From our forthcoming newsletter:
In the study of European art markets during the long eighteenth century, Rome has occupied a curiously liminal position. Despite its centrality as a location for the formulation of taste in this period, the markets of Paris and London have, by comparison, received far more scholarly attention. Indeed, as Paolo Coen in this volume asserts, this peripheral position has led some to speculate whether settecento Rome really had an ‘art-market’ at all. In the face of this uncertainty, this volume stakes a claim to the existence of a vibrant and vital art market in Rome during the long-eighteenth century. Expanding upon the now conventional model of transaction and exchange of art between patron and painter, this volume reveals the myriad individuals, institutions and ideas that powered the mechanisms of the Roman art market and a kaleidoscopic – and perhaps surprising – vision of another influential European art system.
Prefaced by Peter Burke’s open tribute to Enrico Castelnuovo’s The Social Histories of Art the volume presents its interests not in the individual contributions of dealers or known personalities, but in delineating the structural make-up of the art-market itself. Burke’s literary review takes the reader through the art criticism of the last half century and furnishes a valuable theoretical and intellectual framework through which to read the further contributions.
Just as Burke’s preface sets out, the contributions to this volume offer disruptive and interventions into conventional ways of thinking about the Roman art market and its social relations in particular. In this, Patrizia Cavazzini’s article is representative. As Cavazzini explores, the dominium over the art market in eighteenth-century Rome was not only held by upper class English and Scottish noblemen and quadari – infamous dealers of paintings – rather, the dealers in her essay came from diverse backgrounds ‘barbers, tailors, shoe-makers, inn keepers, connoisseurs and painters all sold pictures.’ Here, Cavazzini reveals Roman taste-creation was a more richly textured and democratised affair than has often been considered. Contributions by Giovanna Perini Folesani and Maria Teresa Caracciolo also explore connoisseurs and painters that sold pictures. These essays recast familiar figures in different guises. Their papers on Joshua Reynolds and Jean Baptiste-Wicar, respectively reconsider the conditions and tools artists had at their disposal to participate in the art system as dealers and connoisseurs.
Valter Curzi’s chapter also proposes a reappraisal of familiar cultural phenomenon to bring the mechanisms of the Roman art market into focus. Curzi foregrounds the purchasing power of the Grand Tourist, arguing that what individuals bought on their Grand Tour was a fundamental marker of the ‘Roman experience’ and of equivalent significance in the impetus to travel as the intellectual, cultural and recreational cachet normally emphasised in scholarship. Through readings of the purchase of Francesco Fernandi’s print productions of antiquities known as l’Imperiali, and Thomas Coke’s commission of exempla virtutis from Capitoline painters, Curzi shows how purchasing power – of both print and paint – enacted in Rome went on to form and enrich art collections across Europe. Brian Allen’s novel analysis of the captured cargo ship Westmorland, suggests that the hold can be read as an inventory of what Antonio Pinelli has called the ‘Grand Tour factory.’ Allen’s analysis uses the Westmorland to further uncover the operation of Grand Tourist’s purchasing power, whilst revealing a brilliantly lucid vision of the ‘stock’ of the Roman art market.
The volume is most revelatory, on the subject not of what was bought, but how. Perhaps the volume’s most fascinating contributions are its papers on the precise mechanics of the Roman art market. These essays reconstruct how art and objects were sold in the eternal city and beyond. Daniella Gallo’s chapter takes the Barberini collection as its focus and details the delicate and often highly-politicised process of the valuation of antiquities. As Gallo explores, the worth of ancient object could also be mediated by geographic as well as economic concerns. The volume’s editor Paolo Coen explores the practical business of selling artworks in his essay, exploring the use of ‘promotional tools,’ through a collection of known as the ‘Mosman Drawings’, now in the British Museum. These drawings copied some of the most famous paintings that could be found in Italy and have often been represented as souvenirs de Rome. However, Coen argues these images were also deployed as a kind of catalogue meant to subtly influence the shopping habits of their elite British viewers. Such strategies for showing and selling are also treated by Renata Ago who foregrounds methods of displaying and viewing artworks in Rome itself but with attention to more colloquial forms of collecting engaged in by middle-class Italians as well as aristocratic Grand Tourists and cardinals. Ago’s study reconstructs how eighteenth-century buyers would have encountered artworks in the Roman landscape through a scrutiny of reception rooms, guidebooks and dealer inventories as well as contemporary texts, inviting the reader to reimagine the procedures by which art was handled and changed hands in Rome and beyond.
In all of the contributions to this volume, small case studies are used to suggest bigger ideas. Though approached in different ways, all the contributions offer rich and nuanced visions of the social lives of art objects, artists, dealers and other stake holders and the complex mélange of networks that underpinned them. Through these individual studies, eighteenth-century Rome (re)emerges as home to a unique, dynamic and influential art market that ought not be considered secondary to those of Paris and London, but worthy of continued scholarly investigation in its own right.
 Antonio Pinelli, Souvenir: l’industria dell’Antico e il Grand Tour a Roma (Rome-Baro: Laterza, 200).