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
however, took place several years later at the auction
house Guglielmi in Rome (1939), when the auction
stretched over nine days and included 1042 lots.114
Despite comprising a very wide selection of objects,
the collection is more notable for its multifarious nature
than its the overall size. The pages of the catalogue
reflect Layard’s taste and interests, mainly paintings,
sets of majolica, Murano glass, tapestries, precious
textiles, chandeliers, objects of vertu, prints, books,
and drawings. Another conspicuous element of the
collection originally housed at Ca’ Capello were the
prints, which were sold by anonymous owners at a
judicial sale in Venice in 1969.115
Photographic catalogues also enable one to retrace
some missing paintings once belonging to the collection.
These include the Portrait by Juan Carreño de Miranda
and a cassone with the Journey of the Queen of Sheba by
Apollonio di Giovanni, recorded in Federico Zeri’s
archive as part of the Layard Collection around 1880
(see fig. 13 & 18).116
Layard’s bequests and loans were philanthropically
motivated. At the same time, the ways in which
the collection was publicized in order to promote
public and scholarly awareness of Layard’s Old
Masters served to disguise his social ambitions. In
the arts, as well as in politics, Layard was an outsider
who sought inclusion and recognition and made
use of his abilities to demonstrate his merits and
credit. By bequeathing his pictures to the National
Gallery in London, he wished to leave a legacy
which might perpetuate his name and gain him
the highest distinction, along with his successes as
an archaeologist. In doing so, the exclusivity of a
private pursuit was undoubtedly transcended, as it
became an integral part of the country’s heritage
and contributed “to convey instruction to the artstudent, and to afford enjoyment to the lover of
art”.117 This was an aim which Layard had frequently
reiterated and which could finally receive general
validation. However, the fact that the majority of the
pictures are currently in depots or on loan may be
taken as evidence of an apparent reluctance on the
part of the National Gallery to display problematic
or unfashionable paintings or those of doubtful
attribution and, even if the pearls of his collection are
greatly admired by visitors to Trafalgar Square, few
people, perhaps, stop to consider the collector who
donated them. Ironically, had he left the collection
intact at Ca’ Capello, he might have achieved greater
posthumous fame.
Fig. 18 / Apollonio di
Giovanni, The Journey of the
Queen of Sheba, 1440-1460,
gelatin silver print, 109 x
204 mm, Bologna, Fototeca
Federico Zeri (inv. 36358).
Horatio Brown, “Sir Henry Layard’s pictures,” The
Magazine of Art 19 (1896): pp. 417-423, (p. 417). For
the terms of the bequest see London, British Library
(hereafter BL): Layard Papers, vol. XLVIII, Add. Ms.
56196, fols. 36-37: Last Will and Testament of the
Right Honourable Sir Henry Austen Layard.
Gustavo Frizzoni, “La Galerie Layard,” Gazette des Beaux
Arts 38 (1896): pp. 455-476.
Jonathan Parry, “Layard, Austen Henry,” in Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography, online edition, accessed
10 May 2019, doi: 10.1093/ref:odnb/16218.
See also Nicholas Penny, “Appendix of Collectors’
Biographies, Austen Henry Layard (1817-1894),” in
National Gallery School Catalogues: The Sixteenth-Century
Italian Paintings, I: Paintings from Bergamo, Brescia and
Cremona (London: National Gallery Publications, 2004),
pp. 372-380, at p. 372; Susanna Avery-Quash and Julie
Sheldon, Art for the Nation: the Eastlakes and the Victorian
Art World (London: The National Gallery Company,
2011), p. 149.
See London, National Gallery Archive (hereafter
NGA): NG1216 dossier. Henceforth, the National
Gallery paintings will be marked only by NG before
the number.
For a general account on the Layard collection see
Cecilia Riva, “Austen Henry Layard Collector and
Amateur. Diplomacy, Art History and Collecting in
Nineteenth-century Europe” (PhD diss., Università Ca’
Foscari, Venice, 2018); Penny, “Appendix of Collectors’
Biographies, Austen Henry Layard,” pp. 372-380. For
particular collections from which Layard acquired
some of his paintings, see Linda Borean, La Galleria
Manfrin a Venezia. L’ultima collezione d’arte della Serenissima
(Udine: Forum, 2018); Emanuele Mattaliano and
Grazia Agostini, La collezione Costabili (Venice: Marsilio,
See Cecilia Riva, “An Art World Insider: Austen Henry
Layard and the Nineteenth-Century European Art
Trade,” Journal for Art Market Studies 2 (2018): pp. 1-22,
(pp. 16-17, 21).
During the International conference Rethinking Layard
1817-2017, held at the Istituto Veneto di Scienze,
Lettere e Arti, Venice (5-6 March 2018), Rosa
Barovier Mentasti gave a paper on this topic entitled
“La promozione del vetro di Murano: Austen Henry
Layard e Lady Enid Layard”, accessed 10 December
BL: vol. LXXVI, Add. Ms. 39006, fol. 164. On the
Anglo-American community in Rome, see Christina
Huemer, Spellbound by Rome: the Anglo-American Community
in Rome 1890-1914 (Rome: Palombi, 2005); Carl B.
Strehlke, “Filadelfia-Roma: George Washington
Wurts e Henrietta Towers da Lincoln a Mussolini,”
in Voglia d’Italia. Il collezionismo internazionale nella Roma
del Vittoriano, ed. Emanuele Pellegrini (Naples: arte’m,
2017), pp. 49-79. For the Anglo-Americans in Florence
see Marcello Fantoni, Gli Anglo-Americani a Firenze, idea
e costruzione del Rinascimento (Roma: Bulzoni, 2000);
Claudio Paolini, A Sentimental Journey: inglesi e americani
a Firenze tra Ottocento e Novecento. I luoghi, le case, gli alberghi
(Florence: Ed. Polistampa, 2013). For the Venetian
community, see Hanne Borchmeyer, Die Entwicklung
des amerikanische Künstlermilieu in Venedig von 1880 bis zur
Gegenwart (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2013).
Venice, Archivio di Stato di Venezia (hereafter ASVe):
Notarile, II Serie, Angelo Pasini, b. 2371, n. 4801/2306,
31 October 1874. See also ASVe: Censo stabile attivato,
San Polo, mappale 1305, 3 November 1874, petizione
n. 111. For a complete account of the purchase, see
Riva, “Austen Henry Layard,” pp. 219-221.
This and the subsequent quotes from Lady Layard’s
Journal (below LLJ) follow the online transcription
of the manuscripts, kept in the British Library:
Department of Manuscripts, Add. Ms. S 46153–46170,
58173, 50182. accessed 10 December 2019. LLJ:
Venice, 25 August 1874.
Most of the fresco decoration perished soon after its
realization and was greatly damaged by a fire in 1627.
Antonio Zanetti was thus able to engrave only the
remaining frescoes by Zelotti and included them in his
volume Varie Pitture a fresco de’ principali maestri veneziani.
Ora la prima volta con le stampe pubblicate (Venice, 1760),
pp. X-XI, ill. 15-18. A few coloured specimens have
survived and are housed at the Biblioteca Apostolica
Vaticana; Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome; Houghton
Library, Harvard. For a full account on the coloured
copies, see Chiara Piva, “Le copie a colori delle ‘Varie
pitture a’ fresco dei principali maestri veneziani’
di Anton Maria Zanetti,” Arte Veneta 72 (2015): pp.
160, 164, pl. 11. On the history of the palace and
its frescoes, see Alessandra Lotto, “Aspetti della
committenza veneziana” (PhD diss., Università Ca’
Foscari Venezia, 2009), pp. 117-119.
This is rather curious because Sir Charles Eastlake had
a copy of Zanetti in his library [NGA: NG Lib. (O.S.)
NH 1076.3 Zanetti].
LLJ: Venice, 25 January 1887. The intervention was
criticized in a Venetian guide: “Cappello (ora A. H.
Layard). S. Polo – stile del decadimento semplice che
vorrebbe essere lombardesco. Il recente restauro tolse
lo scarso effetto di quella facciata la male suggerita tinta
rossa, e peggio l’abbassamento a lastroni di marmo di
Carrara”. Ernesto Volpi, Tre giorni a zig-zag per Venezia
e isole (Venice: F.lli Visentini, 1888), pp. 80-81. On the
nineteenth-century fashion to paint Venetian palaces in
red, see Giacomo Boni, Venezia imbellettata (Rome: Stab.
Tip. Italiano, 1887), p. 43.
See BL: Vol. CXII, Add. Ms. 39042, fol. 35: “From
your account the exterior adornment of your house,
Ca’ Capello, with marble panels must look lovely at the
corner of the two canals now that it has the colour and
material befitting a Venetian Palace.” See also Henri de
Régnier, Portraits et Souvenirs (Paris: Mercure de France,
1913), p. 322.
BL: Vol. XLII, Add. Ms. 38972, fol. 47.
Oxford, Bodleian Library (hereafter OBL): Gregory
Papers: Dep. d. 970, fols. 58, 59. Interestingly, a letter
to Morelli informs us that until 1880 the palace had
been rented: “J’ai l’intention de me défaire de mon
[*locataire], et d’occuper toute la maison”. BL: Vol.
XXXVI, Add. Ms. 38966, fol. 297v: A.H. Layard to G.
Morelli, Therapia, 21 Mai 1880.
Newcastle, Philip Robinson Library: Layard Collection,
Lay1/1/1/64, fol. 2v: E. Layard to M. Guest, 9 June
1875. I am grateful to Stefania Ermidoro for sharing
with me the information. Elizabeth Rigby, best-known as
Lady Eastlake, resided at Ca’ Capello during the winter
season 1876/77, see BL: Vol. 42, Add. MS. 38972, fols.
46-47. See OBL: Dep. d. 970, fol. 75: A. H. Layard
to W. H. Gregory, Madrid, 30 November 1876; and
Julie Sheldon The Letters of Elizabeth Rigby (Liverpool:
Liverpool University Press, 2009), pp. 419, 435.
BL: Vol. XIX, Add. Ms. 38949, fol. 137: A. H. Layard
to W. H. Gregory, 17 December 1874.
On this account, see Ashley Clarke, “Layard and
diplomacy,” in Austen Henry Layard: tra Oriente e Venezia,
eds. Mario F. Fales and Bernhard J. Hickey (Rome:
L’Erma di Bretschneider, 1987), pp. 95-100; Parry,
“Layard, Austen Henry.”
BL: Vol. XX, Add. Ms. 38950, fol. 160: A. H. Layard
to W. H. Gregory, Venice, 28 December 1890.
Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, John Murray
Archive (hereafter NLS): Ms. 42338, fol. 22: A. H.
Layard to E. Rigby, Rome, 21 January 1881. It is worth
mentioning that “leave on full pay had ended in the
autumn. [Layard] had lost about £5,000 in the failure
of his banker Willis Percival, a few years earlier, so
that there was a problem of money, for the Layards
had acquired a liking for good living with plenty of
entertaining”. Gordon Waterfield, Layard of Nineveh
(London: John Murray, 1963), p. 457.
NLS: Ms. 42338, fol. 22.
Parry, “Layard, Austen Henry.”
“Lady Layard. A personal reminiscence,” Pall Mall
Gazette, 6 November 1912.
Most of the names that visited Ca’ Capello are listed
not only in Lady Layard’s Journal, but also in her
autograph album (1881-1912), now BL: Add. Ms.
50149: Autograph Album of Mary Enid Evelyn
Layard, 1881-1912.
John Pemble, Venice Rediscovered (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1995), p. 35.
BL: Vol. LXXVI, Add. Ms. 39006, fol. 164: J. Hudson
to A. H. Layard, 8 June 1875.
See NLS: Ms. 42338, fol. 16: A. H. Layard to E. Rigby,
30 October 1880.
NLS: Ms. 42338, fol. 16: A.H. Layard to E. Rigby,
30 October 1880. From the correspondence, it results
that the Layards had reserved a room to use of Morelli
exclusively. See BL: Vol. XXXVI, Add. Ms. 38966,
fol. 242: A. H. Layard to A. Malcolm, Madrid, 10
February 1876.
As regards the arrival of the paintings at Venice, see
OBL: Dep. d. 970, fol. 61: A. H. Layard to W. H.
Gregory, Madrid, 8 May 1875. See also Adolfo Venturi,
“La Formazione della Galleria Layard,” L’Arte XV
(1912): pp. 449-62, (p. 456). For a detailed description
of the gallery and its display, an article is forthcoming.
See Catalogo delle importanti raccolte d’arte e de pregevoli
dipinti, antichi tappeti e mobile che arredavano il Palazzo
Cappello a Venezia, Guglielmi, Rome, 11-20 December
Barbara Lasic, “Dignity and Graciousness: Mewès and
Davis and the creation of the ‘Tous les Louis’ period
room,” Furniture History 48 (2012): pp. 193-210, (p. 194).
Alfredo Melani, “The Layard collection in Venice,” The
Studio. An illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art 57
(1913): pp. 303-318, (p. 314).
“Devenu par [les] soins [du Layard] un musée”: “Review


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