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Lending and Borrowing: The British Fine Arts Palace at the 1911 International Arts Exhibition, Rome

Event type
Collecting & Display
Event dates
, 6:00PM - 7:30PM
Online- via Zoom
Email only

In 1911, in response to an invitation from the Italian government, the wealthier amongst the European nations opened pavilions in the Valle Giulia, Rome displaying ‘…representative collections of pictures, sculpture, drawings and engravings’ to celebrate 50 years of a unified Italy with Rome as its capital. This paper will explore collecting and display in terms of the loans negotiated from a diverse group of lenders for the British contribution to the International Fine Arts Exhibition and their curation.

Under the aegis of the Exhibitions Branch of the Board of Trade, 1232 paintings, sculptures, watercolours, prints and drawings were borrowed, catalogued and transported from the United Kingdom to Rome. Highlights included works by Leighton, Hogarth, Reynolds, Zoffany, Rossetti, Gainsborough and Constable. What was displayed was determined by a Committee, the President of which was the British Ambassador to Italy, Sir James Rennell Rodd and the Chairman was Thomas Ashby, Director of the British School at Rome. The works exhibited came from countrywide stakeholders of all social and institutional levels, including Lord O’Hagan of County Tyrone, Staffordshire General Infirmary, the Corporation of Leeds, the Fishmongers Company and the Corporation of Leicester to name but a few. To date there has been no scholarship on what motivated owners to lend nor why the Committee asked them to, lacunae this paper seeks to correct.

By focusing on the creation of a hitherto little researched temporary collection and its display, understanding of transient collecting will be heightened and what it reveals about national collecting practices at the beginning of the twentieth century. It should be noted that many of these works of art are now in national and international collections and that this discussion will provide a new understanding of their past lives

Harriet O’Neill undertook her BA in History at the University of Oxford and holds MAs in History of Art and Art Museum and Gallery Studies. Her PhD, ‘Reframing the Italian Renaissance at the National Gallery’ was a collaboration between UCL and the National Gallery, London. She has held curatorial positions at the National Gallery and Royal Holloway, University of London and published articles on frames and framing, scenography and nineteenth-century ornament. Harriet is currently Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the British School at Rome and an Honorary Research Associate of Royal Holloway.

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