Pompeo Batoni (Italian, Lucca 1708 - 1787 Rome)
Portrait of John Wodehouse, 1764
Inscribed lower left (in yellow, by a later hand): John Lord Wodehouse./ 1762.; and at top (in black): ...Wodehouse
Oil on canvas
53 3/4 x 39 in. (136.5 x 99.1 cm)
Mrs. F. F. Prentiss Fund, 1970
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A young British aristocrat poses casually before an invented backdrop that features an impressive antique krater and loosely-sketched Roman ruins. Pompeo Batoni, the leading portraitist in Rome during the eighteenth century, earned an international reputation by creating elegant commemorative likenesses of and for foreign travelers. The composition of his likeness of Wodehouse served as a model for several other portraits of British nobility.
The subject of Oberlin's portrait, John Wodehouse (1741-1834), was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford (1758). Little is known of his life. He is documented in Rome in 1764, probably during the course of the obligatory "Grand Tour," an essential component of the well-rounded education of an eighteenth-century English aristocrat. Wodehouse married Sophia Berkeley in London in 1769. Upon the death of his father, Armine, in 1777, John became 6th Baronet Wodehouse; he was created 1st Baron Wodehouse of Kimberly in 1797, in recognition of his services as a Member of Parliament for Norfolk from 1784-97. His grandson John (1826-1902) became the first Earl of Kimberly.1
The inscription at the lower left of the portrait was added sometime after Wodehouse was created Baron in 1797. The date recorded there, 1762, is probably not correct. In his travel diary entry for 6 May 1764, James Martin, another British "Grand Tourist" in Rome, recorded seeing the painting in Batoni's showroom: "wt. to Battonis the Portrait Painter & saw some very strong Likenesses of Lady Spencer, Mrs Macartey, Mr Garrick, Mr Woodhouse [sic], ac [etc.]." Martin returned to the artist's showroom the following day in the company of Wodehouse and several other English travelers.2 Although Batoni was notoriously dilatory in completing commissions, and individual likenesses could take from several weeks to several months to be finished,3 the availability of the portrait for public viewing and Wodehouse's own presence in Rome in 1764 indicate that the portrait was indeed commissioned and painted in that year, when the subject was twenty-three.
In his portrait, Wodehouse wears a blue silk suit lavishly trimmed with gold braid; the hilt of a sword is visible at his proper left hip. The black ribbon around his neck is a "solitaire," formed from the long ends of the ribbon used to tie his bag wig. Wodehouse leans casually upon a plinth supporting an antique marble krater with a bacchic relief, overlooking an invented, ruin-studded site in the Roman campagna. Like most of the classical accessories that appear in Batoni's portraits, the krater was closely copied from a published reproduction.4 As Clark has shown, Wodehouse's specific pose--with one arm extended or resting on a plinth and the other bent, hand propped at the hip--was the model for at least a dozen later portraits of men that all share the same basic composition of the Oberlin portrait.5 While Batoni always varied the setting, costume, and accessories, the efficient reuse of basic compositional elements was necessary to meet the overwhelming demand for his portraits.
The portrait of John Wodehouse is one of the few paintings by Batoni left partially unfinished, thus giving an indication of the artist's working process. The sketchy landscape at the left is only just touched in, and the antique krater at the right is not as finely detailed as comparable elements in other portraits by the artist.
M. E. Wieseman
Pompeo Batoni was born in Lucca in 1708, and trained as a goldsmith with his father Paolino. He moved permanently to Rome in 1727 and studied painting with Francesco Imperiale (1679-1740); perhaps more importantly, he made numerous drawings and copies after antique sculpture and the paintings of modern Italian masters (Raphael, the Carracci, etc.). He was elected to the Accademia di San Luca in 1741. By the 1750s Batoni had become "the" portrait painter in Rome: the sophisticated elegance of his likenesses, enveloped by settings evocative of classical Rome, assured the artist's popularity among foreign--especially English--sitters desiring a souvenir of their Italian journey. Batoni also painted a host of historical and mythological scenes, altarpieces, and smaller devotional pictures. He was married twice, to Caterina Setti (d. 1742) in 1729, and to Lucia Fattori in 1747, and had twelve children; three of his sons assisted in his workshop. From 1759 Batoni lived in a large house on the Via Bocca di Leone in Rome, which included a studio as well as exhibition rooms and an evening drawing academy. The artist died in Rome on 4 February 1787.
Clark, Anthony M. Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text. Edited by Edgar Peters Bowron. New York, 1985.
By descent in the family of the sitter to the Earls of Kimberly
Sale, Property of the Rt. Hon. Earl of Kimberly, London (Sotheby's), 2 December 1964, lot 10
With Ferdinando Peretti, Rome, from whom purchased in 1970
Clark, Anthony M. "Pompeo Batoni's Portrait of John Wodehouse." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 30, no. 1 (Fall 1972), pp. 3-11.
Spear, Richard E. "Baroque Paintings from Ligozzi to Hogarth." Apollo 103, no. 168 (February 1976), p. 111, fig. 11.
Bowron, Edgar Peters. Pompeo Batoni (1708-87) and his British Patrons. Exh. cat., The Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, London, 1982, pp. 13, 15, 16, 93, no. 179.
Clark, Anthony M. Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text. Edited by Edgar Peters Bowron. New York, 1985, pp. 32, 40, 51, 292-93, cat. no. 268.
Kenworthy-Browne, John. In The British Face: A View of Portraiture 1625-1850. Exh. cat., P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. Ltd., London, 1986, pp. 126-27.
Consistent with the practice of other eighteenth-century Roman painters,6 the canvas is primed with a pink-red ground; this is used as a base tone in more thinly painted areas, such as the ruins in the landscape background. There are pentimenti visible in the lace at the sitter's proper left wrist, and in the vase, which was changed from a simpler, straight-sided volute krater to its present form. There is an old v-shaped tear in the lower center of the canvas, near the fourth button from the bottom of the sitter's doublet, involving minimal loss to the paint surface. In 1975 the painting was cleaned and inpainted, lined, and placed on an ICA-type spring stretcher. It was surface cleaned and revarnished in 1991.
1. Biographical information from Anthony M. Clark, Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text (New York, 1985), p. 292.
2. From James Martin's manuscript journal of his Grand Tour, 1763-65, 9 vols.; the information has been published in, for example, Anthony M. Clark, "Pompeo Batoni's Portrait of John Wodehouse," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 30, no. 1 (Fall 1972), p. 7, and idem., Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text (New York, 1985), pp. 292-93. The portraits of Garrick (Oxford, Ashmolean Museum) and Lady Spencer (collection The Earl Spencer, Althorp) are both dated 1764.
3. See Anthony M. Clark, Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text (New York, 1985), pp. 38-40.
4. This particular krater was reproduced in Bernard de Montfaucon, L'Antiquité expliquée (Paris, 1719), vols. 3-4, p. 152, plate 74, no. 4; as noted in Pompeo Batoni (1708-87) and his British Patrons (exh. cat., The Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, London, 1982), p. 15, and Anthony M. Clark, Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text (New York, 1985), pp. 292-93.
5. The works whose basic compositions are based on the Wodehouse prototype are enumerated in Anthony M. Clark, "Pompeo Batoni's Portrait of John Wodehouse," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 30, no. 1 (Fall 1972), pp. 8, 11.
6. Anthony M. Clark, Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text (New York, 1985), p. 40.