Tuscany Behind Batoni’s Portraits

by Samuele Sodini

Batoni Who were these English milords portrayed by Pompeo Batoni and currently to be seen in the Palazzo Ducale? Where did they live? What was their life like? The portraits send messages of their social status and trough the painter’s interpretation, their personalities.
But who where they in reality?
Open sesame! An Italian Art graduate and writer Francesca Centurione Scotto Boschieri, who lives between London and Italy, has done the job of satisfying our curiosity and allowing a proper dialogue with these aristocrats. She has written an entertaining book called “Un Tea con Batoni – Curiosità, Dimore e Collezioni degli Inglesi del Grand Tour” (it include san English translation) wich brings many of the people he painted out from the shadows of the past and into today’s world. It makes for very interesting reading, charming us with gossip, illustrantions, historical details of their times and pictures of their houses.
It’s a kind of Grand Tour in reverse, a journey to the country houses of the English aristocrats who commissioned more than two tundre portraits and piantings from Batoni.
Reading the book, we wtness the Ground Tour travellers within their world and slip into a passgeway between the visible and invisible.
We lear, for example, the sad story of the young, delicate Mrs. James Alexander, painted swathed in an ivory shawl toh ide her pregnancy-she had only one year left to live. We succumb to our own reverse of blurred landscapes, stern castles and generation of fashionable aristocrats who were the leading figures in the high society of their times.
The author of the book was attracted by the unseen and the ridde behind these portraits and driven by curiosity to find answers to the same questions we want to ask.
She retraced the still existing historical residences of the English Noblemen portrayed and found that their castles and houses are either intact and still used by their descendants or converted into hotels, hospitals and the like, and that all can be visited.
Once the Lucca exhibition is over, the portraits will be returned to their owners and galleries, and put back on the walls where they belong.

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