WILLIAM Hunter's interest in the art of his contemporaries is well known, but it is only in recent years that attention has been drawn to his direct contact with living artists long before his appointment as first Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768, and his employment of George Stubbs in the course of his zoological researches. John Hunter remembered his elder brother William reading 'lectures on Anatomy to the Incorporated Society of Painters, at their rooms in St. Martin's Lane, upon a subject at Tyburn'. He also reported that his brother arranged for the casting of an ecorchi from a dead criminal in the apartments of the Society, the cast of which was later in the Royal Academy.
In the last year or two any visitor to the National Gallery of Ireland with a prior knowledge of its history and visual impact cannot have failed to notice changes and improvements on an encouraging scale. Some of these were begun under the direction of James White. In the late 1960s, for example, over a hundred paintings were cleaned and restored and in 1968 a spacious new wing was added. In his four years as the present Director, Homan Potterton has continued these activities and initiated others with some splendid results. Many galleries have been re-decorated and pictures successfully re-hung. This is particularly notable in the extensive French rooms, where an already impressive wall of Claude and Poussin has been enriched by the long loan of the former's Hagar and the angel. Burdensome groups of Irish pictures lent by the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery have been appropriately returned there. And more workaday operations have been usefully introduced. Clear guides are now available for the casual visitor and the bookshop is in a flourishing condition. Indeed, succesful sponsorship by national and international businesses has resulted in the printing of over ninety colour postcards. Altogether, a refreshing liveliness pervades the gallery.
THE painting first published here is a work of obvious quality but considerable art-historical complexity (Fig.2). There is no date or signature on the panel, and we have no information about its provenance before its auction in 1978 in Christie's (when it was described as a nineteenth-century Russian painting from an English private collection). The painting is small (26.3 by 18.5 cm) and is in good condition. The main figure, mounted on a white horse, is identified by an inscription in Greek as St George and further signified as a general and martyr by his sash and diadem. It is the inclusion of a second small figure behind him and the device of the ornamental background which could suggest an identification as a late Byzantine or post-Byzantine icon; for both elements grew in popularity in Orthodox Christian communities, particularly after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and in Cyprus and the Balkans. Its identification as a late icon in the Byzantine tradition is opposed in this article, and we shall attempt to justify its attribution to the Middle Ages, and to the world of the Crusaders. The discuss-ion will therefore impinge on some of the issues raised by debates on 'Byzantium and the west', although the hybrid nature of this painting ought to have the effect of undermining the traditional views, for it points to the difficulty of maintaining the conception of east and west as clearly distinct polarities. This painting offers a way of seeing how visitors to the Byzantine world responded visually to their experience.
RICHARD Symonds, royalist, virtuoso and antiquary, died in June 1660, presumably within a few days of his forty-fourth birthday (Fig.11). Probably the happiest and most stimulating period of his life had been his two years in Italy. He was there from September 1649 to September 1651, having spent seven months in France. Symonds was pleased to leave England, ruled after the Civil War by a government he abhorred.
IN the 1614 post-mortem inventory of El Greco's possessions there appears in the list of his 'Libros Italianos' the item Disciplina militar. I wish here to suggest that this item may be identified with Guillaume Du Choul's treatise Discours sur la castrametation et discipline militaire des anciens Romains, first published by Guillaume Roville at Lyon in 1555, in French and Italian editions simultaneously. My reason is the close correspondence between the group of figures in the foreground of El Greco's Martyrdom of St Maurice and the Theban legion (Fig. 13) and the woodcut in Du Choul's treatise illustrating 'il consolo nel suo campo accompagnato da suoi capitani et la sua guardia' (Fig. 14), which conflates scenes from the cochleate column of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus at Rome.
ON 7th July 1610 Paul V commissioned the third Inquiry into the life of Filippo Neri, a process that was to result in his beatification on 25th May 1615. In anticipation of this event the Congregation of San Girolamo della Carita, where Neri had lived for more than thirty years and where he had founded the first Oratory, began an extensive renovation and refurbishment of the church and oratory, the work for which was principally carried out between 1611 and 1615. The most important artistic result of this campaign was Domenichino's Last Communion of St Jerome, commissioned for the high altar, a work that is his acknowledged masterpiece and that Poussin and Sacchi proclaimed the equal of Raphael's Transfiguration. According to his Roman biographers Domenichino was very badly paid, and Passeri in particular reports that he had been told by Domenichino himself that he had only accepted the commission in the hope of becoming better known, and that the payment he received was just fifty scudi - an almost unbelievably low sum - from which the artist was moreover required to deduct the cost of the canvas. Bellori also reports that Domenichino was paid a mere fifty scudi, admitting that it will seem incredible that the artist should have laboured so long for such a stipend, and he offers the story as an example to young artists of how to face up to adversity without complaint.
JUAN de Alfaro y Gåmez (1643-80) of Cordoba is generally known today for two things. The first is his association with Velåzquez in Madrid, where he eventually died in 1680, after having provided Palomino with much valuable information about that great master, which Palomino duly recorded for posterity. The second is his self-importance, which led him to place prominent signatures in the form Pinxit Alfarus on each of a series of paintings he was commissioned to execute for the Franciscan monastery in Córdoba, a procedure that provoked his former master, Antonio del Castillo, to take steps to contribute a painting to the same series, on which he placed the large inscription non fecit Alfarus.
WHILE working on Louis-Jacques Durameau (Paris 1733 - Versailles 1796), I found I was able to establish a group of nine drawings identical in style, each bearing a monogram of the three interlaced letters LDR, and the date 1767, 1768 or 1769. To whom was I to attribute them?
EVER since Gericault's famous painting of a horse race, now in the Louvre, passed from the Cherubini family in the Laneuville sale of 9th May 1866 as 'Le Derby de 1821 å Epsom' (lot 2), it has been assumed that the title listed in the sale catalogue is correct. Hoping to confirm or to disprove this, I wrote to the Jockey Club in Portman Square some years ago, sending a colour plate of Gericault's painting, and asked if the colours carried by any of the horses corresponded to those registered to the owners of the Derby winners of 1820 or 1821. I was informed that they did not represent the colours of any of the principals in the Derby of those years, nor of any Derby between 1810 and 1825, nor, indeed, of any other race run at Epsom during those years.