Treasures sent back to Scotland by Jacobite artists based in Rome form part of an eye-opening new exhibition at the University of Aberdeen’s Marischal Museum.
Jacobite Virtuosi: antiquarians and connoisseurs in Eighteenth century Rome draws on the rich holdings of Jacobite material in the museum, fine art and rare book collections of the University, as well as a loan of a rarely-seen portrait from Aberdeen Art Gallery.
It opens a window into the world of the Scottish artists and archaeologists from Jacobite families who flourished at Rome in the eighteenth century when the Italian capital was the unequivocal world centre for the visual arts.
As well as paintings by Cosmo Alexander and James Irvine of Drum, the exhibition offers a first chance to see James Byres of Tonley's sumptuous scheme for the rebuilding of King's College, which, had it gone ahead would have given Aberdeen one of the finest University buildings in Northern Europe. That scheme makes provision for a central museum room, modelled on the Uffizi in Florence.
The exhibition also shows some examples of the kinds of treasures which the Jacobite artists of Rome sent back to Scotland: prints of antiquity and casts of Gems, superb engraved books, including James Byres' own pioneering study of the tombs of the Etruscans. From the University's MacBean Stuart and Jacobite collection, there are prints of the Stuart monarchs and princes as well as engravings of the extravagant ceremonial with which they kept up Royal State in exile.
Professor Peter Davidson, exhibition curator, said, "It is the nature of an ancient University such as this to act as the place of memory of its alumnae and their achievements. This exhibition brings before us a small group of cultivated artists from Jacobite families who were antiquarians and art-dealers in Rome in the later eighteenth century at the height of the grand tour, when Rome was unequivocally the world centre for the visual arts."