THE GOODWOOD GALLERY OF WORTHIES
In 1723, shortly after returning from his Grand Tour, Charles Lennox succeeded as 2nd Duke of Richmond and Lennox (d. 1750); and, like his father, a natural son of Charles II, was later renowned for keeping his doors 'always open to men of learning, sciences and ingenuity'. He was the son-in-law of William, 1st Earl of Cadogan, and the latter had participated in the triumphs of the Duke of Marlborough, whose 'Military Merit' had been commemorated by the gift of Blenheim Palace. The 2nd Duke of Richmond and Lennox promoted the Arts in general, and served as Governor of George I's Royal Academy of Music. It may have been his interest in promoting Opera, that contributed to his involvement in a remarkable scheme for the promotion of England's fame by the employment of Italy's finest artists in the commemoration of 'British Worthies'. This heroic project, allied to Arne's 'Rule Britannia', was directed from Venice by the Irish impresario Owen Swiney [MacSwiny] (d. 1754), who was then serving in the early 1720s under the protection of the art-dealing Consul Joseph Smith. Swiney employed a variety of artists, including Marco Ricci, to produce a set of 'Capricci' paintings, each of which included an urn 'wherein is supposed to be deposited the Remains of the deceas'd Hero'. They were to serve as a Columbarium of 'Worthies', when displayed in the Duke's banqueting gallery at Goodwood House, Sussex. Swiney had previously employed Ricci as a scene painter, when managing the Queen's Theatre in London's Haymarket. The instigation of Swiney's series of 'Worthies' had begun during the Duke's tour of Italy, when he was shown a picture entitled The Triumph of the Duke of Marlborough. Since the Earl of Cadogan had succeeded to the command of the Duke of Marlborough, Swiney wrote to the Duke about the Triumph in 1723, and proposed it as a suitable adornment for his father-in-law's London house. When a proposed commission for a series of Marlborough's campaigns failed to materialise, Swiney instead suggested a scheme to perpetuate 'the remembrance of a set of British Worthies, who were bright and shining ornaments to their country'. He involved both Marco Ricci and his uncle Sebastion in collaboration with artists such as Pittoni, Piazzetta and Canaletto in the composition of his allegorical History Paintings. They evolved from Poussin's Et In Arcadia Ego; and were intended 'to represent the Monuments of the British Monarchs, the valiant commanders, and other illustrious Personages, who flourish'd in England about the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries'. As well as his series of paintings executed during the 1720s for the Duke of Richmond and recorded by George Vertue in 1747, Swiney also supplied another series for Sir William Morice of Werrington, Devon.
OWEN SWINEY'S 'BRITISH WORTHIES' 1741
When he was back in London in the later 1730s, Swiney also issued a pamphlet advertising for subscribers for this publication of engravings of 'Sepulchral Pieces' or 'Tombs of British Worthies'. François Boucher was to feature amongst the French draughtsmen and engravers employed for this 'Series of Spectacular Capricci'. Instead of the fifty copper plates as originally proposed, this volume of 18 copper plates was finally issued in 1741.
See for comparison a series sold anonymously, Sotheby's London, 17 December 1998, lot 78.