Thomas Beckford, the celebrated English art collector and novelist, wrote of the Tribuna of the Uffizi:
”…I fell into a delightful delirium which none but souls like us experience, and unable to check my rapture flew madly from bust to bust and cabinet to cabinet like a butterfly bewildered in a universe of flowers…’’
For anybody who has just clicked on this page you need to look at the previous blog first as this is a follow-on blog and will not really make sense if you had not read the previous one.
In this blog I am going to reveal the names of the paintings which formed part of the main work by Johan Zoffany entitled The Tribuna of the Uffizi but first, I will introduce you to some of the characters Zoffany included in his work. It was the inclusion of some of these people, which upset his patrons, King George III and his wife Queen Charlotte.
If we look at the central foreground we have six gentlemen clustered around the Venus of Urbino painting by Titian. The gentleman seated is the Honourable Felton Hervey who was the ninth son of the 1st Earl of Bristol and who was Equerry to Queen Caroline of Ansbach, wife of George II, and had passed through Florence on his Grand Tour in 1772.
The two gentlemen, dressed in black standing behind the chair are, on the left with his right hand on the painting and his left hand pointing towards the Roman marble sculpture, The Wrestlers, is Thomas Patch. The man on the right is Sir Horace Mann, British envoy to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It was the inclusion of these two gentleman that upset George III and his wife. Thomas Patch was an English painter, engraver and caricaturist. He travelled to Rome, where he met Joshua Reynolds and worked in the studio of Joseph Vernet, producing pastiches of Vernet’s work and his own views of Tivoli. However, in 1755 Patch was banished from the Papal States for some homosexual act and settled in Florence. Here he earned a living undertaking art commissions from well-off young British men who were passing through Florence and Rome on Grand tours.
Sir Horace Mann was a diplomat and long standing British resident in Florence. He kept an open house for British visitors at Florence, inviting them for conversazione, which were formal gatherings where something related to the arts was discussed when there was no performance at the theatre. His generosity and kindness was universally acknowledged, although his close friendship with the painter Thomas Patch sullied his reputation. The two gentlemen in the fawn coats, both Grand Tourists, are Valentine Knightley of Fawsley, who stands between Patch and Mann and John Gordon who looks at the Titian painting, over the arm of Thomas Patch. The man standing behind the painting is Pietro Bastianelli, who was a custode (custodian) of the Uffizi Gallery.
To the left of painting we see six men clustered around the Niccolini-Cowper Madonna which was painted by Raphael in 1508 and according to the provenance of the painting was bought by Zoffany in 1772, who resold it three years later. After changing hands a number of times, the painting came into the possession of Andrew Mellon, the American banker, industrialist, philanthropist and great art collector. On his death in 1937, the painting was bequeathed to the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The four men to the left of the painting are from left to right, George, 3rd Earl Cowper, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and avid art collector and frequent visitor to Florence. Next to him is Sir John Dick, Baronet of Braid and was, at the time, British Consul at Leghorn and next to him looking up at the painting is Other Windsor, the 6th Earl of Plymouth who was known to have been in Florence in the first half of 1772.
Standing to the left and just looking around the Madonna painting is the artist himself, Johan Zoffany, who would often include himself in his group portraits. The two men standing to the right of the Madonna are a Mr Stevenson, dressed in a red dress coat, who was the travelling companion to George Legge, Lord Lewisham, the portly man with the gold-coloured waistcoat, who stands next to him. Legge was a member of the royal court of George III and he and Stevenson were known to have been in Florence in 1777. The man, sitting sketching, is the artist, Charles Lorraine-Smith and looking over his shoulder is Richard Edgcumbe who went on to become the 2nd Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. He was a writer on music and also later in life became a politician
The final grouping on the right hand side of the painting are clustered around the Venus de’ Medici, a life-size Hellenistic marble sculpture depicting the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite. It is a 1st century BC marble copy, perhaps made in Athens, of an original bronze Greek sculpture. It was the grouping of these men staring at the posterior of Aphrodite and the lewd comments made by many of the Grand Tourists about the sculpture that offended Queen Charlotte as I explained in the previous blog. The four men standing behind the statues and gazing up at “her” are from left to right, George Finch, the 9th Earl of Winchilsea, a great cricket lover and patron to the sport and Messrs. Wilbraham, Watts and Doughty all of whom visited Florence on their Grand Tour between December 1772 and February 1773. Standing in front of the Venus de’ Medici are, on the left Thomas Wilbraham, who was accompanying his brother and on the right, James Bruce the Scottish traveler and travel writer who had spent the previous dozen years in North Africa and Ethiopia, where he traced the origins of the Blue Nile. He was known to have been in Florence in 1774.
And now to the paintings that are on display. How many did you recognise? I have already mentioned Titian’s Venus of Urbino and Raphael’s Niccolini-Cowper Madonna and here is a list of the others which Zofanny included in his painting.
On the left-hand side wall there are two large paintings hanging above three others. The upper paintings from left to right are Bacchante by Carracci and Charity by Guido Reni. The three paintings below from left to right are Madonna della Sedia by Raphael, Virgin and Child by Correggio and Galileo by the Flemish painter, Justus Sustermans.
On the wall facing us there are nine paintings. The three on the upper level from left to right are Madonna and Child with Saint Catherine by the School of Titian, the large painting in the middle is Saint John by Raphael and the upper right work is The Madonna by Guido Reni. The middle layer of paintings on this wall, from left to right, comprises of Madonna del Cardellino by Raphael. In the middle is Horror of War by Rubens and to the right is Madonna del Pozzo by the Florentine painter, Francesco di Christofano, better known simply as Franciabigio. The three smaller paintings below eye-level on this wall are, from left to right, Sir Richard Southwell by Hans Holbein, Portrait of Verrocchio by Lorenzo di Credi but has since been identified as a Raphael’s portrait of Perugino and Holy Family by Niccolo Soggi.
Finally on the wall to the right there are a further six painting although the two works of art on the extreme right are partly hidden. The three on the upper tier are from left to right, Cleopatra by Guido Reni, The Painter with Lipsius and his pupils by Rubens and Leo X with Cardinals de’ Medici and de’ Rossi by Raphael. The three works on the lower tier are from left to right, Abraham and Hagar by Pietro da Cortona which is now hanging in the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna. In the middle hangs The Tribute Money attributed to the School of Caravaggio and on the right is The Miracle of Saint Julian by Cristofano Allori.
The only other painting not mentioned as yet lies face up on the floor in the foreground just to the left of the Venus of Urbino and is The Samian Sibyl by the Italian Baroque painter, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, better known as Guercino or Il Guercino.
I apologise for so much detail in one blog but I hadn’t realised it would be so complicated to try and describe what was in front of our eyes!!