Pompeo Girolamo Batoni

1708 - 1787

Place Born


Place Died



The son of a distinguished Lucchese goldsmith, Pompeo Batoni left his native city at the age of nineteen to study painting in Rome. There, in the years 1727-30, Batoni engaged in the usual activities of young artists newly arrived in eighteenth-century Rome, namely, drawing the antique sculptures in the Vatican collections, copying Raphael’s Stanze frescoes and Transfiguration, Annibale Carracci’s Palazzo Farnese ceiling, and other acknowledged masterpieces of modern painting, and drawing in the private academies of local artists. Batoni’s study of classical antiquity was particularly important for his artistic formation, and, in fact, the excellence of his drawings after the antique brought him his earliest reputation in Rome. More importantly, the experience of drawing the classical statues in the courtyard of the Vatican Belvedere and in other local collections provided Batoni with an understanding of ancient art unmatched by any painter in eighteenth century Rome except Anton Raphael Mengs, and he was to use his knowledge of the ‘most beautiful statues’ of antiquity to great advantage after 1750 in his Grand Tour portraits.

The acclaim for Batoni’s first public work in Rome, an altarpiece for S.Gregorio al Celio of 1732-3, immediately brought commissions for churches and palaces in Rome and elsewhere in Italy. By 1740 his reputation as a history painter was firmly established and he received commissions from the Church in Rome, Lucca, and Brescia, as well as a constant stream of requests for cabinet-sized mythological and devotional pictures from aristocratic patrons in central Italy, such as the Gerini and Riccardi families in Florence, the Sardini, Buonvisi, Talenti, Conti and Mazzarosa in Lucca, and the Merenda in Forli. Batoni’s colossal altar for St. Peter’s, the Fall of Simon Magus (now in S. Maria degli Angeli, Rome) represents the climax of his own development as a history painter. The painting, the most ambitious Batoni attempted and on which he laboured from 1746 until 1755, is a remarkable summary of Roman pictorial tradition of the previous two centuries and a vivid demonstration of Batoni’s success in transforming the rhetoric, energy and realism of Raphael and of the early Seicento into his own highly individual manner.

The altarpiece for St. Peter’s was not, however, an unqualified success and its rejection by the Reverenda Fabbrica di San Pietro in 1756 represented a decisive moment in Batoni’s career, for although he did not entirely abandon history painting, he increasingly turned his efforts toward the practice of portraiture, which he had initiated in the 1740s. Within a very short time he developed a considerable reputation among the international travellers who visited Rome on the Grand Tour, especially among the British, and for nearly half a century he recorded their visits to the Eternal City in portraits that remain among the most memorable artistic achievements of the age.

Art Works Sold

Portrait of a Gentleman

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Historical Period: 1780-1820 Neoclassicism
Portrait of a Gentleman
Samson and Delilah

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Historical Period: 1720-1780 Rococo
Samson and Delilah