panel (poplar), 45.5 x 55.1 cm.
13) Domenico Fetti, Margherita Gonzaga Receiving the Model of the Church of St Ursula, c. 1615, Oil on canvas, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua
14) Domenico Fetti, St Barbara, c. 1620, oil on canvas, 100.7 x 75.6 cm, Royal Collection.
15) Peter Paul Rubens, The Gonzaga Family Worshipping the Holy Trinity, 1604-05, Oil on canvas, 430 x 700 cm, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua.
16) Detail: Vincenzo I.
17) Detail: Eleonora do Medici and her mother-in-law, Eleonora of Austria.
18) Jan Provost, c. 1520, Triptych: The Virgin and Child enthroned with Saints (Baptist and Martha) and Donors, oil on oak panel, panels centre 78.1 x 59.4 cm; left wing, 76.2 x 24 cm, Royal Collection.
19) Same: exterior; a hidden man holding a skull, and a miser.
20) Guido Reni, The Toilet of Venus, 1621-23, Oil on canvas, 282 x 206 cm, National Gallery, London.
21) Pieter Holsteyn II (after Guilio Romano), Isabella d’Este, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
22) Albrecht Durer, Portrait of a Young Fürleger with Loose Hair, 1497, Oil on canvas, 56 x 43 cm, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt.
23) Wenceslaus Hollar, Woman with Loosed Hair, engraving.
24) Domenichino, St Cecilia, 1617-18, Oil on canvas, 160 x 120 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.
25) Etienne Picart, after Domenichino, St Cecilia, engraving, British Museum, London.
26) Daniel Mytens, Lord and Lady Arundel in their Sculpture and Picture Galleries, 1616, each oil on canvas, 8 ½ x 50 inches, London, National Portrait Gallery (on loan to Arundel Castle).
27) Sir Peter Lely, Charles II, c. 1670, oil on canvas, 122.2 x 99.1 cm, Royal Collection.
28) Antonio Verrio, The Sea Triumph of Charles II, c. 1674, oil on canvas, 224.5 x 231.0 cm, Royal Collection.
29) Titian, Madonna and Child in a Landscape with Tobias and the Angel, 1535-40, oil on panel, 85.2 x 120. 3 cm, Royal Collection. (Dutch Gift, 1660).
30) Paolo Veronese, The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine of Alexandria, c. 1562-69, oil on canvas, 148.0 x 199. 5 cm, Royal Collection. (Dutch Gift, 1660).
31) Lorenzo Lotto, Portrait of Andrea Oldoni, 1527, oil on canvas, 104.3 x 116.8 cm, Royal Collection. (Dutch Gift, 1660).
32) Parmigianino, Pallas Athena, 1531-8, oil on canvas, 64.0 x 45. 4 cm, Royal Collection. (Dutch Gift, 1660).
33) Titian, Portrait of Jacopo Sannazaro, 1514-18, oil on canvas, 85.7 x 72.7 cm, Royal Collection. (Dutch Gift, 1660).
34) Andrea Schiavone, The Judgement of Midas, c. 1548-50, oil on canvas, 167.6 x 197.7 cm, Royal Collection. (Dutch Gift, 1660).
35) David Teniers the Younger, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria in his Gallery, 1651Oil on canvas, 96 x 129 cm, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.
 Brown, Kings and Connoisseurs, 228.
 D. S. Chambers, “Mantua and London” in Splendours of the Gonzaga, (London, V& A, 1982), XVII- XXIII.
 Brown, Kings and Connoisseurs, 237.
 But, this will be one of the themes on my next course, “Rembrandt to Reynolds” – details to follow,
 Francis Haskell, The King’s Pictures, 192-3.
 I am meditating a course on “The Rise and Fall of the Country House Art Collection.”
 Made for Francesco Gonzaga by Morone, an artist who spent most of his life in Verona. Splendours of the Gonzaga, no 2.
 Andrea Mantegna, no. 105 for other attributions including Giovanni Bellini and Bonsignori to whom it is attributed in Splendours of the Gonzaga, no. 63.
 The sitter cannot be identified though Berenson said it was Isabella d’Este: Splendours of the Gonzaga, no. 112.
 Fetti is listed on the Mantuan payroll from 1613 and he comes off it in 1622. Free brushwork might indicate the influence of Rubens and Veronese: Splendours of the Gonzaga, 224.
 A photo of a reconstruction of the altarpiece can be found in Splendours of the Gonzaga, no 228.
 Listed in the Mantuan inventory of 1627; acquired by Charles I (CR brand on reverse of central panel); apparently sold in 1650 but recovered by the crown. Donors not identified; Gonzaga owned some Netherlandish art; could have been in the collection of Vincenzo I who owned many Flemish pictures, Splendours of the Gonzaga, no. 234. For details- link
 Probably painted for the Duke of Mantua in 1622; subsequently presented by William IV to the NG in 1836. The NG website lists this as “Studio of Reni.” The whole question of Reni’s studio, copies and originals is discussed in Spear, The Divine Guido, chapter 13. Spear concludes that the situation with the London picture is the same as pertaining to the Venus “Il Diamante” at Toledo: that the Venus “was a studio picture based on Reni’s design and thus might be the “original” for which Reni was given a diamond,” Spear, 231 and note. Ng- link
 According to Brown (Kings and Connoisseurs, 239), only thirty-eight pictures in the French Royal collection were engraved. The so-called Cabinet du Roi whose inception dates from 1665 consisted of over 950 prints, of which this small group was from the royal picture collection.
 First recorded in the Royal Collection during the reign of Queen Victoria. From RC website: “Three-quarter-length portrait of Charles II (1630-85), standing in armour, wearing the chain of the Garter, holding a baton in his right hand, and resting his left hand on a helmet below the crown and sceptre. The canvas appears to have been left unfinished by Lely and was probably completed later, possibly in Lely's studio.” Link
 From RC website: “This was probably the first work painted by Verrio for Charles II. The subject may have been inspired to some extent by the signing, on 9 February 1674, of the Treaty of Westminster, which brought to an end the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The portrait of the King does not seem to be taken from life and was probably worked up by Verrio from a miniature ..” link
 From RC website: “This painting was described by Ridolfi when he saw it in the Reynst collection as ‘one of Titian’s exceptional works’ (una delle singolari fatiche di Titiano).The Virgin and Christ Child sit on the bank of a stream set in a landscape in the Dolomites. The Virgin picks a campanula, while Christ selects a rose, symbol of his Passion.” More - link
 Technical note from RC website: “Schiavone here uses a coarsely woven twill canvas. It is typical of his technique to paint highlights in white, over which he added translucent glazes to model from light to deep shadow. Here the figures are caught in the dramatic light falling from the left, which creates abrupt transitions. Apollo and Minerva (the only two Olympians), with smoother and whiter skin, match in colour and bracket the composition. Tmolus is, by contrast, shaggy and set against trees to suggest Ovid’s description of him: ‘The aged judge shook his ears free of the trees’. The technique is rapid and sketchy: the feet speedily indicated, the fingers expressive rather than anatomically correct, the instrument at an unresolved angle. The contrasts of light and dark throughout the painting have become exaggerated with age: the artist must have intended a more natural transition between the unusually schematic white clouds and part of the blue of the sky, which now has a thunderous look. A previous restorer gave Midas ass’s ears (removed in the 1988 restoration), when in fact Schiavone had barely indicated them.” link