Joseph Fesch was the half-brother of Letizia Ramolino Bonaparte (1750-1836), mother of the future Emperor Napoleon I, to whom Fesch was close in age. From the mid-1790s to his death in 1839 he formed one of the largest private collections of paintings of the 19th century. His love of art seems to have developed during Napoleon's campaigns in Italy (1796-8), when Fesch became, through his nephew's offices, a supplier to the French army: indeed, his first acquisitions were given to him by a terrified Grand Duke Ferdinand III of Tuscany. It was after his return to Paris in 1800, however, that he began to acquire paintings at an extraordinary rate. In 1802 he was made Archbishop of Lyons and then Cardinal of S Lorenzo-in-Lucina; from 1803 to 1806 he was French Ambassador in Rome, and on his return to Paris in 1806 was appointed Grand Almoner of France. He used his considerable income to augment his collection, taking advantage of the dispersal of a number of other collections to acquire French, Dutch and Flemish paintings, as well as Italian works from some of the great Roman patrician families. In 1812, however, he quarrelled with the Emperor about his loyalty to Pius VII and lost his position, retiring to his diocese in Lyons before settling in August 1815 in Rome, where he led the life of an exile of limited resources, dividing his time between pious activities and the search for new paintings.
According to the inventory drawn up at his death, Fesch's collection comprised nearly 16,000 works. His residence in Rome was the Palazzo Falconieri in the Via Giulia, where he displayed his finest pieces. These included such masterpieces as Giorgione's Allendale Nativity (Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art), Giotto's Dormition of the Virgin, Fra Angelico's Last Judgement, Rembrandt's Predication of the Baptist (all Berlin, Gemäldegalerie), Poussin's Dance to the Music of Time, Metsu's Sleeping Hunter, Hobbema's Stormy Landscape, Adriaen van de Velde's Departure of Jacob, Watteau's Fête in a Park and Halt during the Chase (all London, Wallace Collection), Mantegna's Agony in the Garden, a Raphael Crucifixion, Foppa's Adoration of the Magi and Ercole de' Roberti's Israelites Gathering Manna (all London, National Gallery), Carpaccio's Hunting on the Lagoon and Pontormo's Portrait of a Halberdier (both Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum). The Cardinal's own portrait was sculpted by Antonio Canova in 1807-8 (Ajaccio, Musée Fesch).
Samuel Jones Loyd (1796-1883) succeeded his father as the chairman of the banking house of Jones, Loyd and Co. in 1844; he was one of the most influential bankers of his generation and was created Lord Overstone in 1850. His interest in pictures developed in the early 1830s. Many of his earlier acquisitions were by Dutch masters and these were kept at the London house, 2 Carlton Gardens, and passed on the death of Overstone's daughter, Lady Wantage, to her husband's great- nephew, the 27th Earl of Crawford. The Van Os was a relatively late purchase and although it was originally in London, it had by 1905 been moved to Lockinge, where other masterpieces from Overstone's collection, including Claude's Enchanted Castle (London, National Gallery) were placed.