In the half-century between 1730 and 1780, about 3,500 members of the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish landowning class went on the grand tour, many of them finishing their travels with a visit to the studio of Pompeo Batoni (1708–87) in Rome.
Batoni was the son of a successful goldsmith and learned a lot from his father about precision work before deciding to set himself up as a painter. It was a less arduous and exacting, and a better-rewarded, profession. He originally worked in a variety of modes – classical mythology, Greek and Roman history, martyrology – before deciding that there was more money in portraits. During the middle period of his life he painted little else.
Batoni was a compulsive perfectionist and found that getting everything exactly right for a large-scale depiction of the Holy Family or the Massacre of the Innocents (some of his history paintings approach six metres in height) was more than he could persuade his church patrons to pay for. Also, there