Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641)
In April 1624 Van Dyck sailed from Genoa to Palermo, Sicily, when plague broke out and the city was quarantined.
In July of that year the remains of the city’s 12th Century patron saint, Rosalie, were found on a nearby hillside where she had lived as a recluse.
The image of the saint was much in demand and by the time Van Dyck left Palermo in September 1625 he had painted six different compositions portraying St Rosalie.
The Apsley House work appears to be a preparatory version of the much larger painting in the Menil Collection, Houston, USA.
A related composition of St Rosalie interceding for the city of Palermo, which shows the saint on Mount Pellegrino is in the Museo de Arte, Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Born and trained in Antwerp, Van Dyck was, after Rubens, the most important 17th century Flemish painter. He enjoyed success in Flanders and Italy and he became court painter to Charles I of England. He was knighted in 1632
Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693)
The woman descending the steps with her finger raised to her lips is probably the lady of the house. She is tiptoeing down from what looks like a household office and is just about to catch a maid neglecting her duties.
The lady in the foreground invites us into the painting and we can see the background scene of the maid and her lover in conversation while the baby’s cradle is ignored at her feet.
In the 1650s Maes painted six variations of this theme and was one of the first Dutch artists to show views into other rooms which contained part of the narrative of the painting.
Johann Gottfried Schadow (1764-1850)
The Prussian dinner service was a gift from Frederick William III, King of Prussia to Wellington. The largest and most elaborate dinner service made between 1817 and 1819 in the porcelain factory in Berlin.
The centrepiece of the service is an elaborate ceramic obelisk surrounded by eight figures of river gods designed by Johan Gottfreid Schadow.
This figure is biscuit porcelain and depicts the god of the river Tejo in Portugal; he is shown reclining on an overflowing vase of water.
Schadow was a German sculptor who is credited with founding the Modern School of Berlin sculptors. He studied in Rome under Canova and is perhaps best known for this ‘Quadriga of Victory’ (1793) which sits on top of the Brandenburg Gate.
His designs show the influence of classical antiquity, his river gods in particular hark back to the marble figures of the Nile and the Tiber which Schadow had probably seen in Rome.
The river gods were made by the master modeller of the Berlin factory Johann Carl Friedrich Riese.
Dominating the dining room at Apsley House is the Portuguese Centrepiece, part of a 1,000 piece service gifted to Wellington in 1816 from the Portuguese nation.
It is one of the finest pieces of neo-classical silver in Europe and a unique design produced in honour of the Duke’s victory over the French in Portugal during the Peninsular Wars (1808- 1814).
It was designed by Domingos António de Sequeira, the Portuguese court painter. The service was made by men from the Lisbon Military Arsenal who had never produced such a detailed and delicate commission.
It took 150 men four years to produce. The plateau or base is decorated with mythological griffins bearing plaques above their heads with Wellington’s most famous victories of the Peninsular Wars.
Alongside these masculine symbols are dancing nymphs from the River Tagus.
The Portuguese silver gilt service arrived in London in 1817 in 55 crates.
Once opened it was found that there was some damage, Gerrard’s the famous London Jewellers were employed to repair the service which was briefly displayed to the public at their showrooms in Panton Street.
The centrepiece took pride of place at the annual Waterloo banquets held from 1820 in the dining room and after 1828 in the Waterloo Gallery.
Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652)
St James is identified by his staff and is shown reading an inscription from the sixth article of the Apostles’ Creed, ‘He ascended into heaven and sits at the right side of the father’.
The painting was engraved in 1792 when it hung in the Royal Palace in Madrid. No other version of this composition are known.
The saint is shown enveloped in his cloak, this red cloak appears in other paintings by the artist (see St John the Baptist also in the Wellington Collection) and the foreshortening of the head is similar to Ribera’s St Paul the Hermit in the Prado, Madrid. Ribera was born in Spain but moved as a young man to Italy and lived in Rome and Naples.
Marcello Venusti (1512/15-1579)
The original of this panel is in the sacristy of San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome.
The composition shows the influence of Michelangelo and it has been suggested that the gesture of the angel is similar to that of God in the Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel.
A drawing of this composition in the Uffizi, Florence, which was once thought to be by Michelangelo, is now believed to be by Venusti. The panel was in the Spanish Royal Collection and captured at the Battle of Vitoria but can’t be traced in the royal inventories.
Born in Como, Venusti began his career working under Giulio Romano but latterly became a friend and follower of Michelangelo.
This urn is part of the Prussian Service which was given to the Duke of Wellington by the King of Prussia after Waterloo. The whole service comprises 460 pieces and was made in the Berlin Porcelain Factory between 1817 and 1819.
The service commemorates all the Duke’s famous battles culminating with the victory over Napoleon in June 1815 at Waterloo.
The urn shows the Battle of Waterloo in 360 degrees format with the Duke of Wellington dominating the scene.
Wellington is shown, incorrectly, on a white horse to heighten the dramatic effect as he greets Prince Von Blücher, the leader of the Prussian Cavalry.
The Berlin factory were the leading exponents of these types of pictorial ceramics and in the years after Waterloo they produced some of the finest tableware which King William Frederick III presented to the nobility of Europe.
Decorative tableware like the Waterloo urn would have graced Wellington’s table as well as being put on display on side (or buffet) tables for his guests to admire.
In the 1840s special rosewood cabinets were commissioned by the Duke of Wellington to house the Prussian and other dinner services given to him by the crowned heads of Europe.
The Berlin Porcelain Factory (KPM) was founded in 1763 by King Frederick II of Prussia. The company logo is a cobalt blue sceptre which was stamped into every piece. The Berlin factory still produces porcelain today.
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830)
In this full-length portrait, Henry Paget is shown in the uniform of the 7th Hussars.
Paget joined the army in 1794 and served with distinction at La Corũna, Spain, and again at Waterloo where he commanded the cavalry.
He was the eldest son of the Earl of Uxbridge and created Marquess of Anglesey after Waterloo.
He is perhaps the most famous amputee from Waterloo, surviving the ordeal of the amputation with the help of brandy, the only anaesthetic available.
This is a copy by Lawrence of the portrait exhibited at the RA in 1818, which now hangs at Plas Newydd, the Anglesey family seat.
Titian (c.1490-1576) and followers
This painting (1550-60) is known as “Titian’s Mistress” but we don’t really know the true identity of the model. Titian may have painted this for himself, depicting his own mistress, or painted the mistress of a friend or client or perhaps to show an idealised beautiful woman.
Titian produced a series of beautiful women in the 1530s which are similar in style to the Wellington collection painting. When the painting was cleaned in 2014 an original signature “TITIANVS” was discovered.
This means that the painting was made in Titian’s studio, rather than by a later follower, but he ran a busy workshop and assistants could have helped him in certain passages such as the hat and drapery which appear flatter.
The condition of the painting is still compromised, it was once converted into an oval which has damaged the paint and it is quite worn. Stylistically, it comes from Titian’s later period c. 1550-60s.
When the painting was X-rayed another composition was discovered underneath. This is not unusual for Titian as he often re-used canvases.
When the X-ray is turned on its side you can see a semi-clothed lady raising her arm to pluck her veil, turning to look at something (or someone). However, it was left unfinished and Titian painted it out and started again.
Tiziano Vecellio, (Titian), is one of the undisputed masters of Western art. He was born in 1490 in Cadore, a Venetian territory in the Dolomites. He was the first Venetian painter to achieve European fame in his lifetime.