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Pompeo Batoni

Aug - 22 - 2013
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, self portrait

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, self portrait

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (b. 1708 Lucca, Italy, d. 1787 Rome ) was an Italian painter whose style incorporated elements of the French Rococo, Bolognese classicism, and nascent Neoclassicism.
During his lifetime, the Roman painter Pompeo Batoni was among the most celebrated artists in Europe, counting several popes among his patrons as well as Frederick the Great and Catherine of Russia.
Batoni aimed at overcoming the excesses and frivolities of the Rococo by taking inspiration in classical antiquity and in the work of artists such as Nicolas Poussin, and especially Raphael. As such he was a precursor of Neoclassicism.
Born in Lucca in 1708 and trained as a goldsmith, Batoni went to Rome aged 19 and was soon supporting himself and his young family by flogging drawings of antique objects and statuary to British tourists.
This early experience is worth emphasising because he was to become one of the most incisive draughtsmen of the 18th century, and because drawing played a crucial role in his creative process.
Batoni owed his first independent commission to the rains that struck Rome in April 1732. Seeking shelter from a sudden storm, Forte Gabrielli di Gubbio, count of Baccaresca took cover under the portico of the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline Hill. Here the nobleman met the young artist who was drawing the ancient bas-reliefs and the paintings of the staircase of the palace. Impressed by his skill and the purity of the design, Gabrielli asked Batoni to see some of his works, and when conducted to the painter’s studio he was so awed by his talent that he offered him to paint a new altarpiece for the chapel of his family in San Gregorio Magno al Celio, the Madonna on a Throne with child and four Saints and Blesseds of the Gabrielli family (1732–33).
His first commission in 1733 was for The Vision of Saint Philip Neri, which hangs in the first gallery. In some ways, it is a typical late baroque altarpiece inspired by the 17th-century Bolognese painter Guido Reni’s treatment of the same subject.
But look again and you notice the startling immediacy of the saint’s face, which is animated by the visionary intensity of his faith.
Then too, the Christ child is so lifelike, it must have been drawn from a real infant. As the aged saint kneels in devotion before the divine apparition, baby Jesus has only one job to do – hold the long-stemmed lily gracefully in his hand.


Martial pose: Pompeo’s portraits, such as this one Colonel The Hon Willian Gordon, were his principal source of income by the 1760s

Anyone who was anyone who visited Rome simply had to have his or her portrait painted by Pompeo Batoni. His delicate technique, elegant draftsmanship, and ability to tastefully incorporate ancient sculptures and monuments into his pictures dovetailed perfectly with Europe’s vogue for the antique. A goldsmith’s son, Batoni studied in Rome, basing his style in part on Raphael and on the art of antiquity. From 1735 he received many commissions for altarpieces as well as for mythological and historical pictures. He often took poses from real statues and used ancient literature as subject matter.
In 1741, he was inducted into the Accademia di San Luca. His celebrated painting, The Ecstasy of Saint Catherine of Siena (1743) illustrates his academic refinement of the late-Baroque style. Another masterpiece, his Fall of Simon Magus[2] was painted initially for the St Peter’s Basilica.
By 1750 Batoni was a well established painter of religious and mythological pictures. But over the next decade, commissions for portraits of Irish and British visitors to Rome increased, until by the 1760s portraiture was the principal source of his considerable income.
In 1769, the double portrait[7] of Joseph II and Leopold II won an Austrian nobility for Batoni. He also portrayed Pope Clement XIII and Pope Pius VI.[8]
According to a rumor, before dying in Rome in 1787, he bequeathed his palette and brushes to Jacques-Louis David, to whom, full of admiration for his Oath of the Horatii, Batoni would have confessed: “Only the two of us can call themselves painters”.
He was married twice, to Caterina Setti (died 1742) in 1729, and then to Lucia Fattori in 1747, and had twelve children; three of his sons assisted in his studio. From 1759 Batoni lived in a large house on the Via Bocca di Leone in Rome, which included a studio as well as exhibition rooms and a drawing academy. Batoni died in Rome in 1787(4 February ) at the age of 79.

Resources on the Internet

Biography and Works. English language Wikipedia
Biography and Works
The artist’s paintings
Artist and Exhibitions
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