Minerva with Allegorical Figures of the Arts and Sciences (sketch for the ceiling of the Banqueting House, Hampton Court Palace)
- Place of origin:
Verrio, Antonio (painter)
- Materials and Techniques:
oil on paper mounted on panel
- Credit Line:
Given by Sir Isidore Spielmann, through The Art Fund
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
British Galleries, Room 54, case WN 
Antonio Verrio (ca. 1639-1707) was born in Lecce, South Italy and trained either in Lecce or Naples. He travelled through Italy and France where he settled for a while in Toulouse. He then went to London where his main commissions were the decoration of the state rooms at Windsor Castle (1675-ca.1684) and the new state apartments at Hampton Court Palace (1700-02).
This painting is a preparatory work for a larger picture which main theme is William III's enlightened patronage of the Arts. It shows the goddess of Wisdom, Minerva amidst clouds, surrounded by allegorical figures representing Astronomy, Music, Poetry, Architecture, Sculpture and Painting. This oil sketch was executed between 1700 and 1702 when Verrio was entrusted by the King with the decoration of Banqueting House in Hampton Court.
A helmeted goddess, surrounded by a halo of light, sits amidst clouds with a company of lively figures holding different attributes.
Place of Origin
Verrio, Antonio (painter)
Materials and Techniques
oil on paper mounted on panel
Height: 34.3 cm unframed, Width: 49.8 cm unframed, Depth: 1.2 cm
Object history note
Given by Sir Isidore Spielman, through the National Art Collections Fund, 1916
Commissioned by William III (1650-1702)
Historical significance: This painting is a preparatory sketch for a larger painting commissioned by King William III (1650-1702) to Antonio Verrio. This kind of work is commonly known as modello, i.e. a reduced-scale detailed preparatory drawing or painting that shows how the final composition would look like.
This work shows the mythological figure of Minerva, the goddess of Wisdom, surrounded by allegorical figures representing Astronomy, Music, Poetry, Architecture, Sculpture and Painting. In the final version (still in situ), Sculpture is holding a bust of William III crowned with laurel. The subject symbolised the King's enlightened patronage of the Arts.
The asymmetrical composition and the lively gesture of the figures, a few overlapping the edges of the painted oval frame, are typical of Verrio's manner. He specialised in providing his designs with a theatrical grandeur that helped to establish the vogue for Baroque decoration in England. The palette dominated by strong hues of red and reddish brown enlightened by touches of pure white and intense blue are reminiscent of the art of Rubens (1577-1640) and Van Dyck (1599-1641), still en vogue in England when Verrio came to London in 1671. His figures are often of beautiful quality, influenced by Neapolitan and French painting, which he knew before even travelling there thanks to Giovanni Andrea Coppola (1597-1659) with whom he collaborated in Lecce.
The complex composition, which recalls the earlier Gods Assembled on Mount Olympus, c. 1793, Museum and Art Gallery, Northampton, is reminiscent of the great 18th-century Venetian decorative scheme, another evidence of the artist's extensive visual culture. Upon the death of the King in 1702, Verrio painted for Queen Anne his last royal commission in the Queen's Drawing Room.
Historical context note
History painting, i.e. depictions of non recurring events based on religious, classical, literary or allegorical sources, particularly developed in Italy during the Renaissance (15th-16th centuries). History painting could include religious themes, or depictions of momentous recent events, but the term was most frequently associated with Classical subject-matter. However a renewed impetus was given to religious subjects after the Council of Trent (1545-63), which stipulated new iconographical programmes. The development of art treatises, in which the compositional rules guiding the art of painting were discussed also notably, influenced the evolution of history painting. From around 1600 history painting's principal rivals: still-life, landscape and genre painting began to emerge as independent collectable genres. Furthermore, the Rococo taste for the ornamental in the early 18th century prioritised the decorative quality of history painting, so that subject matters became more entertaining than exemplary. There was a renewed interest in history painting during the Neo-Classical period after which the taste for such pictures faded towards the end of the 19th century when an innovative approach to the image was led by the Symbolists and was developed further by subsequent schools in the early 20th century.
Oil sketch, 'Minerva with Allegorical Figures' for the Ceiling of the Banqueting House, Hampton Court, Antonio Verrio, 1700-1702
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
'Antonio Verrio and the Royal image at Hampton Court', British Art Journal, Volume X No. 3, Winter/Spring 2009/10, Special 10th Anniversary Double Issue
Axel Hémery (dir.), Antonio Verrio. Chroniques d'un peintre italien voyageur (1636-1707), Toulouse, 2010.
R. De Giorgi , "Couleur, couleur", Antonio Verrio un pittore in Europa tra Seicento e Settecento, Florence, 2010.
Labels and date
This is a design for the ceiling of a royal banqueting house. The classical goddess of wisdom, Minerva, is surrounded by figures representing the Arts. For 30 years the Italian artist, Antonio Verrio, monopolised most of the important British royal commissions. He had been invited to England from Paris in 1671 by the English ambassador. [27/03/2003]
Oil paint; Paper; Panel
Figures; Allegory; Music; Painting; Astronomy; Poetry; Clouds; Architecture; Sculpture
Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection