Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Mallet St. London WC1E 7HU.

Tuesday, 13th November 6 p.m.

Cecilia Riva will speak to us on Austen Henry Layard, the achievement of “a collector of various things”

This talk challenges the historical assessment of the Layard Collection as simply a bequest of paintings to the National Gallery. The paper will shed light on the multifarious interests of Austen Henry Layard (Paris, 1817 – London, 1894) in forming a collection consisting of more than 800 items. These ranged from notable Italian Renaissance paintings to beautiful examples of Armenian manuscripts; from Spanish religious metalwork to Burgundian tapestry. As a result, the Layard collection was deemed to be one of the most important in Venice in the late XIX century. The history of its formation, display, and subsequent dispersal has many interesting aspects that still have not been precisely traced.

Taken in its entirety, the collection reveals an exquisite cameo of its creator, and shows the way in which Layard sought to attain personal status and prestige through the development of his collection. Though not all his purchases were of high quality, they furnish a remarkable example of the way in which such a collection could be perceived and the role it played in the last decades of the XIX century, both in England and Italy. To this end, the paper will present new and evocative insights into the interiors of Ca’ Capello Layard where the collection was lodged and displayed, through analysing and integrating both new and previously overlooked documentary sources.

The collection should be assessed not only as a dialectical interaction between spaces, objects and artworks, but should primarily be viewed as a narrative formed by its creator. From this perspective, the Layard collection furnishes an interesting case study even when dispersed and displaced.

Cecilia holds a M.S. in Economics and Management of Arts and Cultural Activities from Ca’ Foscari University Venice and she is currently a doctoral candidate in History of Arts. Her Ph.D. is funded by Ca’ Foscari University, Venice and supervised by Prof. Martina Frank, Guido Zucconi and Emanuele Pellegrini. Her forthcoming dissertation is titled “Austen Henry Layard, as an art collector and amateur”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *