Saturday, June 5, 2021

Portrait of Renaissance Queen Catherine de’ Medici to Go on View

From Smithsonian:

Last week, officials revealed that the sumptuous image has been returned to Walpole’s former home and museum at Strawberry Hill House, a medieval-style castle in west London. Now, after nearly two centuries in private hands, this historic painting is set to go on public display. Per a statement, visitors will be able to examine the work up close when Strawberry Hill reopens on May 17.

The portrait’s anonymous owners returned the work to its former home in lieu of paying £1 million in taxes. As Claire Selvin reports for ARTNews, this program allows families to pay off some or all of their inheritance taxes by transferring heritage objects into the public domain.

As the museum notes in the statement, Walpole was a history fanatic obsessed with the Tudors, the Medicis, the House of Valois and other prominent European families. Experts don’t know exactly how this French portrait arrived in England, but records reflect that Walpole purchased it in 1742 “from a Mr. Byde Herfordshire.” The monumental work cost Walpole £25—a “sizable sum” for the time period, as Dalya Alberge observes for the Guardian. (Adjusted for inflation, this sale price equates to almost $6,000 today.)

Walpole had once considered writing a history of the Medici family—even preparing initial research for the project in 1759—but eventually dropped the project due to a lack of archival material. According to the Art Newspaper, he decorated his eccentric mansion with fireplaces, bookcases, Gothic carved ceilings and other fantastical elements inspired by the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. (An avid collector, Walpole even dedicated an entire room of the house to his trove of Tudor artifacts, per the statement.) (Read more.)


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