Biography: Pompeo Batoni
He was in high demand for portrait commissions, especially from British tourists visiting Rome who enjoyed commissioning standing pictures set amid ancient artifacts, ruins, and works of art.
Girolamo Pompeo The Italian painter Batoni had a high level of artistic proficiency in his portrait paintings and various allegorical and mythical works. The large number of international tourists doing their "Grand Tour" of Italy and arriving in Rome encouraged the artist to focus on portraiture. Most of Batoni's wealthy British clients, whom he frequently painted with iconic Italian landscapes in the background, helped him achieve an international reputation.
The genre's appeal in Great Britain was ensured by the presence of such Batoni Grand Tour pictures in private British collections. One generation later, Sir Joshua Reynolds continued this tradition and became the most accomplished portrait painter in England. Despite being regarded as the most significant Italian painter of his day, Anton Raphael Mengs was Batoni's opponent, according to historical accounts.
Along with the art-loving nobility, Batoni's subjects included the elector of Bavaria, Karl Theodor; the kings and queens of Poland, Portugal, and Prussia; as well as the Holy Roman Emperors Joseph II and Leopold II; and the popes' Benedict XIV, Clement XIII, and Pius VI. Additionally, he got several commissions for altarpieces with mythological and allegorical themes for churches in Italy.
The works of painters like Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain, and Raphael served as sources of influence for Batoni's style, which also included aspects of French Rococo, Bolognese classicism, and classical antiquity, and Rococo. Therefore, Pompeo Batoni is regarded as a pioneer of Neoclassicism.
The son of jeweller Paolino Batoni and his wife, Chiara Sesti, Pompeo Batoni, was born in Lucca. He was baptized at the Basilica of San Frediano on February 5, 1708. His apprenticeship under Agostino Masucci, Sebastiano Conca, and Francesco Imperiali (1679–1740) began after he arrived in Rome in 1727.
The storms that lashed Rome in April 1732 are to blame for Batoni's first independent commission. Forte Gabrielli di Gubbio, count of Baccaresca, sought protection from an unexpected storm on Capitoline Hill under the portico of the Palazzo dei Conservatori. Here, the nobleman encountered the young artist sketching the historical bas-reliefs and paintings on the palace stairway.
The Madonna on a Throne with Child and four Saints and Blesseds of the Gabrielli family (1732–33), a second version of which (1736) is currently on display at the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice, was a new altarpiece for the chapel of Gabrielli's family in San Gregorio Magno al Celio. Gabrielli requested to see some of Batoni's works because he was impressed by their skill and the simplicity of the design. The Gabrielli Madonna won widespread acclaim, and by the beginning of the 1740s, Batoni began to get more independent contracts. His well-known work, The Ecstasy of Saint Catherine of Siena (1743), is an example of how he academically refined the late-Baroque aesthetic. His Fall of Simon Magus, another masterwork, was intended to be painted for St. Peter's Basilica.
Particularly after his opponent, the proto-neoclassicist Anton Raphael Mengs left for Spain in 1761, Batoni rose to prominence as a painter in Rome. In contrast to the works of the then-in-vogue Venetian artists, Batoni became friends with Winckelmann and, like him, targeted his painting at the restrained classicism of painters from earlier ages, such as Raphael and Poussin.
He was in high demand for portrait commissions, especially from British tourists visiting Rome who enjoyed commissioning standing pictures set amid ancient artifacts, ruins, and works of art. Over 200 portraits of patrons who visited Great Britain are known to have been painted by Batoni. Such Batoni "Grand Tour" portraits often appeared in British private collections, confirming the style's popularity in the country, where Reynolds would later emerge as its preeminent representative. Benjamin West, a painter, lamented that Italian artists "spoke about nothing, gazed at nothing except the paintings of Pompeo Batoni" in 1760 while he was visiting Rome.
Batoni received the Austrian nobility in 1769 for his twin picture of Emperor Joseph II and his brother Pietro Leopold I (then Grand Duke of Tuscany, afterward Emperor Leopold II). He also played Popes Pius VI and Clement XIII. He is thought to have painted the staffage (background figures) for a few of Hendrik Frans van Lint's landscape paintings. Rumor has it that before passing away in Rome in 1787, Batoni sent Jacques-Louis David his palette and brushes, telling him in awe of his Oath of the Horatii that "Only the two of us can call ourselves artists."
He suffered from deteriorating health in his later years and passed away in Rome in 1787 at 79. Pompeo was buried at his parish church in San Lorenzo in Lucina. The executors of Batoni's last will were the cardinal Filippo Carandini and the Scottish antiquarian James Byres, but the estate was bankrupt. As a result, his widow was compelled to ask the Grand Duke of Tuscany, whom Batoni had painted in 1769, for financial support and to trade him her husband's unfinished self-portrait, which is now on display at the Uffizi in Florence. (Artvee, n.d.)
Artvee. (n.d.). artvee.com. Retrieved July 20, 2022, from https://artvee.com/artist/pompeo-batoni/
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