The Gentileschi EffectLondon
Portrait of George Craster, 1762
ProvenanceCommissioned in Rome by the sitter and her husband; and then by descent in the family.
John Steegman, “Some English portraits by Pompeo Batoni” Burlington Magazine 88 (1946), p. 60, no. 50.
Sir Edmund Craster, The Craster Family: Three Generations, Gateshead on Tyne, 1953, pp. 39, 43.
Basil Skinner, “Some Aspects of the Work of Nathaniel Dance in Rome” Burlington Magazine 101 (1959), p. 349, fig. 50.
Isa Belli Barsali, “Pompeo Girolamo Batoni” in Dizionario Biografco degli Italiani, Rome, 1965, vol. 7, p. 201.
Andrea Busiri Vici, “Ritratti di N. Dance tra ruderi e salotti” Capitolivm 40 (July/August 1965), pp. 388–89.
David Alexander, Nathaniel Dance 1735–1811, exh. cat. Kenwood, London, 1977, no. 7.
Anthony M. Clark and Edgar Peters Bowron, Pompeo Batoni: a Complete Catalogue of his Works with anIntroductory Text, Oxford, 1985, pp. 288–89, no. 256, fig. 238.
John Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701–1800, New Haven and London,1997, p. 250.
Anne French, Art Treasures in the North: Northern Families on the Grand Tour, exh. cat. Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, 2009, pp. 91, 93–95, fig. 81, pl. 7.
Edgar Peters Bowron, Pompeo Batoni, a Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, New Haven and London, 2016, vol. 1, p. 318, no. 259, illustrated.
Kimberley Chrisman-Campbell in Carolyn Miner, ed., The Elegant Man. From Van Dyck to Boldini, exh. cat. Palazzo Kiton, Milan, 2018, pp. 50–51.
London, Kenwood, Nathaniel Dance 1735–1811, 25 June–4 September 1977
Newcastle, Laing Art Gallery, Art Treasures in the North: Northern Families on the Grand Tour, 2009
Milan, Palazzo Kiton, The Elegant Man, from Van Dyck to Boldini, 17–22 April 2018
George Craster (1734–1772) was the son of John Craster, a successful London lawyer with estates in Northumberland and Durham, and his wife Catherine Villiers, a descendant of the notorious 1st Duke of Buckingham. He commissioned this portrait from Batoni when he was in Rome in 1762 with his wife Olive, whose portrait in turn was painted by Nathaniel Dance, then working in Batoni’s studio (now Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota). The couple had been prevented from taking a honeymoon on the continent at the time of their marriage in 1757 due to the Seven Years’ War (1756–63). Upon Olive’s mother’s death in 1760, however, with the war still waging, they set out on their Grand Tour, spending the winter in the popular spa town of Montpellier. The greater part of 1761 was spent in the south of France, visiting Bordeaux, Aix, and Marseilles, from where they took the sea route to Naples, arriving in January 1762. By June they were staying at the Ville de Londres in Rome, being conducted around the city by the well-known painter and cicerone, James Russel. Olive kept notebooks and (mostly undated) accounts, which include payments for artificial flowers, sheet music, pins, snuffboxes, cameos, and essences, as well as two lapdogs. An entry under “at Rome, Antiques & Curiosities” records: “two portraits of C – & self by Sig.ie Batoni & Mr. Dance – 61 scudi 5 pol [paoli]” as well as copies in miniature by a “Sig.ra Tibaldi” [presumably Maria Felice Tibaldi, or one of her sisters] at 32 scudi and 8 paoli (a scudo, it is noted, being worth 5 English shillings).2
An officer with the Horse Grenadier Guards, George Craster is shown in full regimentals, which he may even have brought with him for the express purpose of having his portrait painted by Batoni in Rome. The skilful rendering of the striking scarlet uniform, with blue lapels and gold frogging, highlights Batoni’s mastery at capturing different textures and his gifts as a colourist, note the red highlights in the gold buttons reflecting from the coat. Batoni was aware that English canvas sizes differed from those in general use in Rome, and from the late 1750s onwards understood that many of his clients wished to have pictures that conformed to the standard thirty by twenty-five inch format, as is the case here.
The Crasters travelled on to Florence, Venice, Milan, and Turin before returning over the Mont Cenis Pass into France, eventually arriving back in England in the summer of 1763. On his father’s death later that year, George inherited his estates at Craster in Northumberland and Durham, being his parents’ only surviving child. The couple set about renovating and extending Craster Tower, adding a new five-bay classical front to the medieval tower, inspired by the villas they had seen on the Brenta, however, Olive died in Paris in 1769, shortly before the work was completed in 1770. When George died without issue in 1772, he was succeeded by his cousin, Daniel Craster.
1. 7 July 1762, Dance Letters MSS, Library of the Royal Institute of British Architects, London.
2. Memorandum Book, ZCR/Box/20, Craster MSS, Northumberland County Record Office.
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