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Hounds of the Grand Tour at the National Gallery


POMPEO BATONI (1708–1787)
20 February–18 May 2008
Sainsbury Wing - Admission charge

Pompeo Batoni was the most celebrated painter in 18th-century Rome and is considered to be Italy’s ‘last Old Master’. His sitters included some of Britain’s most powerful people, but the real stars of this National Gallery exhibition are Batoni’s Grand Tour hounds.

Pompeo BatoniAt the height of the Grand Tour era, wealthy British men flocked to Batoni’s studio to be painted on their European travels. They were often accompanied by their favourite dogs, and in 30 of these remarkable portraits Batoni painted master and hound side by side.

Marking 300 years since Batoni’s birth, this major exhibition will bring together some of his finest canine portraits for the first time. One of the highlights will be the elegant Italian greyhound of Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge). His over-excited dog is shown jumping from an expensive velvet chair to paw at his master’s immaculate silk jacket.
In the tranquil portrait of Sir Humphry Morice (Sir James and Lady Graham, Norton Conyers, North Yorkshire),the ageing animal lover is surrounded by his three favourite greyhounds after a day’s hunt, close to the Vatican in Rome. When Sir Humphry died he left the then huge sum of £600 per year to care for the dogs and horses he left behind. Best behaved are Sir Matthew and Lady Sarah Fetherstonhaugh’s hunting dogs, shown at rest with their masters in a country setting (Uppark, The National Trust).

While most of Batoni’s sitters were men, this exhibition includes two rare female portraits with their lapdogs. Three-year-old Louisa Grenville, later Countess Stanhope (The Board of Trustees of the Chevening Estate), is shown in her first ‘adult’ dress clutching a sprightly young terrier, while Lady Mary Fox (Private collection) is pictured on her honeymoon holding a small spaniel.
Batoni became famous among British Grand Tourists for his ability to capture a likeness in both humans and dogs. Francis Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, boasted to a friend in 1768 that the illustrious Pompeo Batoni had agreed to paint his dog, Rover. Unfortunately, Rover, who survived a broken leg in Florence, did not sit for his portrait in Rome, and during his return journey to England he was run over by a coach in Paris.

Life for the Grand Tour hound could be tough but they were still among the most privileged pets in Europe – and thanks to Pompeo Batoni, they star in some of the most memorable portraits of the 18th century.