Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 105

The taste for Paolo Veronese in early Stuart London
Fig. 12 / Anthony van Dyck,
Continence of Scipio, 16201621, oil on canvas, 183 x
232.5 cm, Oxford, Christ
Church Picture Gallery.
Fig. 13 / Workshop of
Veronese, ca. 1585, Esther
and Ahasuerus, oil on canvas,
141 x 289 cm, Vienna,
Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Fig. 14 / Anthony van Dyck,
Charles I in Three Positions,
1635-1636, oil on canvas,
84.4 x 99.4 cm, London, The
Royal Collection Trust.
that there could be some political advantage in acceding
to his request, the government very properly refused it.
Perhaps it was the failure of this initiative that gave
Buckingham the idea of commissioning a ceiling
roundel for York House from Rubens – who would also
have known those by Veronese at first hand – when he
met him in Paris in the following year, 1625.49 In any
case, when Rubens came to London in the year after
the duke’s death, he stayed in Gerbier’s apartments in
the house and was deeply impressed by the collection,
writing to his antiquarian friend Peiresc that he “had
never seen such a huge quantity of excellent paintings
The taste for Paolo Veronese in early Stuart London
by first-class masters as in the royal palace and in the
house of the late Duke of Buckingham.”50 Nine years
earlier, the young Van Dyck clearly also had access to
the collection – even though it was not yet installed
at York House. During his first, brief visit to London
in the winter of 1620-1621, the painter executed
at least one major commission for (or on behalf of)
Buckingham: the Continence of Scipio (Oxford, Christ
Church) (fig. 12). As is only to be expected, Van Dyck’s
main source of inspiration in this work was Rubens,
both in its pictorial handling and in the indebtedness of
the composition to a recent version of the same subject
by the elder master; 51 yet it is arguable that at this
moment of Van Dyck’s earliest encounter with the art
of Veronese, the Scipio also pays homage to the recently
acquired group from the Aarschot collection. Although
there is no literal quotation, the silvery colour scheme
and the show of sumptuous silks and brocades are
generically Veronesian, while the frieze-like foreground
composition, the white background architecture, and
the placing of the principal male figure all seem to
reflect similar scenes by Veronese – and perhaps in
particular, Buckingham’s Esther and Ahasuerus (II.20)
(fig. 13). Furthermore, Van Dyck’s preparatory study
(Louvre) shows a vertical division of the scene into
three by tall, straight columns, as in the Susannah and the
Elders (II.7), as well as the characteristically Veronesian
motif of the halberds silhouetted against the sky;
the finished work resembles the Rebecca (no. II.10) in
showing a juxtaposition of a pallid heroine with an
African servant; and details such as the similarly placed
architectural fragment in the left foreground, and the
similarly elaborate silver ewer, echo similar details in
the Anointing of David (II.4). This was to be the prelude
for Van Dyck’s further and closer engagement with
the art of Veronese during his subsequent stay in Italy
Because of losses, difficulties of identification, and
uncertainties of chronology, it is not easy to make a
direct comparison between the group of Veroneses
displayed at York House with that less than a mile
to the east at Arundel House. But on the whole,
it is probably true to say that the Buckingham
pictures made a bigger visual splash, and had a more
productive impact – not only on Van Dyck, but also on
other collectors, notably Hamilton.
some important examples, notably on the Spanish trip
of 1623; and as king he benefited further from a number
of diplomatic gifts, from foreign states, and from his own
courtiers.53 But the nucleus of his celebrated collection
was always to remain the purchase from Mantua,
in terms both of sheer quantity and of individual
masterpieces – and fortunately for his particular love of
Titian, these included several outstanding examples by
the great Venetian. Veronese, however, had never been
employed by the Gonzaga court, nor had his works been
particularly collected there; this, more than any lack of
interest by Charles, is certainly the main reason for the
rather small number of works by the painter in the royal
collection – especially as compared with those in the
collections of Arundel and Buckingham.
Fig. 14 Anthony Van Dyck,
Charles I in Garter Robes.
Royal Collection.
In his letter from London to Peiresc in August
1629 Rubens expressed enthusiasm not just for the
Buckingham collection, but also for the royal collection,
which had just been immeasurably enriched by the
arrival of a substantial number of pictures from the
Gonzaga collection in Mantua, and which by now
must have totalled more than one thousand. Before
his accession in 1625 Charles (fig. 14) already enjoyed
a reputation for his love of painting and had acquired
The two major documents recording the contents of
Charles’s collection are provided by the impressively
detailed catalogue compiled by Abraham van der Doort
in about 1639, and by the records of the sales of the
collection after the king’s execution in January 1649.54
Although both of these documents are incomplete, and
the works they itemize only partly match up, together
they confirm that Charles owned only five paintings
by Veronese (Table III), to which may be added a
misattribution and a probable copy.55 Of the definite
works, two – both of considerable quality – have already
been mentioned above: the Mars, Venus, and Cupid, now
in Edinburgh (III.6) (see fig. 1), which Charles brought
back with him from Spain; and the Leda (III.3), which the
Duchess of Buckingham gave Charles in part exchange
for a religious picture by Fetti.
TABLE III Veronese in the Collection of Charles I
Van der Doort inventory
Commonwealth Sale
Present whereabouts
(Millar, 1958-1960)
(Millar, 1970-1972)
1. Allegorical Figure of Faith
p. 47
2. Portrait of a Man in Armour
p. 48
p. 269
3. Leda and the Swan
p. 59
p. 186
Ajaccio (fig. 9)
4. Finding of Moses
p. 78
p. 262
Prado (fig. 15)
5. Mars, Venus, and Cupid
p. 205
Edinburgh (fig. 1)


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