The Tribuna of the Uffizi by Johan Zoffany (part 2)

Tribuna of the Uffizi by Johan Zoffany

Thomas Beckford, the celebrated English art collector and novelist, wrote of the Tribuna of the Uffizi:

”…I fell into a delightful delirium which none but souls like us experience, and unable to check my rapture flew madly from bust to bust and cabinet to cabinet like a butterfly bewildered in a universe of flowers…’’

For anybody who has just clicked on this page you need to look at the previous blog first as this is a follow-on blog and will not really make sense if you had not read the previous one.

In this blog I am going to reveal the names of the paintings which formed part of the main work by Johan Zoffany entitled The Tribuna of the Uffizi but first, I will introduce you to some of the characters Zoffany included in his work.  It was the inclusion of some of these people, which upset his patrons, King George III and his wife Queen Charlotte.

If we look at the central foreground we have six gentlemen clustered around the Venus of Urbino painting by Titian.  The gentleman seated is the Honourable Felton Hervey who was the ninth son of the 1st Earl of Bristol and who was Equerry to Queen Caroline of Ansbach, wife of George II, and had passed through Florence on his Grand Tour in 1772.

The two gentlemen, dressed in black standing behind the chair are, on the left with his right hand on the painting and his left hand pointing towards the Roman marble sculpture, The Wrestlers, is Thomas Patch.  The man on the right is Sir Horace Mann, British envoy to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.  It was the inclusion of these two gentleman that upset George III and his wife.  Thomas Patch was an English painter, engraver and caricaturist. He travelled to Rome, where he met Joshua Reynolds and worked in the studio of Joseph Vernet, producing pastiches of Vernet’s work and his own views of Tivoli. However, in 1755 Patch was banished from the Papal States for some homosexual act and settled in Florence.   Here he earned a living undertaking art commissions from well-off young British men who were passing through Florence and Rome on Grand tours.

Sir Horace Mann was a diplomat and long standing British resident in Florence.  He kept an open house for British visitors at Florence, inviting them for conversazione, which were formal gatherings where something related to the arts was discussed when there was no performance at the theatre. His generosity and kindness was universally acknowledged, although his close friendship with the painter Thomas Patch sullied his reputation.  The two gentlemen in the fawn coats, both Grand Tourists, are Valentine Knightley of Fawsley, who stands between Patch and Mann and John Gordon who looks at the Titian painting, over the arm of Thomas Patch.  The man standing behind the painting is Pietro Bastianelli, who was a custode (custodian) of the Uffizi Gallery.

To the left of painting we see six men clustered around the Niccolini-Cowper Madonna which was painted by Raphael in 1508 and according to the provenance of the painting was bought by Zoffany in 1772, who resold it three years later.  After changing hands a number of times, the painting came into the possession of Andrew Mellon, the American banker, industrialist, philanthropist and great art collector.  On his death in 1937, the painting was bequeathed to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.  The four men to the left of the painting are from left to right, George, 3rd Earl Cowper, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and avid art collector and frequent visitor to Florence.  Next to him is Sir John Dick, Baronet of Braid and was, at the time, British Consul at Leghorn and next to him looking up at the painting is Other Windsor, the 6th Earl of Plymouth who was known to have been in Florence in the first half of 1772.

Standing to the left and just looking around the Madonna painting is the artist himself, Johan Zoffany, who would often include himself in his group portraits.  The two men standing to the right of the Madonna are a Mr Stevenson, dressed in a red dress coat, who was the travelling companion to George Legge, Lord Lewisham, the portly man with the gold-coloured waistcoat, who stands next to him.  Legge was a member of the royal court of George III and he and Stevenson were known to have been in Florence in 1777.  The man, sitting sketching, is the artist,  Charles Lorraine-Smith and looking over his shoulder is Richard Edgcumbe who went on to become the 2nd Earl of Mount Edgcumbe.  He was a writer on music and also later in life became a politician

The final grouping on the right hand side of the painting are clustered around the Venus de’ Medici, a life-size Hellenistic marble sculpture depicting the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite.   It is a 1st century BC marble copy, perhaps made in Athens, of an original bronze Greek sculpture.  It was the grouping of these men staring at the posterior of Aphrodite and the lewd comments made by many of the Grand Tourists about the sculpture that offended Queen Charlotte as I explained in the previous blog.  The four men standing behind the statues and gazing up at “her” are from left to right, George Finch, the 9th Earl of Winchilsea,  a great cricket lover and patron to the sport and Messrs. Wilbraham, Watts and Doughty all of whom visited Florence on their Grand Tour between December 1772 and February 1773.  Standing in front of the Venus de’ Medici are, on the left Thomas Wilbraham, who was accompanying his brother and on the right, James Bruce the Scottish traveler and travel writer who had spent the previous dozen years in North Africa and Ethiopia, where he traced the origins of the Blue Nile.  He was known to have been in Florence in 1774.

And now to the paintings that are on display.  How many did you recognise?  I have already mentioned Titian’s Venus of Urbino and Raphael’s Niccolini-Cowper Madonna and here is a list of the others which Zofanny included in his painting.

On the left-hand side wall there are two large paintings hanging above three others.  The upper paintings from left to right are Bacchante by Carracci and Charity by Guido Reni.  The three paintings below from left to right are Madonna della Sedia by Raphael, Virgin and Child by Correggio and Galileo by the Flemish painter, Justus Sustermans.

On the wall facing us there are nine paintings.  The three on the upper level from left to right are Madonna and Child with Saint Catherine by the School of Titian, the large painting in the middle is Saint John by Raphael and the upper right work is The Madonna by Guido Reni.  The middle layer of paintings on this wall, from left to right, comprises of Madonna del Cardellino by Raphael.  In the middle is Horror of War by Rubens and to the right is Madonna del Pozzo by the Florentine painter, Francesco di Christofano, better known simply as Franciabigio.  The three smaller paintings below eye-level on this wall are, from left to right, Sir Richard Southwell by Hans Holbein, Portrait of Verrocchio by Lorenzo di Credi but has since been identified as a Raphael’s portrait of Perugino and Holy Family by Niccolo Soggi.

Finally on the wall to the right there are a further six painting although the two works of art on the extreme right are partly hidden.  The three on the upper tier are from left to right, Cleopatra by Guido Reni, The Painter with Lipsius and his pupils by Rubens and Leo X with Cardinals de’ Medici and de’ Rossi by Raphael.  The three works on the lower tier are from left to right, Abraham and Hagar by Pietro da Cortona which is now hanging in the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna.  In the middle hangs The Tribute Money attributed to the School of Caravaggio and on the right is The Miracle of Saint Julian by Cristofano Allori.

The only other painting not mentioned as yet lies face up on the floor in the foreground just to the left of the Venus of Urbino and is The Samian Sibyl by the Italian Baroque painter, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, better known as Guercino or Il Guercino.

I apologise for so much detail in one blog but I hadn’t realised it would be so complicated to try and describe what was in front of our eyes!!

Holt Bridge on the River Dee by Richard Wilson

Holt Bridge on the River Dee by Richard Wilson (c.1762)

My Daily Art Display today features the 18th century Welsh landscape painter Richard Wilson.  He was born in 1714 in Penegoes, a small village in what is now the county of Powys.  His father was a rector at the local church and the family background could be considered as being well respected and of quite high social standing. It was through his father that his young son received a classical education.  The family was connected with some of the elite characters in the local society.  Wilson’s early artistic aspirations were encouraged by his mother’s nephew, Sir George Wynne, who had made his fortune out of lead mining and who supported Richard Wilson financially in London for many years from 1729.  Wilson was sent to London when he was sixteen years of age to take up a six year apprenticeship with a little known artist, Thomas Wright.  Wynne, besides arranging the apprenticeship, gave the young Wilson money to set up a studio in London and bankrolled the aspiring artist until he started selling some of his works.

In the 1740’s Wilson began to have success in selling his paintings and gained several wealthy patrons including the prominent Lyttleton Family who commissioned many family portraits.  This entry into “high society” led him to become a Society portrait painter and his many commissions brought him financial security, so much so he moved into a larger studio in the fashionable Convent Garden area of London.  In 1750 with financial help from a member of the Lyttleton family he set off on the Grand Tour.  This so-called Grand Tour, which was so popular in the 17th and 18th century, was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class young men from Europe, especially the British nobility and landed gentry.   Its aim was to be an educational rite of passage.

Wilson visited Venice in 1750 and stayed there for several months where he had the chance to study the works of the Old Masters such as Titian.  During hs soujorn in Venice, he met and became friends with the Venetian landscape artist and rococo painter, Francesco Zuccarelli.  It was Zuccarelli who persuaded Richard Wilson to move away from portraiture and concentrate more on landscape painting.  Wilson was also befriended by an English art collector, William Lock.   Lock and Wilson left Venice in 1751 and travelled through Italy eventually ending up in Rome where Wilson remained for six years.  His base was the Piazza di Spagna. This was a favourite meeting place for artists, both foreign and local and was also a popular haunt for the English Grand Tourists.  These tourists were extremely wealthy and were always looking to take home souvenirs from their great journey and as this was at a time before the invention of photography, what could be better than a painting of the Italian countryside and Richard Wilson was therefore in the ideal spot to sell his classical styled landscape works.  The artists, who most inspired Wilson, were the great French landscape painters Claude Lorrain and Gaspar (Dughet) Poussin.

Wilson returned to England in 1757 and, now quite wealthy, set himself up in a large studio in London.  He was the leading light, along with Sir Joshua Reynolds and Francis Hayman in establishing the Society of Artists in 1760 and later became one of the founding members of the Royal Academy of Art in 1768.  He staged many exhibitions of his work at the Academy and his reputation as a landscape artist grew and his works commanded very high prices.

Sadly, as in lots of cases of a rise to fame, there comes the inevitable fall and Richard Wilson and his reputation tumbled dramatically.  Sucked in by his increasing wealth and fame, Wilson became arrogant and rude.  He insulted a number of his wealthy patrons including George III and soon they deserted him.  His spectacular fall from grace made him turn to drink and soon he became an alcoholic, despite the help he received from the few friends who stayed loyal.  His career was over and he had no choice but to leave London and return to his family home in Wales, penniless.  Wilson spent the last years of his life at Colomendy Hall, the residence situated a few miles from Mold, which was owned by his aunt, Catherine Jones.  He died there in 1782 , a few months short of his 68th birthday, and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s  in Mold.

St Mary's Church, Mold

His grave, on the north side of the church, has the following Welsh inscription: (below is the English translation): 

From life’s first dawn his genius shed its rays,

And nature owned him in his earliest days

A willing suitor; skilled his lines to impart

With all the love and graces of his art;

His noble works are still admired and claim

The first reward of an enduring fame.

Richard Wilson's gravestone

My Daily Art Display featured painting today is Holt Bridge on the River Dee by Richard Wilson which he completed around 1762 and now hangs in the National Gallery in London.   This is an idealised landscape as it is not topographically accurate but notwithstanding that, it is a wonderful landscape painting.    Holt Bridge joins the village of Holt in Denbighshire to the village of Farndon in Cheshire. The tower of St Chad’s in Farndon is on the right and the outskirts of Holt on the extreme left.  It is strongly influenced by the works of Claude Lorrain as we know the artist was a great admirer of the French landscape artist.  However, for him there were two other landscape artists of note.  According to W.T.Whitley’s book Artists and their Friends in England 1700-1799, Wilson told a fellow artist William Beechey:

“…Why, sir, Claude for air and Gaspar for composition and sentiment; you may walk in Claude’s pictures and count the miles. But there are two painters whose merit the world does not yet know, who will not fail hereafter to be highly valued, Cuyp and Mompers…”

I have featured Albert Cuyp in a number of my blogs and you will know that he is one of my favourites painters and in the near future I will feature the beautiful work of Joos de Momper, the great Flemish landscape painter.