The Government Art Collection’s painting by John Scarlett Davies, showing the Salon Carré of the Louvre with the Grand Gallery beyond, was commissioned by politician and connoisseur Lord Farnborough (1760-1838), who also commissioned Davis to paint interior views of the Vatican and the Escorial in Spain. The work shows a display from the permanent collection of the Louvre, including works by Titian, Veronese, Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck, many of which were once in the collection of Charles I.
A composition showing almost exactly the same view was painted at around the same time by American artist Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872). Morse’s work shows a different hang of Old Master paintings and both paintings combine real and imagined elements.
John Scarlett Davis was born in Leominster, Herefordshire. In 1818 he moved to London to study at Paul de la Pierre’s Academy and later at the Royal Academy Schools. He established himself as a portrait painter, before later becoming known for paintings of architectural interiors. Davis worked in Yorkshire during the late 1820s and travelled in Europe from 1830 to 1842. With commissions from patrons in Britain he visited France, Germany, Italy and the Low Countries, painting views of picture galleries and churches. The British Ambassador in Paris, Lord Stuart de Rothesay, provided a personal letter of introduction for the cities he passed through. He returned from Rome in 1842 and died in London three years later.
Purchased from the Fine Art Society, November 1978
Commissioned by politician and connoisseur of the arts Charles Long, Baron Farnborough (1760-1838) in 1831; collection of John Hinxman (died 1846); by whose executors sold through Christie’s, London, on 25 March 1848 (Lot 75), for £21.0.0; from which sale purchased by G. Nathan; collection of R. J. Mitchell; sold through Christie's, London, ‘English Pictures and Drawings’ sale, on 2 April 1965 (Lot 64), as ‘The Main Gallery of the Louvre, Paris, with an artist sketching and numerous figures’; with Oscar & Peter Johnson; collection of Joseph E. Levine, Hollywood, California by 1966; by whom sold through Sotheby's, London, ‘Fine Nineteenth and Twentieth Century British and Continental Paintings’ sale, on 18 February 1970 (Lot 71), for £1,800; from which sale purchased by the Fine Art Society; from whom purchased by the Department of the Environment in November 1978
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