A Gathering of the Dilettanti around the Medici Venus
Thomas Patch (Exeter 1725 - Florence 1782)
Art / Oil paintings
circa 1760 - 1761
Oil on canvas
1472 x 2383 mm
Place of origin
FlorenceOrder this image
Basildon Park, Berkshire
Thomas Patch is best known for his caricatures of British Grand Tourists amid the antiquities of Italy. All of the ‘dilettanti’ in this painting are based on actual figures but few can be positively identified. In the centre, Patch has depicted himself climbing up the pedestal of the Medici Venus.
Oil painting on canvas, A Gathering of the Dilettanti around the Medici Venus by Thomas Patch (Exeter 1725 - Florence 1782), circa 1760-1. Five of the sculptures from the Grand Ducal collection are arranged in an imaginary exhibition hall, decorated with a heavy entablature supported by Doric pilasters. In the centre is the celebrated Venus de’Medici, to the right the Dancing Faun and to the left, Mercury. Also to the left and right are the Wrestlers and Arrotino (knife-grinder). Nineteen men in profile, wearing a variety of colourful suits, and a dog converse amongst the statues. Six more flgures appear on the balconies above. One of the men could be Robert Lowther (1741 - 1777), the putative first owner of the picture, who was recorded in Rome in May 1760. Most of the men can no longer be identified but the artist himself, who had been expelled from Rome in 1755 for homosexual indiscretions, appears, wearing his favourite seaman’s trousers, holding a pair of dividers, measuring the distance between the nose of Venus and her wrist. He is being directed by his friend the diplomat and Florentine resident Sir Horace Mann (1706 – 1786). Johann Zoffany painted his famous scene of Grand Tourists in the Tribuna, Uffizi, Florence about 15 years later, now in the Royal Collection, and also included Patch and Mann. George Nassau Clavering-Cowper, 3rd Earl Cowper (1738–1789) and the antiquarian Raimondo Cocchi (1736 - 1775) are also present. When Sir Brinsley bought the picture it was divided into four panels to form a screen and has since been restored.
Robert Lowther (1741 - 1777), by descent to William, 2nd Earl of Lonsdale (1787-1872); his sale Christie's 18 June 1887 (814) as A. Pond; bought J. Watson; with Lyndon Vicars, Betys-y-Coed; Sir Clayton Russon;Scarisbrick, Bate and Hill from whom bought by RBF; on loan from Augustine Ford, from the collection of Sir Brinsley Ford (1908-1999)
Makers and roles
Thomas Patch (Exeter 1725 - Florence 1782), artist previously catalogued as by Arthur Pond (London 1701 – Rome 1758), artist
Ford 1963 Brinsley Ford, 'Thomas Patch: a Newly Discovered Painting', Apollo, LXXVII, March 1963, pp. 172-6 The Most Beuatiful Statues, a Taste for Antique Sculpture 1500 - 1900, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1981, 28 Picόn 1983: Carlos A. Picόn, Bartolomeo Cavaceppi: eighteenth-century restorations of ancient marble sculpture from English private collections, exh.cat. Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1983 Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century, Tate Gallery, London, 10 October 1996 – 5 January 1997 and Palazzo della Esposizioni, Rome, 5 February 1997 - 7 April 1997, 90 Ford 1998 Brinsley Ford, John Ingamells, Francis Russell, John Christian, Nicholas Penny, Jennifer Montagu, Howard Coutts, Timothy Wilson & Dudley Dodd, The Ford Collection – II, Walpole Society, Vol. 60, 1998, pp. 91-376, RBF68 Paulson 1975 Ronald Paulson, Emblem and Expression. Meaning in English Art of the Eighteenth Century, 1975, p. 142, pl. 80 Guilding 2014 Ruth Guilding, Owning the Past : Why the English collected Antique Sculpture, 1640 - 1840, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Yale University Press, 2014, p. 239, fig. 228 Garnett 2015, Oliver Garnett, At Home with Art Treasures from the Ford Collection at Basildon Park, National Trust, 2015, pp.30-31