Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 109

The taste for Paolo Veronese in early Stuart London
The taste for Paolo Veronese in early Stuart London
much greater prize: almost the entire collection,
consisting of more than two hundred paintings,
of the merchant and very refined connoisseur
Bartolomeo della Nave.73 Eleven of these were by
Veronese (Table IV); and although as part of a bulk
purchase Hamilton did not deliberately choose
them, his correspondence suggests that he was
much more interested in the painter than the king
seemed to be. In particular, in response to the letter
from Feilding of May 1637, Hamilton admits that
the four canvases would be overpriced if they were
not very large and of excellent quality, but asks for
further information about their scale, the number of
figures they contained, and also wonders whether
the asking price of 1300 ducats could be reduced.74
Fig. 18 / Daniel Mytens,
James Hamilton (1606-1649),
1st Duke of Hamilton, 1629,
oil on canvas, 221 x 139.7 cm,
Edinburgh, Scottish National
Portrait Gallery.
Fig. 19 / Paolo Veronese,
Venus and Adonis, ca. 1585,
oil on canvas, 68 x 52 cm,
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches
The other great collector of Charles I’ s reign, the
3rd Marquess of Hamilton (created 1st Duke in 1643)
(fig. 18), did not begin his collecting career until
1636 – despite the fact that in the previous reign his
father, the 2nd Marquess, had put together a very
respectable group of pictures, which included a now
untraced Agony in the Garden by Veronese.69 A golden
opportunity for the politically highly-ambitious
Hamilton to assemble an outstanding collection of
predominantly Venetian paintings, and to thereby
gain the favour of the king, came in 1634, when his
brother-in-law was appointed ambassador to Venice.70
The moment was also opportune in the sense that an
economic downturn meant that a number of Venetian
families and collectors were now feeling more obliged
than previously to sell.71 In March 1636 Feilding sent
Hamilton a list of thirty-five paintings currently on the
market, including three by Veronese, one of which,
heading the list, was the above-mentioned Esther before
Ahasuerus, which he noted “hath twenty-five figures”,
and which Hamilton duly bought.72 But two years
later, following protracted negotiations, he secured a
If the canvases in question were indeed the stellar
Cuccina pictures, Hamilton was quite right to make
further enquiries; and perhaps if his career as a
collector had not been curtailed by the deepening
political crisis at home, he might have eventually
secured them. Even so, this episode suggests that
he would have taken particular satisfaction with
the eleven Della Nave Veroneses, six of which
were narrative scenes from the Old and New
Testaments – resembling smaller versions of the
Buckingham series – and two, representing Venus
and Adonis (fig. 19) and Hercules and Deianira, were
mythologies. His enjoyment of them, however,
was to be short-lived. Only three years after the
Della Nave haul reached his house in Chelsea in
1639, the Civil War erupted; and when he left the
capital to take up arms for the king, his collection
was confiscated by Parliament. In March 1649,
five weeks after the execution of his royal master,
Hamilton suffered the same fate.
Less than a month later, the entire Hamilton
collection had been bought by the Archduke
Leopold Wilhelm in Brussels – and after his death
in 1662 it went, unlike the Buckingham pictures,
not to Prague but Vienna. This direct continuity
of ownership from Della Nave to Hamilton,
Leopold Wilhelm and the Austrian Emperors, and
the survival of at least one inventory from each
collection, make the identification of all thirteen of
the Veroneses on Table IV entirely unproblematic:
apart from a now lost Flagellation (IV.4), and the
Esther (IV.12), which was sent to Florence in 1792
as part of an exchange, all of them are now in the
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.75


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