Paul Johnson

A Portrait of the Artist

Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings


Yale University Press 730pp in 2 vols £195 order from our bookshop

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.

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