Exhibition | Grand Tour: The Two Horaces and the Court of Florence

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 29, 2022

Thomas Patch, A Caricature Group in Florence, ca. 1765–66, oil on canvas, 84 × 119 cm
(Exeter: Royal Albert Memorial Museum)

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From the press release (via London Art Week) for the exhibition:

The Grand Tour: The Two Horaces and the Court of Florence
Strawberry Hill House & Garden, Twickenham, 27 March — 24 July 2022

Curated by Silvia Davoli

The third In Focus display at Strawberry Hill House was inspired by a survey of the architecture of Florence, richly illustrated by the renowned Italian architect Ferdinando Ruggeri in 1722, which has now returned to the house 300 years after its publication.

The display is dedicated to the Italian Grand Tour, in particular the friendship between Strawberry Hill creator Horace Walpole (1717–1797) and the British Envoy to Florence, Horace Mann (1706–1786). Both men were infatuated with Florence and the Medici family. “I can truly say that I never was happy but at Florence,” wrote Horace Walpole in his correspondence (vol.19, p.486).

Strawberry Hill contained a conspicuous number of Florentine works of art received as gifts or acquired thanks to the intervention of Horace Mann—Walpole’s library included biographies, festival books, catalogues of the Medici’s collections, and books dedicated to Florence. Walpole even contemplated writing a history of the Medici Family, starting to prepare for it in 1759, but eventually dropped the project due to a lack of archival material.

The exhibition is inspired by three volumes of Studio d’architettura civile sopra gli ornamenti di porte, e finestre .. tratte da alcune fabbriche insigni di Firenze, which had been illustrated by the renowned Italian architect Ferdinando Ruggieri (1691–1741) and produced exactly 300 years ago in 1722. The volumes, which represent a rare survey of Florentine architecture, are illustrated with exquisite plates showing the works by the leading Mannerist architects active in Florence between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, including Ammanati, Buontalenti, Dosio, Vasari, Michelangelo, and Cigoli.

Originally part of Walpole’s Library, they were dispersed at auction in 1842 along with the rest of the collection. It is thanks to the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, administered by the Arts Council, that these three volumes have finally returned home. The purpose of the show is to place Ruggeri’s volumes at the centre of a dense network of relationships and works of art that resonate with Walpole’s infatuation with Florence and the Medici.

Mann, who arrived in Florence in 1737, was a leading figure at the Court of Florence, not only from a diplomatic point of view but also for his indefatigable promotion of the arts. Highly esteemed by the Florentine intelligentsia, he became a point of reference for all the British Grand tourists. Some of the most iconic objects in the Walpole collection were received thanks to Mann’s mediation, from the portrait of Bianca Capello—the unfortunate wife of Francesco I de Medici—to the famous marble Roman Eagle, one of Walpole’s most treasured trophies.

After Walpole’s departure, the two men were never to meet again. However, their correspondence, which covers over 40 years, constitute a lively and invaluable source of information about the cultural and artistic life of Florence at that time, while simultaneously illustrating in detail the artistic relations, antiquarian interests, and dissonances in taste of the two friends.

“Their letters not only provide us with invaluable information about contemporary collecting, the Italian art market and British taste, but also about political matters and diplomatic conundrums,” notes Dr Silvia Davoli, Strawberry Hill’s Curator.

The three volumes will be displayed together with a series of important paintings and objects coming both from public and private collections that tell us more about the passion of the two Horaces for Florence and their antiquarian pursuits. These include some of Thomas Patch’s most distinctive paintings and engravings; various extraordinary portraits such as Walpole as a young grand tourist by Venetian painter Rosalba Carriera (Lord Cholmondeley’s Collection) and Horace Mann by Anton Van Maron (private collection); a splendid trompe-l’oeil or inganno by Caterina della Santa with a dedication to Cavaliere Orazio Mann; along with the typical grand tourist paraphernalia including antique gems, ancient coins, drawings, and engravings.

Strawberry Hill House & Garden has been open to visitors for over 250 years. Created by renowned writer Horace Walpole (1717–1797), Strawberry Hill is internationally famous as Britain’s finest example of domestic Georgian Gothic revival architecture. Walpole was a pivotal figure in 18th-century society, literature, art and architecture. The third son of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister, Horace Walpole was a man of many talents with a large network of influential friends. From 1739 to 1741, Walpole embarked on a Grand Tour and European influences can be seen in the design of Strawberry Hill House and the works that formed its vast collection of treasures. He was author of the world’s first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto.

Talk | Pride of Passage: Strawberry Hill

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on June 29, 2022

Celebrating Pride Month, in conjunction with the exhibition The Grand Tour: The Two Horaces and the Court of Florence; from EventBrite:

Pride of Passage: Strawberry Hill, Sexuality, and the Grand Tour
The London Library, St James’s Square, 29 June 2022, 7pm

Last year World Monuments Fund (WMF) announced a commitment to Underrepresented Heritage as one of three global priorities. This year is significant for the Pride movement and LGBTQ+ community, as it marks the 50 years since the first Pride took place in the United Kingdom. Join WMF Britain for its annual Paul Mellon Lecture, in partnership with Strawberry Hill House and Queer Britain.

This special event will take a fresh look at Horace Walpole, the creator of the ‘little Gothic castle’ at Strawberry Hill, his sexuality, and the liberating impact of the Grand Tour, exploring research into the correspondence between his network of friends and acquaintances, which has informed the interpretation of the house and collection. The discussion will also address the importance of telling historical LGBTQ+ narratives across the cultural sector, ensuring these stories are preserved, understood, and celebrated.

The event, hosted by John Darlington, Executive Director at WMF Britain, will spotlight WMF’s focus on underrepresented heritage and its involvement at Strawberry Hill. Dan Vo, Head of Learning and Engagement at Queer Britain, will join Joseph Galliano, Director and Co-Founder of Queer Britain, in conversation, taking the audience on their own Grand Tour, from Walpole to the UK’s first LGBTQ+ museum. The event will include a Q&A with both speakers.

“Queer people have impacted every part of culture, yet all too often their lives have been written in the margins of history books.” –Queer Britain

John Darlington is Executive Director of World Monuments Fund in Britain. He is an archaeologist, author, and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries with over 30 years’ experience of heritage conservation in the UK and internationally. Prior to joining WMF, John was Regional Director for the National Trust in Northwest England and County Archaeologist for Lancashire.

Joseph Galliano is Director and Co-Founder of Queer Britain. He is a fundraiser, journalist, former editor of Gay Times magazine, and third sector ambassador manager who has just opened the UK’s first national LGBTQ+ museum, Queer Britain, at 2 Granary Square, Kings Cross, N1C 4BH.

Dan Vo is Head of Learning and Engagement at Queer Britain and Project Manager of the Queer Heritage and Collections Network. He founded the award-winning volunteer-led V&A LGBTQ+ Tours and has developed LGBTQ+ programmes for the National Gallery, National Galleries of Scotland, National Museum Wales, and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, among others.

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