Picture perfect

Tuesday 10 Aug 2010

Intimate portrait of James Byres to go on show at Paris Biennale in September

A recently-discovered portrait of James Byres (1733-1817), the Scottish 18th century architect, art dealer and antiquary, will be exhibited by Bernheimer-Colnaghi at the Paris Biennale next month. This portrait, by Anton Von Maron (1733-1808), one of the leading portrait painters in Rome, is thought to have been painted around the time of James Byres' election to the Accademia di San Luca in 1768, where he had won 3rd prize for architectural design in 1762, and features one of his drawings prominently in the foreground. Never previously exhibited, the painting comes from a private collection.

James Byres also played a key role in the Roman art market in the 18th century, supplying antiquities and Old Master paintings to visiting Grand Tourists. Although trained as an architect, he is best known as a dealer whose triumphs included the sale of the Portland Vase, now in the British Museum, to Sir William Hamilton and of Poussin’s series of Seven Sacraments, now at Belvoir Castle, which Byres sold to the Duke of Rutland in 1785, both purchased from Roman aristocratic collections. He also owned Poussin’s Assumption, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

It is appropriate that the venerable firm of Bernheimer Colnaghi should come to Paris in its 250th anniversary year as its story began in that city in 1760 when Colnaghi was founded by an enterprising firework manufacturer, Giovanni Battista Torre. In addition to the portrait of James Byres, the gallery will bring a wide selection of Old Master Paintings to the XXVth Biennale des Antiquaires which takes place at the Grand Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris, from Wednesday 15 to Wednesday 22 September 2010.

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