1649 "Sacra Historia Acta a Raphael Urban in Vaticanis Xystis ad miraculum Pictvrae Expressa"
Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) is commissioned in 1509 by Pope Julius II to Fresco what was intended to be the Pope’s private library at the Vatican. This included 52 paintings depicting scenes from the Bible. The project was completed in 1520.
1776-1780 Three artists from England are in Rome to study under Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779):
Prince Hoare II (1755-1834)
James Northcote (1746-1831)
Henry Fuseli/Johann Heinrich Fuseli (1741-1825)
Dec. 22, 1777. A letter archived in the Royal Academy of Arts from James Northcote (then in Rome) to his brother Samuel Northcote (In England) documents the following per the “Content Description” of the Royal Academy Archivist:
“On his arrival in Rome Hoare (Prince Hoare II) introduced him (Northcote)to Mr. Jenkins, an Englishman with great influence over the Pope and Cardinals; … through this man he has obtained a permit to copy the pictures in the Vatican”.
It is likely this copy of the book was unbound and each page placed on a board to be coloured. The coloured images, still on the original paper, were cut out leaving an appropriate border and remounted onto different paper that they remain on today. The watermark on that paper is a Strausburg Lilly (fleur de lis) with the letters “LVG” below, which dates it to the 18th century. This would coincide with the time frame (i.e 1776-1780) the above artists were in Rome with permission to copy the art of the Vatican.
April 25, 1825 . The Book of Chaperon’s 52 engravings, “Les Loges Du Vatican”, is gifted by Prince Hoare II to the Reverend Charles Townsend of Preston, Lancashire, England. Included with the book is a note in cursive that reads:
“The Gift of
To Rev. Charles Townsend of Preston April 25, 1825”
Sept. 8th, 1952. Dr. Vernon H. McFarlane purchases by mail from The Export Book Co., 63 Navelock Terrace, Garstang Rd., Preston, Lancashires (England), the following book; as per the stores Catalogue 484 (1952), page 9, described as follows:
“22. COLOURED BIBLE ILLUSTRATIONS. Raphael’s Sacrae Historiae Acta. . . with Engraved Title Page and 52 fine full page Coloured Plates in brilliant colours, depicting scenes from the Bible, plates very lightly mounted at the corners, folio, old calf, covers loose, fine clean copy*. (*Early). 10 (pounds)” Romae, 1649”
in addition, the invoice adds the following: “binding rubbed and defective. 1649.”
The Export Book Co. was located about 2 miles from the St. Peter’s church in Preston (the church of Reverend Charles Townsend).
Sept 16, 1955 McFarlane has the book rebound In New Orleans by Alex Maddox Bindery as “Illustrations Of The Bible”
Conclusions of Our Discovery
As of this date we have not found any records of sales of the 52 engravings, either in book form or individually, that are coloured, only intaglio printed in black ink as originally published.
Hoare, Northcote, Fuseli were in Rome, studying with Mengs between 1776 to 1780.
Northcote obtained written permission to copy the pictures of the Vatican through a gentleman (Thomas Jenkins) introduced to him by Hoare. Though there is no mention in the Royal Academy’s archives about colouring of the engravings, there is mention in the letters by Northcote of the numerous hours he was spending in the Vatican copying the art.
Upon comparison of pictures of Raphael’s paintings in the Vatican and those hand painted in the subject book of engravings, they appear strikingly similar in color, brilliance and accuracy of placement. It would be impossible to accomplish this perfection without doing each copy in the presence of the actual painting.
Hoare or Northcote had the subject book while in Rome and it is the copy that was coloured. Hoare returned to England with the book which he gifted to Rev. Charles Townsend in 1825. How it found its way to The Export Book Store Co. in Preston is unknown and may remain a mystery.
There was no written evidence discovered that Northcote, or the other artists mentioned, coloured the engravings. The book of engravings was likely a valuable tool used to copy Raphael’s paintings and study his techniques in addition to studying the other master’s works in the Vatican.
Macon Brothers Auctioneers extends their sincere thank you to Annette Wickham, Curator – Works on Paper, Royal Academy of Arts, for her prompt reply providing historical information regarding Prince Hoare II and James Northcote and their connections with the Vatican.
All information above has been conscientiously provided. The Auctioneer encourages all bidders to rely on their own judgement regarding who coloured the above referenced engravings and to bid accordingly.
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