The Ca’ Capello Layard and its art collection: a forgotten Anglo-Venetian treasure house of the late nineteenth-century
The Ca’ Capello Layard and its art collection: a forgotten Anglo-Venetian treasure house of the late nineteenth-century
as well as a proper catalogue of his paintings collection,
complete with exhaustive scholarly descriptions. To
this end, she rearranged the contents of Sir Henry’s
notebook relating to the paintings in a typewritten
catalogue set out as a room-by-room inventory and
dated 1896.89 In line with the current practice of having
illustrated catalogues of collections commissioned from
well-known art historians, Lady Layard enlisted another
prominent figure of Italian connoisseurship, Adolfo
Venturi (1856-1941), to write a study of the collection.90
been familiar with him, as Frizzoni had mentioned his
name to Henry on more than one occasion.82 Anderson
photographed nineteen works in the Layard collection,
four of which were unedited (i.e. Moretto da Brescia’s
Portrait of a man Praying with a long Beard, NG3095 [fig. 14];
Bellini’s Virgin and Child, NG3078; Mazzolino’s Nativity,
NG3114; and Garofalo’s Virgin and Child with Saints
Dominic and Catherine, NG3102), the rest had previously
been reproduced by either Brusa or Alinari. By 1898,
the carbon prints were available in Anderson’s catalogue,
listed under the heading “Palazzo Layard”.83
Their earliest documented meeting took place on
15 July 1901, when Lady Enid recorded a visit from
“Professor Venturi”91 to her London flat, at 3 Savile
Row, but they may well have become acquainted earlier
at the Ferrarese exhibition held at the Burlington Fine
Arts Club in 1894.92 Sir Henry Layard had lent a copy
of the Borghese Circe by Dosso Dossi to the exhibition
and four photographs of some of his other paintings:
Garofalo’s Virgin and Child with the Saints Domenic
and Catherine (NG3102); two scenes from Niccolò
Pisano’s The Story of Moses (The Israelites Gathering
Manna, NG3103, and The Dance of Miriam, NG3104);
Lorenzo Costa’s, The Adoration of the Shepherds with Angels
(NG3105).93 Since his appointment at the “Minerva”,
the Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione (1888), in order
to catalogue the national works of art, Venturi had been
compiling a list of paintings in private collections, so it
is not surprising that Venturi’s early notebook, which
became known as the “Taccuino Europeo” (1896/1897
– before 1901), recorded the Layard collection.94
The articles written both by Horatio Brown and
Gustavo Frizzoni in 1896 extensively illustrated the
collection for the first time, as well as providing the
fullest published account on it. Whilst Brown aimed
at making Layard’s pictures known among the British
public, stressing their importance in view of the “noble
bequest”84 to the National Gallery, Frizzoni addressed
the refined readership, notably scholars, of the Gazette
des Beaux Arts (fig. 15). His article tackled the chronology
of works and divided paintings into the various schools,
with a clear historical-critical approach. He began with
works produced in the Veneto, “which represent the
core of the collection”,85 and moved to the Florentine
school, concluding with a brief comment on the “the
art produced in the Bas-Rhin regions”.86 For Frizzoni,
the collection provided a valuable opportunity to
demonstrate his critical ability; he was able discuss and
argue for new attributions, not only in the case of the
allegorical figure by Cosmè Tura (NG3070, see figs. 4
& 5), but also for several other pictures produced by
different schools of painting.87
Fig. 13 / Tomaso Filippi,
Juan Carreño de Miranda (?),
Portrait of the wife of Charles
IV of Spain, Venice, I.R.E., Fondo
fotografico Tommaso Filippi
(inv. TFN2521).
Articles, however, were not enough to satisfy Lady
Layard. Along with the public recognition of Henry
Layard’s merits, beginning with the erection of his bust
in the British Museum in 1891 (see fig. 1), Lady Enid was
anxious to publish an autobiography of her husband,88
During one of his summer continental tours in 1901,
Venturi visited London and “asked [Lady Layard] to
publish an illustrated catalogue of Henry’s collection
of pictures”, something she “was willing to do but did
not know how to set about doing”.95 In this respect, the
typewritten record could be intended as the first stage
of a catalogue. At the same time, Lady Layard had
also sought advice from the orientalist and art historian
Sandford Arthur Strong (1863-1904), whom she
recorded as having promised to help her.96
Fig. 14 / Moretto da Brescia,
Praying Man with a Long
Beard, ca. 1545, oil on canvas,
103.7 x 89.4 cm, London,
National Gallery.
Fig. 15 / Gustavo Frizzoni, “La
Galerie Layard,” Gazette des
Beaux Arts 38 (1896): pp. 455476, (p. 471).
In spite of the initial enthusiasm, the project lingered
until 1906. In fact, a new law regulating the exportation
of the Italian monuments, antiquities, and works of art
was passed on 12 June 1902 (No. 185/1902, known
also as Nasi Law) and seven paintings of the Layard
collection were included in the “Catalogue of objects
of great artistic and historical values”, which forbade
their exportation.97 It is unsurprising that Lady Layard


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