Collecting under James I
Agents and Ambassadors
Emissaries gathered political information while travelling Europe buying and
Walsingham (c.1532-1590), Jan de Critz
Walsingham was educated at Cambridge and from a Protestant
family, Walsingham lived in exile throughout the reign of Mary I. He worked
for Elizabeth I on diplomatic and political missions in Europe, gathering
intelligence and a network of informants. He returned to England and became
Elizabeth�s Principal Secretary in 1573.
Mytens acted as Arundel’s agent and Arundel also used William Petty. He
purchased the Vendramin Family, now at the National Gallery.
Sometimes ambassadors and agents speculated on their own account and mistakes
were made. In 1615 Sir William Carlton, ambassador in the Hague bought marbles
and paintings from Nys (including 15 paintings, including Tintoretto, Veronese
and Bassano)for the Earl of Somerset for which he paid �900 but by the
time he arrived in England the Earl of Somerset was in disgrace and so he had no
buyer. He had to sell to Arundel and Buckingham to pay Nys but Arundel did not
want the marbles as he had just received some marbles as a gift.
Daniel Nys helped buy for Charles. The ‘Triumphs of Caesar’ were bought for
Charles I in 1629 by Daniel Nys. Nys obtained an impressive collection for the
king which included works by Titian, Raphael and Caravaggio – all for the sum of
�25,000. The series was painted by Andrea Mantegna – the son of a master
carpenter, probably between c.1484-1505. Mantegna was born 1430/1 and died in
1506. He trained in Padua and was the Court painter to the Gonzaga family from
1460. Nys eventually went bankrupt.
Anthony van Dyck. George Gage, Looking at a Statuette. 1623.
Oil on canvas. National Gallery
George Gage was principal agent for Buckingham and negotiated with Sir Dudley
Carlton who was a connoisseur and collector in his own right. Gage had more
authority over Rubens than anyone and he negotiated with the Pope over plans for
Charles to marry the Infanta of Spain. Gage was thought to be subversive as he
used collecting as a cover for negotiating.
Nicholas Lanier (1588-1666, composer, lutenist, singer and painter) was an
agent for the King and helped purchase the Mantuan collection and he took the most
important pieces overland.
Sir Balthazar Gerbier was chief buyer for Buckingham and bought Titian’s
Three Ages of Man.
Abb� Scaglia bought for the Queen’s bedchamber at Greenwich. They all
furthered their own and their patrons political ambitions.
Agents sometimes had a conflict of interest if they worked for two patrons.
Ambassadors also had to keep the English court happy.
George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham
He was the son of a landowner, he spoke good French, was good looking and was
appointed Knight of the King’s Horse and then in 1616 he was granted �80,000 and
eventually Duke of Buckingham. He was made Admiral of the Fleet and took part in
the Isle de R� campaign. He was
assassinated in 1628 by John Felton, an infantry lieutenant.
James’s previous favourite had been the Earl of Somerset. When Charles became
king Buckingham became his favourite. Buckingham owned Wallingford House, which
housed some of his collection.
In 1619 he appointed Balthazar Gerbier to chose marbles and pictures and he
travelled Europe on his behalf. In 1623 he went with Buckingham and Charles to
Spain to woo the Infanta. The wooing failed but they did get to see the Spanish
Hapsburg collection, the largest in Europe.
He owned York House by Nicholas Stone which had a water gate which is still
there next to Embankment tune station.
He collected curiosities and his policy was speed and effect. Buckingham was
less of a connoisseur than Arundel but he assembled a fine collection and
Gerbier was the keeper and polyglot and polymath and a miniaturist.
Gerbier developed a passion for Veronese. In 1621-2 he went to Italy and
bought Ecce Home by Titian from the Duke of Italy. He also acquired Titian’s The
Secretary which impressed Inigo Jones so much he almost threw himself on his
knees before it, he paid �60.
Buckingham asked Gerbier to try to buy the Mona Lisa but he failed.