The leading Italian painter of eighteenth-century Rome, Batoni was especially prized as a portraitist by foreigners traveling on the Grand Tour. The sitter of this picture has not been identified, but he may be French. He is shown with some of Batoni's favorite props: an ancient bas-relief of Antinous, a statue of Minerva, an armillary sphere, guidebooks to ancient and modern Rome, a volume of biographies of painters, and the second part of Homer's Odyssey. A half-length portrait of the same man by Batoni is in the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.
Inscription: Inscribed (on books): ROMA / AN:E MO:; VITE DE / PITTORI; ODISSEA / DI / OMERO / T:II: (Rome . . .; Lives of the Painters; Odyssey of Homer, Volume 2)
José Guedes de Queiroz, Marquês da Foz, Palácio Foz, Lisbon (until 1901; his sale, Palácio Foz, Da Cunha/Dos Santos Liborio [auctioneers], May 3, 1901, no. 251, as a portrait of François Joseph, Emperor of Austria by François Hubert Drouais); [Dowdeswell & Dowdeswell, London, by 1903; sold to MMA]
Catalogo do leilão dos objectos d'arte e mobiliario antigo Palacio Foz. Da Cunha and Dos Santos Liborio, Lisbon. May 3, 1901, p. 20, no. 251, ill. (installation photograph), as a portrait of François Joseph, Emperor of Austria, by François Hubert Drouais; observes that the frame was sculpted and gilded by Delafosse.
Ernst Emmerling. Pompeo Batoni: Sein Leben und Werk. Darmstadt, 1932, pp. 109–10, no. 66, as "Portrait of a Gentleman"; comments that while the picture was previously ascribed to Drouais, it is now attributed to Batoni by Voss; notes that the Antinous relief in the Villa Albani (now Villa Torlonia) and a statue of Athena are represented among the objects on the table.
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 729, no. 2039, ill. (cropped).
Federico Zeri. Letter. September 6, 1953, calls it a typical work of Batoni's Roman period, as indicated by the furniture; believes the sitter must be "a Roman prince, or more probably (as seems to suggest the guide to Rome) an English Lord in Grand Tour".
Anthony M. Clark. Letter to Theodore Rousseau. January 19, 1960, dates it about 1764, based on similarities to a portrait belonging to Lord Trevor, signed and dated 1764; notes that the table appears in a portrait of 1761 belonging to the Duke of Roxburghe (Floors Castle, Kelso) and that the chair reappears in a number of Batoni's portraits; believes an unfinished portrait in the Rhode Island School of Design represents the same individual; observes that Roberto Longhi, John Steegman, Ellis Waterhouse, and Luisa Marcucci have all verbally confirmed the attribution to Batoni.
Edith A. Standen. "The Grand Tour." Antiques 83 (June 1963), pp. 662–63, ill., as "not thought to represent an Englishman".
Federico Zeri and Elizabeth E. Gardner. Unpublished manuscript. [ca. 1970–80], as "Portrait of a Young Nobleman"; compare it to portraits by Batoni painted in the first half of the 1760s; identify the objects that appear in the picture and note that the same table and chair appear in other works by the artist; agree with Clark [Ref. 1960] that the same sitter is represented in the half-length portrait in the Rhode Island School of Design.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 20, 528, 605.
Anthony M. Clark. "Pompeo Batoni's Cardinal Rochechouart." Museum Monographs III: Papers on Objects in the Collections of the St. Louis Art Museum. St. Louis, 1974, p. 19.
Hugh MacAndrew. "A Group of Batoni Drawings at Eton College, and Some Eighteenth–century Italian Copyists of Classical Sculpture." Master Drawings 16 (Summer 1978), p. 143 n. 18, ill. (overall and detail), as "Portrait of a Young Amateur".
Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny. Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500–1900. New Haven, 1981, p. 146 n. 14, reproduce the Antinous relief (fig. 75).
Edgar Peters Bowron. Pompeo Batoni (1708–87) and His British Patrons. Exh. cat., Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood. London, 1982, pp. 38, 80, mentions the armillary sphere, which also appears in the earlier portrait of Sackville Tufton, 8th Earl of Thanet (private collection, England).
Edgar Peters Bowron. Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787). Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1982, p. 6, fig. 6, dates it to the early 1760s and notes that the sitter "has been thought French because of his costume"; considers the pose to reflect that of the Apollo Belevedere (Vatican, Rome); discusses the objects in the picture.
Edgar Peters Bowron. "Le 'Portrait de Charles John Crowle' par Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787): Les 'Dilettanti' et le 'Grand Tour'." Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 35 (1985), p. 25, fig. 2, dates the picture about 1760 and, judging from the costume, identifies the sitter as a Frenchman; identifies the various objects on the table as well as the studio props, some of which he notes appear in Batoni's portrait in the Louvre of Charles John Crowle.
Anthony M. Clark. Pompeo Batoni. Ed. Edgar Peters Bowron. Oxford, 1985, pp. 32, 49, 51–52, 259, 276, 279, no. 230, 403, fig. 213, refers to the portrait in the Rhode Island School of Design (no. 229) as an apparent life study of the sitter.
Keith Christiansen. "Going for Baroque: Bringing 17th-Century Masters to the Met." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Winter 2005), p. 6, fig. 3 (color).
Edgar Peters Bowron and Peter Björn Kerber. Pompeo Batoni: Prince of Painters in Eighteenth-Century Rome. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New Haven, 2007, pp. 84, 148, 172, 190 n. 186, p. 204 n. 28, p. 207 n. 111, fig. 81 (color).
The frame is from France and dates to about 1650 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–3). This grand architrave frame with outset or crossetted corners is made of oak and presently appears gilded overall. Metal bolts secure the corner joinery. The delicately carved sight edge of rod and bead and acanthus leaf ornament rests within a broad frieze with an outer row of delicate carved pearling. A small cavetto rises to an offset astragal at the top edge which falls back to a deep scotia and then rises to a narrow flat fillet at the back edge. The carved crest is ornamented with branches of boldly carved oak leaves above a leafy urn which is flanked by acanthus sprays. From behind the urn a heavy ribbon onto which bunches of laurel leaf and berry ingeniously appear to be tied emerges. Draped festoons across each side of the top feed behind a knob at the upper corners and reemerge from behind, loop through, and drop down the sides. Identical center tablets punctuate the top and base. Flanking an acanthus carved drop at the base, heavy ribbons cleverly emerge from rings. Bunches of oak leaves form symmetrical festoons which hang beneath the frame and whose stems appear to be drawn through a hole in the corner and are tied with a furling ribbon. Originally painted a pale grey color, what may have been a corpus frame designed to display a crucifix now has a thickly gessoed and water-gilded surface and frames this portrait.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2017; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
On the table are an astrolabe, a statue of Minerva, and a copy of the relief of Antinoüs (now in the Villa Albani) which had been found at Hadrian's villa in 1735. Among the books are Homer's Odyssey, Roma Antiqua e moderna (possibly by Roisecco, published in 1750 and 1765), and Pascoli's Vite de' Pittori.
The picture is said by dealers to have been painted in Paris in 1770, and to be from the collection of the Marquis de Foz, Portugal.