BATONI, Pompeo Italian Rococo Era Painter, 1708-1787
He was born in Lucca, the son of a goldsmith, Paolino Batoni. He moved to Rome in 1727, and apprenticed with Agostino Masucci, Sebastiano Conca and/or Francesco Imperiale (1679-1740).
By the early 1740s, however, he started to receive independent commissions. In 1741, he was inducted into the Accademia di San Luca. His celebrated painting, The Ecstasy of Saint Catherine of Siena (1743) illustrates his academic refinement of the late-Baroque style. Another masterpiece, his Fall of Simon Magus was painted initially for the St Peter's Basilica.
Batoni became a highly-fashionable painter in Rome, particularly after his rival, the proto-neoclassicist Anton Raphael Mengs, departed for Spain in 1761. Batoni befriended Winckelmann and, like him, aimed in his painting to the restrained classicism of painters from earlier centuries, such as Raphael and Poussin, rather than to the work of the Venetian artists then in vogue.
He was greatly in demand for portraits, particularly by the British traveling through Rome , who took pleasure in commissioning standing portraits set in the milieu of antiquities, ruins, and works of art. There are records of over 200 portraits by Batoni of visiting British patrons . Such "Grand Tour" portraits by Batoni came to proliferate in the British private collections, thus ensuring the genre's popularity in the United Kingdom, where Sir Joshua Reynolds would become its leading practitioner. In 1760, the painter Benjamin West, while visiting Rome would complain that Italian artists "talked of nothing, looked at nothing but the works of Pompeo Batoni".
In 1769, the double portrait of Joseph II and Leopold II won an Austrian nobility for Batoni. He also portrayed Pope Pius VI. According to a rumor, he bequeathed his palette and brushes to Jacques-Louis David. Achilles at the Court of Lycomedes 1745, oil on canvas, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence