'No other painting represents Newby so perfectly.'
William Weddell on his Grand Tour, 1765, by Pompeo Batoni (1708–87), 85in by 67in, Newby Hall, North Yorkshire
Lucinda Compton says:
No other painting represents Newby so perfectly. With his unparalleled eye for beauty, Weddell transformed our home in North Yorkshire to create one of the gems of British heritage. Some 250 years on, I have got to know his collection of art intimately through my conservation work and to admire his taste. I long for him to step out of the painting and to hear his vision for Newby. To quote his epitaph, he was a man “in whom every Virtue that Enobles the Mind was United with every Elegance that Adorns it, this Monument, a faint Emblem of his Refined Taste, is dedicated… In all the works of Art and Genius No Man ever possessed a more correct Judgement, or a more distinguishing Taste.
Lucinda Compton is a conservator and the curator of her home, Newby Hall, and its gardens. She is a member of Arts Council England’s Acceptance In Lieu panel.
John McEwen comments on William Weddell on his Grand Tour:
Pompeo Batoni was born in Lucca, Tuscany, the son of a master goldsmith. He was delivered by Caesarean section and his mother died within days. The operation created a neural disorder that affected his mobility and speech until he was seven. His solace was drawing. Trained in his father’s workshop, he received intensive drawing and modelling lessons, but he yearned to be a painter.
At 19, his father let him design and engrave a chalice to be presented to the Pope. His godfather persuaded Pompeo’s father to let his son stay in Rome and study painting.
His reputation in Rome was founded on decorating ladies’ fans and copies of famous statues and pictures, but he soon emerged as an artist of history and devotional paintings in his own right. His success as a portraitist, for which he is now best known, dates from the 1750s. The market created by the Grand Tour was well established, but Batoni had no rival for brightness, crispness, Van Dyck-ian elegance and, above all, for ‘a striking likeness’. From the 1760s, it required studio assistants to satisfy the demand.
William Weddell, aged 29, is shown in front of the Vatican’s Sleeping Ariadne. Weddell was among the most discriminating of Grand Tour collectors and, on his return to England, he commissioned Robert Adam, Thomas Chippendale and others to turn Newby Hall into what remains one of the gems of British heritage.
Batoni’s almsgiving left his family penniless on his death.
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