Italian Art 101 – Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione has Edinburgh retrospective

As a painter Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione was groundbreaking, inventing new techniques still in use today, 250 years after his death. As a man, he seems to have been hard to live or work with, having a particular reputation for angry outbursts and violence. Either way, despite being one of the most skilled artists of his time, his name is sadly probably not one you are familiar with. But the Royal Collection in Edinburgh is hoping to change that with its new exhibition of the virtuoso’s work.

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione self portrait

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione self portrait

The Royal Collection of Queen Elizabeth II is one of the largest and most important art collections in the world. Formed largely since the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, the most prolific collectors included Frederick Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary. But the most important monarch in the story of Castiglione was George III.

Character studies

Character studies

After Castiglione’s death, his workshop of over 250 pieces was sold in its entirety and later bought by Joseph Smith, the British Consul to Venice. Smith subsequently sold the collection on to George III in 1762 to use as a spot of interior decoration for the newly built Buckingham House in London. Well Ikea hadn’t been invented yet, so what’s a chap to do?!

The head of an Oriental man

The head of an Oriental man

Castliglione’s art then disappeared from public view until the first-ever exhibition of his work was hosted at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, to critical acclaim and popular success in late 2013. The Royal Collection is now continuing the rehabilitation of Castliglione’s reputation with a second retrospective at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

So, if you’re not yet familiar with Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione’s flawed genius, now is your chance to get to know him better. The exhibition offers a great chance to see the maestro’s work up close and hopefully this will be another step towards restoring Castiglione to his rightful place in art history. And the next time you’re asked if you know who Castiglione was, you can answer with confidence – a mercurial, masterful genius!

Castiglione the genius

Castiglione the genius

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, 1609–1664

Useful Information

Castiglione, Lost Genius runs from 14 November 2014 to Sunday 8 February 2015 at The Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

Opening times

Open daily 9.30am – 4.30pm

Admission prices

Adult £6.50
Concessions £5.90
Under 17/Disabled £3.25
Under 5 Free

For more information click here

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One Response to Italian Art 101 – Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione has Edinburgh retrospective

  1. Thanks for enlightening me about him.., indeed I never knew about this masterful artist! I wish I were in Edinburgh to see the exhibit….,

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