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.
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.
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?!
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.
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!
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, 1609–1664
Castiglione, Lost Genius runs from 14 November 2014 to Sunday 8 February 2015 at The Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
Open daily 9.30am – 4.30pm
Under 17/Disabled £3.25
Under 5 Free
For more information click here