Pompeo Batoni: life and works

By Gwylym Owen

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Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (25 January 1708 – 4 February 1787) was an Italian painter who displayed a solid obscure knowledge in his portrait statute and in his numerous allegorical and mythological pictures. The tall number of foreign visitors travelling throughout Italy and reaching Rome during their “Grand Tour” led the player to specialize in portraits. Batoni won international fame largely thanks to his customers, mostly British of noble origin, whom he portrayed, often with well-known Italian landscapes in the background. Such Grand Tour portraits by Batoni were in British private collections, thus ensuring the genre’s popularity in Great Britain. One generation later, Sir Joshua Reynolds would take up this tradition and become the leading English portrait painter. Although Batoni was considered the best Italian painter of his time, contemporary chronicles hint his rivalry taking into account Anton Raphael Mengs.

In supplement to art-loving nobility, Batoni’s subjects included the kings and queens of Poland, Portugal and Prussia, the Holy Roman Emperors Joseph II and Leopold II (a fact which earned him noble dignity), as competently the popes Benedict XIV, Clement XIII and Pius VI, Elector Karl Theodor of Bavaria, and many more. He also traditional numerous orders for altarpieces for churches in Italy (Rome, Brescia, Lucca, Parma, etc.), as with ease as for mythological and allegorical subjects.

Batoni’s style took inspiration and incorporated elements of classical antiquity, French Rococo, Bolognese classicism, and the operate of artists such as Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain, and especially Raphael. As such Pompeo Batoni is considered a precursor of Neoclassicism.

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