tomasso brothers fine art
Wilton House Horace the Poet of Porphyry & Cicero of Touchstone
Wilton House Horace the Poet of Porphyry & Cicero of Touchstone
TOMASSO BROTHERS FINE ART
Wilton House Horace the Poet of Porphyry & Cicero of Touchstone
catalogue by Elliot Davies and Emanuela Tarizzo
rome, 17th century
An important pair of polychrome marble busts of Horace and Cicero
Red ‘imperial porphyry’, black ‘touchstone’ and ‘breccia Pernice’ horace 71.5 cm (28¼ in.) high; 54.5 cm (21½ in.) wide cicero 76 cm (30 in.) high; 61 cm (24 in.) wide inscribed HORATIVS and M: TUL. CICERO provenance Giuseppe Valletta (1636–1714), Naples, where Horace is first recorded in 1685 as “uno incognito di porfido” By descent to his nephew Francesco Valletta (1680–1760), Naples His sale, Naples, before 24 August 1720, where acquired by “un Medico Inglese” Acquired by Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl of Pembroke (c. 1656–1733), Wilton House, Wiltshire, circa 1721 Henry, 9th Earl of Pembroke, 1693–1749 Henry, 10th Earl of Pembroke, 1734–1794 George Augustus, 11th Earl of Pembroke, 1759–1827 Robert Henry, 12th Earl of Pembroke, 1791–1862 George Robert Charles, 13th Earl of Pembroke, 1850–1895 Sidney, 14th Earl of Pembroke, 1853–1913 Reginald, 15th Earl of Pembroke, 1880–1960 Sidney Charles, 16th Earl of Pembroke, 1906–1969 Private collection, USA (Horace); private collection, France (Cicero)
this important pair of seventeenth-century portrait busts depict Cicero (106 bc–43 bc), the virtuous civic hero of the late Roman Republic, and Horace (65 bc–8 bc), the famed poet of Rome’s Augustan period. They originally formed part of the great Valletta collection in Naples, but around 1721 were purchased by Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl Pembroke (1654–1733) for his family’s splendid country residence of Wilton House, near Salisbury, one of England’s finest stately houses. Until the middle of the twentieth century, this pair of busts was displayed at the heart of one of the greatest private art collections ever assembled in Europe, flanking the main chimneypiece in the Earl’s ‘sanctum sanctorum’ of the Great ‘Double Cube
Room’ designed by Inigo Jones, amongst a host of family portraits by Sir Anthony Van Dyck. The busts are extensively documented in the numerous guidebooks written of the Wilton House collection from 1723. Here they are elegantly referred to as ‘Horace, the Poet of Porphyry’ and ‘Cicero, of Touchstone’. These names derive from the beautiful and rare materials from which they were carved in the seventeenth century. The head of Horace is an exquisite example of Roman ‘imperial porphyry’, a marble that was quarried in Egypt until the fifth century ad, and the Cicero is carved from a ‘touchstone’ that was originally from Flanders. The Wilton catalogues inform us that the known provenance of these works began with the prized Valletta collection, of Naples, which had been sold for a large amount of money “in the South Sea time” (circa 1720). This collection was assembled during the seventeenth century by Giuseppe Valletta, a formidable lawyer, scholar, philosopher, friend of princes and enemy of the Spanish Inquisition, and central figure in the political and intellectual life of late Seicento Italy. At Wilton, Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl Pembroke built a treasure house of antiquities, Renaissance and Baroque sculpture. By his death in 1733 he had succeeded in uniting many hundreds of works from the former collections of King Charles I of England, the Earl of Arundel, the French Cardinals Mazarin and Richelieu, Rome’s prestigious Giustiniani family, as well as the Valletta of Naples. Pembroke’s influence on the tastes and collecting trends of the aristocratic English in the first third of the eighteenth century appear to have been considerable. When the 8th Earl embarked on his Grand Tour in 1676 and set about building his ambitious collection in the 1680s, he was all but alone; however, by the time of his death in 1733 a number of England’s great country houses were being decorated with antiquities and Renaissance and Baroque sculpture from the Continent. Therefore Wilton House and this wonderful pair of polychrome marbles from its collection are vitally important for anyone wishing to understand the phenomenon of English country-house building and the motives behind antique and Grand Tour collecting.
The Busts of Horace and Cicero and their Cataloguing at Wilton
he portrait bust of horace is the younger of the pair and has a head carved from an exquisite example of imperial red porphyry – the stone revered by the ancient Romans for its beauty, rarity and the skill required to work it. The name ‘porphyry’ derived from the Greek word for ‘purple’. The colour had royal significance for the Romans and, following an imperial edict, was legally the sole property of the Emperor and reserved exclusively for his use. Imperial porphyry originates from the eastern Egyptian desert, from a site called ‘Mons Porphyrites’, and was quarried by the ancient Egyptians until the fifth century ad. The head of Horace is therefore certainly carved from a reused piece of ancient stone, probably from a large column (Corsi, no. 783). Horace’s paludamentum is carved from a type of marble called ‘breccia Pernice’, sometimes also referred to as ‘occhio di Pernice’, and was historically quarried in the Val Pernise area of Italy’s Veneto region. It is a conglomerate marble which has a beautiful and varied combination of various reds, pinks and cream and sometimes small mollusc shells are visible within it (Corsi, no. 414). The head of the older-looking Cicero is slightly larger in size, carved from an inky black ‘touchstone’, which has also been known under a number of other names since ancient times – ‘pietra di paragone’, ‘paragone di Fiandra’, ‘Belgian black’ and ‘Tournai marble’. These names originate from the location where the stone was quarried – Flanders, Belgium, Tournai – or refer to the fact it was often used as a ‘touchstone’ or ‘paragon’ for testing precious metals. The present pair of busts originate from Rome in the seventeenth century. Interesting to note is the fact that both heads, although in very different stones, have highly polished skin tones along with unpolished matt surfaces to render the hair. In terms of the subjects who are so beautifully depicted in these fine polychrome marbles, Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 bc–8 bc), known in English as ‘Horace’, was a leading Roman poet of the Augustan age
and was a member of an esteemed literary circle that included Virgil and Lucius Varius Rufus. The Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 bc) was one of the leading political figures of the late Roman Republic, along with Julius Caesar, Pompey, Marc Antony and Octavian. His mastery of Latin prose provided a model for generations, and his prolific correspondence has given historians a fascinating insight into the tumultuous politics of the era. Since ancient times, portraits of Cicero have exhibited a large degree of variation in their physiognomy. The Wilton bust, however, is clearly based on a particular portrait type, of which there is an example in the Uffizi (inv. 393; fig. 1). Conversely, known ancient portraits of Horace are extremely rare. Bernoulli mentions the bust of Horace in the Double Cube Room at Wilton in 1882, but comments that he knows of no genuine antique portrait bust of Horace (Bernoulli 1882, p. 252). Accordingly the Horace may be described as ‘all’antica’ in style, and the Cicero as more directly ‘after the Antique’. The work may even have been christened a ‘Horace’ by the Earl himself, as was suggested by Horace Walpole to have been his practice at Wilton: “An ancient indeed would be a little surprised to find so many of his acquaintance new baptised” (Walpole 1828, p. 281). These were early days in the study and collection of antiquities in Britain and one gets a sense of the amateur enthusiasm and the pure joy experienced by the Earl and his circle of cognoscenti in curating, researching and cataloguing his fine collection of antique statuary, one whose size and quality was unrivalled at the time in the British Isles. Michaelis later writes that the 8th Earl was somewhat “liberal in bestowing great names upon busts impossible to identify” (Michaelis 1882, p. 43), and William Stukeley moots, in an early account of the collection first published in his Itinerarium Curiosum (1725), that the ‘Horace’ might in fact be Ovid (Stukeley  1776, p. 185). However, in an unpublished manuscript catalogue of the collection thought to have been compiled by Sir Andrew Fountaine around 1730–50 (Baker 2008, p. 385), and in Richard Cowdry’s record of 1751, the name of Fabretti is offered as the scholar responsible for identifying the bust as Horace. In the unpublished manuscript catalogue there is also a brief reference to “Spanheim”, which indicates that the Earl and his circle knew Ezekiel Spanheim’s Dissertationes de praestantia et usu numismatum antiquorum and may have used it to identify certain busts from examples of ancient coins (Scott 2003, p. 43). The Earl himself had an important and comprehensive coin collection, recorded in a posthumous catalogue of 1746 entitled Numismata antiqua in tres partes divisa. Collegit … et aeri incidi … curavit Thomas Pembrochiae et Montis Gomerici Comes. This suggests he knew well the ancient portrait typologies illustrated and identified on
fig. 1 Roman Portrait bust of Cicero 1st century bc Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
fig. 2 William Stukeley Itinerarium Curiosum …, London, 1776 frontispiece and title page
ancient coins, raising the possibility that his practice of re-attributing the subjects of portrait busts was based on sound scholarly foundations and his personal archive of ancient numismatic sources. • The surviving guidebooks and catalogues which record the existence of both busts provide a fascinating insight into what the Earl and his circle knew about them, who they were believed to represent and to a certain extent why and on what basis. The busts’ cataloguing history in the literature of the Wilton House collection is relatively extensive when compared to other country house collections of the period. First there is William Stukeley’s Itinerarium Curiosum: Centuria Prima. Or, an Account of the Antiquities and Remarkable Curiosities in Nature and Art, Observed in Travels through Great Brittan, published in 1725, which records the existence of both busts (fig. 2). He lists the 133 “bustos”, 36 “statues”, fifteen “basso relievos” and nine “miscellanies” for those wishing to know “the particulars of that glorious Museum, or that have a mind to view them” (Stukeley  1776, p. 185). They appear as part of a simple list, accompanied by the occasional interjection from Stukeley with his thoughts on various pieces: “Cicero, of touchstone: Horace, as some think; a young busto of speckled porphyry; I am inclined to believe it Ovid” (Stukeley  1776, p. 185). His Itinerarium Curiosum was composed in part from a draft ‘Account of Statues at Wilton’ he had composed two years earlier, in 1723, that is now held by the Bodleian Library (fig. 3). The Earl had invited Stukeley to catalogue the collection, but apparently the rather ‘hands-on’ Earl’s constant interference led to
fig. 3 William Stukeley ‘My Lord Pembroke’s Collection’, 1723 Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Top. Wilts. e 6, I, title page
the scheme being abandoned (Scott 2003, p. 44). An interesting point to note here is that their successive location in Stukeley’s list suggests that in 1725, and perhaps as early as 1723, the busts were displayed together, possibly either side of the chimneypiece in the Earl’s prized Great ‘Double Cube Room’, as photographs and paintings show them in the first half of the twentieth century (figs. 4, 5). ‘A Copy of ye Book of Antiquities at Wilton’ (British Library, Stowe MS 1018) is a lengthy handwritten document that may have been composed between 1730 and 1750 by the renowned antiquarian Sir Andrew Fountaine (Baker 2008, p. 385). Certainly it becomes apparent to a reader of the manuscript that the author had an awareness of the way other collections, like those of the Vatican and of the Albani family, were configured. Sir Andrew had spent a significant amount of time in Italy and planned to meet the Earl in Naples in 1702 (Moore 1985, p. 94). This work clearly provided much of the content for the later catalogues and so, in many ways, could be considered the most important. For example, the later authors Richard Cowdry and James Kennedy repeat the way in which these busts are described in it and the information regarding their provenance: … that when it first sold at Valletta’s Sale, a worthy Gentleman gave 270 odd pounds for it: There were then several Antiques sold for above
fig. 4 The Great ‘Double Cube Room’, Wilton House, photograph circa 1920
fig. 5 Sir John Lavery, R.A. The Van Dyck Room, Wilton (The Great ‘Double Cube Room’, Wilton House), 1920 Oil on canvas, 63.5 × 76 cm Royal Academy of Arts, London
200 l. each … Horace the Poet of Porphyry; Cicero, of Touchstone …. This Sale was in the South-Sea time, when many gave very great Prices for what they liked; but my Lord then bought none, tho’ he afterwards purchased those abovemention’d, and others of less Price. It must be noted that there is also, by an unknown hand, ‘A catalogue of ye marbles … in ye Earl of Pembroke’s House at Wilton’ in the Pembroke archives, which offers evidence of further attempts to catalogue the collection in the second quarter of the century. Richard Cowdry’s work of 1751, with its elegant font and clear layout, appears to be the first publication intended for popular consumption by ‘polite society’, not merely antiquarians in, or close to, the Earl’s circle (fig. 6). Cowdry was the Steward at Wilton and, as he states in his dedication at the beginning of the catalogue, he was indebted to Sir Andrew Fountaine for a great deal of the information provided within. Here the busts are recorded as: First sold at Valletta’s sale … Horace the Poet of Porphyry; Cicero of Touchstone … Horace, in Porphyry, mention’d also in Valletta’s Collection; Fabretti, in his Comment gives good Reasons for its being Horace. The information replicates that in the manuscript, but, crucially, reveals the name of the scholar responsible for the porphyry bust’s
fig. 6 Richard Cowdry, A Description ... at Wilton London, 1751, title page fig. 7 [Richard Cowdry], Descrizione … tradotta dall’Inglese …, Florence, 1754, title page
identification as Horace. The catalogue’s target audience and readership were then intentionally expanded with its translation into Italian in 1754 (fig. 7). The publication of an Italian version is evidence of the family’s awareness of the international quality of the Wilton House collection, and the attempt to export knowledge of it to an Italian audience may have signalled their ambition to encourage Europe’s leading connoisseurs and cognoscenti to rank it alongside the great Italian private collections of the Borghese, Farnese and such like. James Kennedy’s work of 1758, A Description of the Antiquities and Curiosities in Wilton House, Salisbury, included a more extensive introduction than Cowdry’s as well as touching upon the sources of the collection and the principles on which the Earl had collected, as detailed in the earlier manuscript. Here, more information is offered regarding the Cicero (Kennedy 1769, p. 65): the Busto of Cicero, of Touchstone, with the mark of the Cicer or Vetch on his Face, from which he had the Name of Cicero. There was a further enlarged edition in 1769 with 25 engravings and there followed reprints in 1776, 1778, 1779 and 1786. Its several editions made it the most popular eighteenth-century guide of Wilton House.
Provenance and Purchase History
It had therefore been impossible for Lord Pembroke with all the dispositions in the world, to have made a tolerable Gallery, but for some incidents, and these were, the sale of those excellent Collections, of Justiniani, Lord Arundel and Valetta of Naples ( James Kennedy, A Description of the Antiquities and Curiosities in Wilton House, Salisbury, London 1786)
he provenance of the present pair of busts from the Valletta collection is first recorded in the mideighteenth century, in the manuscript copy of ‘Ye Book of Antiquities at Wilton’ now in the British Library (Stowe MS 1018), believed to date from c. 1730–50, and in the Description of the Pictures, Statues, Busto’s, Basso-Rilievo’s, and other Curiosities … at Wilton compiled by Richard Cowdry in 1751, later revised with a new introduction by James Kennedy in 1769. Both the manuscript and printed editions inform us that the prized Valletta collection, of Naples, had been sold for a conspicuous amount of money “in the South Sea time”, that is, around 1720, when shares of the eponymous British company had soared incredibly on the back of its monopoly over trade with the Spanish colonies of Latin America (only to crash disastrously shortly afterwards). Yet, our sources continue, the 8th Earl of Pembroke, as ever the discerning collector, had chosen to acquire, at a later stage, only a selection of Valletta’s finest pieces, these being five busts representing Cicero, Horace, Julius Caesar, Homer and Apollonius Tyaneus. Exhibited in pride of place at Wilton, this ‘gallery of worthies’ from Greek and Roman antiquity would have looked no less at home in the celebrated ‘Museo Valletta’, the collection assembled by the end of the seventeenth century by the formidable lawyer, scholar, philosopher, friend of princes and foe of the Spanish Inquisition Giuseppe Valletta. A central figure in the political and intellectual life of late Seicento Italy, and arguably Europe, the polymath Valletta was born in Naples, the son of a humble tailor, in 1636. His life is recounted mainly in two extensive
biographies, both by authors who had been acquainted with him in person – Apostolo Zeno’s in the 1716 Giornale de’ Letterati d’Italia and Alessandro Pompeo Berti’s in the 1727 Vite degli Arcadi Illustri. A highly gifted youth, Valletta successfully gained a degree in law at the age of twenty, and soon established himself as one of the most talented advocates in the Kingdom of Naples. His professional reputation was such that Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, presented him with the title of Senator of Florence (an offer Valletta refused in order not to abandon his native city; see Berti 1727, p. 45), and that the government of Naples, wishing to limit the jurisdiction of the Roman Tribunal of the Inquisition in its territories, entrusted Valletta with the most delicate task of compiling a treaty, addressed to Pope Innocent XII in the form of a letter, expounding the reasons behind its demand to this effect (see Robertson 2005, p. 98). Greater still were Valletta’s achievements as a philosopher and man of letters, embodied, first and foremost, by his library. Comprising more than 18,000 tomes, it was compared by contemporaries to that of Ptolemy I in Alexandria and famed for welcoming luminaries from all corners of Italy and beyond. Carlo Celano (1617–1693), a fellow Neapolitan lawyer and dramatist, thus described this eminent centre of learning, which he was fortunate enough to often visit: Ma il più bello poi, che in detta casa si vede, è la libreria: composta viene da 18. m. volumi in circa tutte le scienze, e sono libri Greci, Latini, volgari Italiani, Francesi, Inglesi, e d’altre lingue, delle migliori edizioni, che son usciti nelli secoli delle stampe; in modo che vi si fa conto nella raccolta di esservi stati spesi da 30. m. scudi. La cortesia del padrone ammette ogni uno; che andar vi vuole ad osservarla, ed a studiarvi: onde non vi è forastiero desideroso di aver buone notizie, che non vi vada a vederla; essendoci andato anche il Conte di S. Stefano Vicerè di Napoli. But the most beautiful thing to behold in that house, is the library: composed of eighteen thousand volumes on nearly all the sciences, it includes books in Greek, Latin, vernacular Italian, French, English, and other languages, in the best editions, printed throughout the centuries; thus one can esteem that at least thirty thousand scudi have been spent on it. The kindness of its host welcomes all visitors, interested in seeing it and studying in it; so there is no foreigner keen on receiving good information, who does not visit it, including the Count of Santo Stefano, Viceroy of Naples (Carlo Celano, Notizie del Bello, dell’Antico e del Curioso della Città di Napoli, per gli Signori Forastieri … giornata seconda, Naples 1692, pp. 31–32).
Other notable guests of Valletta’s library – who would recall this extraordinary man with fond words of praise in their writings – included, to cite but a few, the French scholar Bernard de Montfaucon (1655–1741), his travel companion and fellow Benedictine monk Jean Mabillon (1632–1707), the German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), the Anglican bishop of Salisbury, philosopher and historian Gilbert Burnet (1643–1715), and the famed English Grand Tourist Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713), who resided in Naples because of his health from 1711 until his death. The portrait they paint of Valletta is that of a man of remarkable generosity and erudition, driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and responsible for almost single-handedly establishing the foundations for the cultural renaissance of Naples at the end of the seventeenth century. Valletta was a member of the renowned Accademia dell’Arcadia, a literary institution active to this day originally founded in Rome in 1690, and of the academy instituted by the Duke of Medinacoeli during his tenure as Viceroy of Naples. Additionally, in 1663, with his fellow lawyer, close friend and inseparable companion Francesco d’Andrea (1636–1714) he resurrected the scientific and philosophical society known as the Accademia degli Investiganti. The Invetiganti were associated with the Royal Society in London, with whom Valletta often collaborated, translating their texts into Italian and sending them information, such as a report on the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in 1712 (see Croce 1925, p. 6). Impressed with this most talented Neapolitan gentleman, it appears that i milordi inglesi repeatedly invited him to join their venerable Society, an offer that modesty (together, arguably, with the prospect of drastic changes in weather forecast and culinary quality) prevented him from accepting. A keen reader – “there was not a book in his library he had not read” (Zeno 1716, p. 52; Berti 1727, p. 47) – Valletta corresponded with scholars and literati from all across Europe, and greatly contributed to the diffusion of modern thought in the Italian peninsula, especially with regards to the writings of the philosophers René Descartes (1596–1650), Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655) and Hugo Grotius (1583–1645). Yet, far from being confined to those of his contemporaries, Valletta’s intellectual endeavours encompassed the writings of the ancients, of whom he eagerly collected manuscript copies in his library (for a fascinating contemporary list of these, see Montfaucon, Diarium Italicum, Rome 1702, pp. 303–06). Fluent in Latin and ancient Greek, in 1681 Valletta instituted, at his own expense, the first chair of ancient Greek at the University of Naples, entrusting it to the eminent philologist and fellow Arcadian Gregorio Messere (1636–1708).
Valletta’s love of ancient literature and epigraphy equally found expression in his ‘Museo’, a “prodigious collection of Paintings and Sculptures, all rare, and egregious, together with bas-reliefs and works in ivory, and other infinite beauties” (Berti 1727, p. 49). Described in some detail in both contemporary accounts by visitors and Valletta’s early biographers, it was famed for its ancient statuary, its paintings – which featured a Saint Jerome by Agostino Carracci (Celano 1692, p. 31), to this day untraced – and a very fine ensemble of Greek ceramic vessels. The statues, including the busts, are most accurately recorded in three texts: Egli ha cento, e più ritratti di uomini illustri … il busto di marmo di Apollonio Tianeo, che riferisce l’Agostini nelle medaglie; quello di Omero con altri pur’antichi, di Giulio Cesare, di Costantino, e di Marcello, uno incognito di porfido, una statua di Venere intiera molto prezzata, ed altri busti, oltre le bellissime teste di bronzo del Pontano, del Tasso, del Sannazzaro, e del Martini He has more than a hundred portraits of illustrious men … the bust of Apollonius Tyaneus, which is referred to by Agostini in his Medals; that of Homer and others also ancient, of Julius Caesar, of Constantine, and of Marcellus, one of an unknown in porphyry, and a highly valued integral statue of Venus, and other busts, in addition to the very fine bronze heads of Pontano, Tasso, Sannazzaro and Martini (Pacichelli 1685, pp. 52–53); … molti mezzi busti, che hanno teste antichissime, e da farne conto, e fra queste la testa di Giulio Cesare di alabastro Orientale, di Marco Aurelio, di Costantino, di Marcello, di Apollonio Tianeo, cotanto celebrato dall’eruditissimo antiquario Gio:Pietro Bellori nel Libro dell’Immagini de’ Filosofi Antichi; e veramente quest’ultima testa è degna di esser osservata da’ Fisonomaci [sic] … many busts, which have very ancient heads, and of value, and amongst these are the head of Julius Caesar in Oriental alabaster, of Marcus Aurelius, of Constantine, of Marcellus, of Apollonius Tyaneus, which is much celebrated by the very erudite antiquary Giovanni Pietro Bellori in his Book of the Depictions of Ancient Philosophers, and truly this last head is worth being studied by the Physiognomists (Celano 1692, p. 31);
‘… molti mezzi busti, che hanno teste antichissime, e da farne conto, e fra queste la testa di Giulio Cesare di alabastro Orientale, di Marco Aurelio, di Costantino, di Marcello, di Apollonio Tianeo, cotanto celebrato dall’eruditissimo antiquario Gio:Pietro Bellori nel Libro dell’Immagini de’ Filosofi Antichi; e veramente quest’ultima testa è degna di esser osservata da’ Fisonomaci.’ Fin qui il Celano; ma io non istimo con questa occasione di dover tacere un busto antico di Omero bellissimo, un’altro con testa di porfido antica non meno per la materia, che per il lavoro stimabile, che si crede essere Gordiano il giovine, ed un altro, che rappresenta Aristofane ‘… many busts, which have very ancient heads, and of value, and amongst these are the head of Julius Caesar in Oriental alabaster, of Marcus Aurelius, of Constantine, of Marcellus, of Apollonius Tyaneus, which is much celebrated by the very erudite antiquary Giovanni Pietro Bellori in his Book of the Depictions of Ancient Philosophers, and truly this last head is worth being studied by the Physiognomists.’ So far Celano, but I feel I cannot overlook a most beautiful ancient bust of Homer, another with an ancient head of porphyry of admirable quality, which is believed to represent the young Gordian, and another one, which portrays Aristophanes (Berti 1727, pp. 49–50). It is interesting to note here how the Horace is differently referred to by the sources, as an unknown sitter in porphyry by Pacichelli and as the young Roman emperor Gordian III by Berti, author of the 1727 biography of Valletta. The identification of the present busts as Horace and Cicero originates in fact in the accounts of Wilton House, which allude to “Fabretti in his Comment” as the source for the association of the porphyry youth with the Roman poet Horace. Educated in Classics and Law, Raffaele Fabretti (1618–1700) pursued a highly successful career within the Church, becoming head of the excavations of Rome’s catacombs and custodian of the city’s relics and cemeteries in 1687. Contemporaries record that Fabretti would often lead explorations of ancient ruins across Rome and the surrounding campagna, which on one occasion were attended by Giuseppe Valletta’s friends Bernard de Montfaucon and Jean Mabillon. Notably, like Valletta, Fabretti was a member of the Accademia dell’Arcadia and played a crucial role in the scientific and scholarly life of his city (see Evans 2000, p. 245). Fabretti’s extraordinary knowledge and interest in Rome’s antiquities clearly emerges from his three published works, the first being a study of the city’s ancient aqueducts (1680), the second an analysis of Trajan’s Column and of the then recently discovered Tabula Iliaca Capitolina
(1683) and the third a catalogue of ancient epigraphy, including more than four hundred items from his personal collection (1699). A 1773 catalogue of the library at Wilton House lists all three volumes by Fabretti: this suggests that the 8th Earl was familiar with his writings, which he would certainly have poured over whilst studying Roman epigraphy, a documented passion of his. And whilst, alas, no record of Fabretti’s knowledge of the porphyry bust has been so far unearthed, we may assume Lord Pembroke would have carefully consulted the works of this archaeologist ante litteram whilst studying his own collection of antiquities. Assembled in its entirety by Valletta, the Museo was unfortunately dispersed soon after his death, as lamented in a letter dated 24 August 1720 by Apostolo Zeno, addressed to his brother Pier Caterino (Zeno, Lettere, Venice, 1785, III, pp. 168–69). This is the earliest surviving record of the ‘Valletta sale’, and is in keeping with the reference to the “South Sea time” found in the eighteenth-century Wilton catalogues. As Zeno explains, obliged by financial circumstances Giuseppe’s nephew Francesco Valletta (1680–1760) had sold to an English doctor “tutte le statue antiche” (all the ancient statues), whilst negotiations were still taking place at the time of writing for the books and the vases with “un altro Inglese”. Ultimately, most of the vases were acquired by Cardinal Filippo Antonio Gualtieri (1660–1728), and from him by Pope Clement XII for his Galleria Clementina in the Vatican Library (1733), whereas the library was purchased in its entirety by the Oratorian Fathers of the Neapolitan Convent of the Girolamini, where the books reside to the present day. Zeno’s reference to an English doctor being the first buyer of the Valletta sculptures is a fascinating indication of the collection’s fame, and a testimony to its renown during the age of the Grand Tour. The accounts of the Wilton House collections imply that Lord Pembroke acquired the busts directly after this first sale, and we can assume that he had heard of these prestigious marbles from his circle of learned friends, many of whom, like himself, had travelled to Italy eager to seek out its best works of art. A possible source of information on the Museo Valletta in this scenario could have been Gilbert Burnet, who, as mentioned above, in 1685 had had the opportunity personally to admire the Libreria and Museo when in Naples and, in 1689, was named Bishop of Salisbury, where Wilton House (fig. 8) is located. Once at Wilton, the Horace and Cicero were displayed in the stately Great Room, also known as the Double Cube, designed by Inigo Jones and completed by John Webb in 1653. The heart of the house, it hosted some of the most prized items in the Earl’s collection, which leaves no doubt as to the great value Lord Pembroke bestowed upon these busts.
fig. 8 Exterior of Wilton House, near Salisbury, Wiltshire
As emphasized by the Stowe manuscript account of the antiquities at Wilton, the Earl’s criteria for selecting portrait busts for his collection was that they should be “not only an Ornamental Furniture, but more Instructive and Pleasant (to see the Persons) to those who have read of them” (p. 20). The edifying power of art is thus presented as a guiding principle for Lord Pembroke, much as it was, we also learn from the manuscript, for Valletta, who “being a very learned man, was most curious in collecting marbles of Ancient Persons; his Rule was not to have any unknown, not even tho’ it was a Personal Statue” (p. 20). These remarks offer a fascinating insight into the history of collecting and, more specifically, demonstrate how Lord Pembroke actively sought to inscribe his own ‘Museo’ in the tradition of great Italian collections and temples of learning.
Thomas Herbert, 8 th Earl of Pembroke and the Reception and Display of the Wilton House Collection
homas herbert succeeded to the title of 8th earl of Pembroke in 1683 and until his death in 1733 held a variety of high offices of state including Lord High Admiral, Lord President of the Council, Viceroy of Ireland and Regent of the realm (fig. 9). A contemporary, J. Macky, described his character: He is a good Judge in all the several sciences; is a great Encourager of Learning and Learned Men; a lover of the Constitution of his Country, without being of a Party and yet esteemed by all Parties, Manner of the Primitive Christians; Meek in his Behaviour; Plain in his Dress; speaks little; of a good Countenance (Macky 1733, pp. 21–22). In the introduction of his guide to the collection, James Kennedy declared:
fig. 9 Attributed to John Greenhill Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl of Pembroke, circa 1676 Oil on canvas, 76.2 × 62.9 cm National Portrait Gallery, London
This Nobleman possessed every qualification, necessary to constitute a real connoisseur and virtuoso, in a very eminent degree. He had an exquisite natural taste, improved by extensive learning, and a fondness for the study of antiques. His conversation with the best Italian Antiquaries of his age, cherished his own propensities, and he resolved to form a collection on a plan, which would render it valuable, and be always a monument of his superiority in this way (Kennedy 1769, p. iii). William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke (c. 1501–1570) built the first incarnation of Wilton House in the 1540s. When the original interiors were gutted by fire in 1647, Inigo Jones and his assistant John Webb advised on the renovation (Baker 2008, p. 381). After the English Civil War the Pembrokes were forced to sell a great deal of their collection, and again upon the death of the spendthrift and indebted 7th Earl in 1683 (Guilding 2001, p. 42). The house was again struck by fire in 1707, and the rooms restored after this unfortunate episode were to house the majority of the 8th Earl’s sculpture collection, set amongst the
magnificent family portraits by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (fig. 10) (Baker 2008, p. 381). By the time of the 8th Earl’s succession, a number of great sculptural works were already exhibited prominently at Wilton. By the 1640s, Le Sueur’s bronze Borghese Gladiator had been installed in the gardens designed by Isaac de Caux, who described it as “The most famous statue of all that Antiquity hath left” (Haskell and Penny 1981, p. 221). As Kennedy had attempted to make clear in his introduction to visitors to Wilton, the 8th Earl was simply continuing the Pembroke tradition of high-level and pioneering patronage of the fine arts and architecture: The Earls of Pembroke had from the reign of Henry VIII, been encouragers of the fine arts, and very early shewed their taste in employing Holbein and Jones in improving and adorning their noble seat at Wilton (Kennedy 1769, p. iii). The 8th Earl embarked on a Grand Tour as early as 1676 (Scott 2003, p. 45) and was perhaps in part inspired to do so after the visit of Prince Cosimo III de’ Medici to Wilton in 1669 (Scott 2003, p. 289). However, it seems he was ‘born to be a collector’, for in various ways he was associated with the first English virtuosi – Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (fig. 11) and King Charles I of England (fig. 12) (Scott 2003, p. 39). He should be considered the heir to their English antiquarian thrones and may indeed have sought self-consciously to cultivate such an image with his purchase of a great number of works from their former collections. The Earl seems to have started collecting seriously around 1680, when he purchased 37 statues and 128 busts from Arundel House (Scott, 2003, p. 40; Michaelis 1882, p. 666), repository of the esteemed English
fig. 10 Anthony Van Dyck Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke, with his Family, c.1635 Oil on canvas, 330 × 510 cm Wilton House
fig. 11 Daniel Mytens Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel, 4th Earl of Surrey and 1st Earl of Norfolk, circa 1618 Oil on canvas, 207.0 × 127.0 cm National Portrait Gallery, London fig. 12 Daniel Mytens King Charles I, 1631 Oil on canvas, 215.9 × 134.6 cm National Portrait Gallery, London
fig. 13 Robert Nanteuil after Pierre Mignard Cardinal Jules Mazarin seated within the gallery of his palace, 1659 Engraving, 47.5 × 67.1 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
collection of the Earl of Arundel. Then, in the 1720s, he acquired a number of pieces that had formerly belonged to King Charles I of England as part of his acquisition of 80 or 83 busts, 23 statues and seven reliefs from Cardinal Mazarin (fig. 13), who had purchased a tranche of the late king’s goods at the Commonwealth sales following the king’s execution in 1649. It is interesting to note that Mazarin had himself built upon an existing collection begun by Cardinal Richelieu (Michaelis 1882, p. 667). Lord Pembroke further bolstered the collection with works from
the splendid Valletta collection and also from Rome’s Giustiniani family, possibly as early as 1721 (Baker 2008, p. 380), and a further 30 waggonloads of marble arrived at Wilton between 1725 and 1728 (Scott 2003, p. 41). To assist him in his endeavour of building such a prodigious collection, he surrounded himself with a network of advisors, antiquarians, connossieurs and cognoscenti, as detailed by George Richardson in his Aedes Pembrochianae of 1774. The most prominent was Sir Andrew Fountaine, famed for his antiquarian abilities, who had travelled to Italy at least twice (Scott 2003, p. 44). He himself had acquired a great collection of coins, drawings, majolica – probably during his second visit to Italy in 1715–16 (Ingamells 1997, pp. 376–77). There was also a “Dr Pocock”, the eminent Dr Martin Folkes, President of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society, and the cellist, antiquary and numismatist “Nicola Haym”, who is also mentioned as “being employed to labour” at Wilton (Richardson  1788, Introduction). Until its dispersal in the middle of the twentieth century the present pair of busts were displayed at the heart of the Wilton collection, flanking the main chimneypiece in the Earl’s ‘sanctum sanctorum’ of the Great ‘Double Cube Room’ designed by Inigo Jones (fig. 14). In this celebrated state room there were also exhibited 26 of the Earl’s most “highly prized” and “showiest busts” (Baker 2008, p. 383), mounted on fine marble plinths. The main display strategy appears to have been the creation of lines of busts, as illustrated by George Vertue around 1750 in an annotated copy of Creed’s 1731 guidebook, along with accompanying plans revealing the position of sculptures in the surrounding rooms (fig. 14). An indication of the importance the Earl placed on this room and the high regard in which he held works displayed there was the display of a magnificent set of Van Dyck portraits of his ancestors – “Philip 4th Earl of Pembroke and his Lady; on their Right-Hand Stand their five sons, Charles Lord Herbert, Philip (afterwards 5th Lord Herbert), William, James and John; on the left their Daughter Anna Sophia, and her Husband Robert Earl of Carnarvan; before them Lady Mary, Daughter of George Duke of Buckingham, and Wife to Charles Lord Herbert” (Kennedy 1769, p. 61). These paintings declared the Pembroke’s historic aristocratic legitimacy and pedigree as collectors, which conferred upon the sculpture in this room an added prestige, as being part of both such a personal and a grand decorative scheme. The sculptural display at Wilton appears to have been “surprisingly mobile” (Baker 2008, p. 384). Indeed, if one is to believe Stukeley’s account, the Earl spent much of his time devising and re-organizing the programme of his sculptural display:
He is very busy from morning to night in marshalling his old fashioned Babies as Sir Isaac Newton calls ’em; he is distributing them in proper classes, such as Busto’s, Inscriptions, basso rilievos, Statues, etc. These he is placing in distinct Rooms, his Egyptian, Syrian, Lydian, Thracian, Greek, Roman Marbles. Then he is mustering by themselves the old Greek Persons, the learned Persons, the Consular, the Emperors, the Divinities, etc. So that you may suppose that he generally walks 10 miles a day in his own house and sometimes in his Slippers and sometimes is so bust that unless his Ladies come to visit him he will fob off his beard (as he calls it) for two or three days (Scottish Record Office GD 18, 5030, I, 25 September 1723; quoted in Scott 2003, p. 44).
fig. 14 George Vertue One end of the Great Room, Wilton House Pen and brown wash, 20 × 12 cm Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University, New Haven
The precise arrangement of the works at Wilton, a project that clearly preoccupied the Earl, was probably derived from the Italian models he would have seen on his Grand Tour (Scott 2003, p. 48). These similarities and possible sources of inspiration were not lost on some contemporary observers. John Macky wrote in 1722 of Wilton being so “crowded with Greek and Roman Bustos, that I fancied myself at the Villa Borghese” (Macky 1722, p. 44; quoted in Baker 2008, p. 383). Indeed, the Earl’s enthusiasm for portrait busts coincided with a peak in their popularity in the early eighteenth century, and this interest was possibly encouraged by the formation of the bust room in the Capitoline Museum, Rome (Baker 2008, p. 380). The Earl had a considerable preference for busts carved from coloured marbles and his collection of these were particularly admired at Wilton: The jaspers, Alabasters and marbles, whereof the Busts are made, are valuable and beautiful beyond description. So great a number and in such preservation are not be found in any collection; they have constantly obtained the applause and admiration of every connoisseur who hath visited Wilton (Kennedy 1769, p. xxiii). However, his interest in them was not solely aesthetic, but also involved the historical characters represented. The unknown author of the early manuscript catalogue elucidated that “My Lord also esteems the Likeness of Persons to be a main use; which is the Reason that he has so great a number of Busto’s” (British Library, Stowe MS 1018). The Earl seems to have justified this preference on pedagogic and educational grounds:
fig. 15 ‘The Cloisters’ at Wilton House
The great number of Person’s is not only an Ornamental Furniture, but more instructive and pleasant (to see the Persons) to those who have read of them; and an incitement even to young Folk’s (as my Lord has observ’d among his Children) by Seeing the Persons to learn Something of them, both by Questions, and Reading the Works of such learned Persons. To this end, he claims not to have accepted any “unknown heads” for his collection, or those “not likely in Time to be known”, and, seemingly in order that no one should be in any doubt as to a bust’s identity, he had the names chiselled into the monuments themselves (Michaelis 1882, p. 46) – which goes some way to explain the inscriptions apparent on the present pair and Philip Ayers’s playful reference to the Earl as “Carvillius Magnus” (Ayers 1997, p. 133). For Ayers, the display
of such an extensive cast of classical heroes, villains, politicians and literati at Wilton was the product of an ideological framework born out of the new political liberties experienced with the restoration of Charles II to the English throne. In short, reverence for antique statuary increased among the aristocracy as parallels were drawn between the proportioned and harmonious art of Greece and Rome and the perceived freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of these nations. In terms of the decorative scheme, Ayers argues that this connection was made nowhere more explicitly than at Wilton House: the “8th Earl of Pembroke had brought the ancient work to him, peopling his house and gardens with eminent Greeks and especially Romans in the form of the busts and statues that were regarded as the largest, if not the best, collection of ancient marbles in Europe” (Ayers 1997, pp. 132–33). • At Wilton, the 8th Earl built a treasure house of antique, Renaissance and Baroque sculpture that was widely admired. William Stukeley declared: How much thanks and praise is owing to the Noble Possessor from all the intelligent world [but] especially the British Nation, for thus collecting in one view so vast a treasure of invaluable antiquitys, for bringing as it were all ‘Athens to Wilton’ (Stukeley 1723), and that “Wilton is become tramontane Italy” (Stukeley  1776, p. 185). The antiquary Roger Gale wrote in a letter to Sir John Clerk of September 1726 that he believed “The whole collection is without doubt not to be paralleled on this side of the Alps” (Scottish Record Office, Penicuik MS GD. 18, 5030, 26 and 2107). Pierre Jacques Fougeroux described Wilton as “a second Rome” in his Voyage d’Angleterre, d’Hollande et de Flandre of 1728 (quoted in Jackson-Stops 1985, p. 308). Despite the building of many other collections in Britain by the final quarter of the century, Wilton remained an exemplar to which collectors aspired. In his seminal work The Wealth of Nations of 1776, Adam Smith struck a markedly nationalistic tone with his thoughts of Wilton: Noble palaces, magnificent villas, great collections of books, statues, pictures, and other curiosities, are frequently both an ornament and an honour, not only to the neighbourhood but to the whole country to which they belong. Versailles is an ornament and an honour to France, Stowe and Wilton to England (Smith 1776, p. 423).
Pembroke’s influence on the tastes and collecting trends of the aristocratic English in the first third of the eighteenth century appear to have been considerable. When he embarked on his Grand Tour in 1676 and set about building a collection in the 1680s, he was all but alone, but by the time of his death in 1733 a number of England’s great country houses were being to be decorated with antiquities and esteemed modern works of art (Scott 003, p. 49). Frederik Poulsen, Keeper of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek in Copenhagen, was convinced of the importance of Wilton and its collection for anyone hoping to understand the phenomenon of English country house building and the motives behind antique and Grand Tour collecting. He wrote that Wilton was where one can understand most clearly the idea of the English country seat as an attempt to realise the northern dream of the south, by transferring to England the classic sculpture and ancient art of the South (Poulsen 193, introduction).
fig. 16 The ‘Double Cube Room’, Wilton House, photograph circa 190, with the busts of Horace and Cicero either side of the fireplace
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