James Irvine of Drum (1757-1831) and the world of the Roman Virtuoso

This case shows some objects which have come to the University collections directly from the painter and art-dealer James Irvine of Drum, as well as other objects which evoke the world of the Roman connoisseur and the 'grand tourist'.

James Irvine's family home, Drum Castle on Deeside, contains a number of Cosmo Alexander's portraits of his Jacobite ancestors. The family papers there make clear that connections with the Byres family of Tonley were cordial and long-lasting.

Irvine went to Rome in 1780 to study painting and remained in Italy until 1791, making copies of admired works as well as advancing his own studies before beginning to deal in paintings. He spent six years in London as an art dealer, before returning to Rome in 1797-98, when he attempted to save the collections of fellow-virtuosi from the depredations of the invading French armies. Apart from a bizarre speculative investment in a mechanical orchestra (the panharmonicon) which left him stranded in Cuba in 1819, Irvine spent most of the rest of his life as a successful dealer in Italy.

The exhibits in this case remind us that, as well as paintings and excavated antiquities, the virtuosi also spread knowledge of Roman antiquity by their promotion of engravings and casts.

Previous Page Next Page