The Elusive Patronage of George Gordon, Lord Haddo: Giovanni Paolo Panini and Pompeo Batoni

A Panini with a Haddo provenance that comes up at Christie’s, New York,  in May prompts some reflections on the elusive patronage of George Gordon, Lord Haddo, who died in 1791 in a fall from a horse. He is generally agreed to be the subject of a portrait by Pompeo Batoni at Haddo House, and it is assumed that he is the member of his family who acquired two Paninis, the one at Christie’s and another now in the Liechtenstein collection in Vienna.

The Paninis

There were also two Paninis at Haddo House, an Interior of the Pantheon now in the Liechtenstein collection (Fig. 1),[1] and Capriccio View of the Arch of Constantine, the Arch of Titus and the Temple of Venus and Rome, the Colosseum, with an Obelisk, to be sold at Christie’s, New York in May 2019 (Fig. 2).[2]  There seems to be little written on the paintings at Haddo house,[3] mostly now nineteenth-century works, but the Pantheon is visible in one of the photos of Haddo Hall in the 1890s published by Eileen Harris in 1966 (Fig. 3).[4] The two paintings are unrelated commissions: the Pantheon is signed and dated 1735 and the Colosseum is signed and dated 1744. I can’t see the Colosseum in any of the photos published by Harris but presumably it was there somewhere. Harris makes various citations to ‘Haddo House Estate Muniments’ including ‘Inventory of Furnishings 1894’ so there is presumably some documentation of the collection at the end of the nineteenth century, if not earlier.

The Colosseum is a somewhat unusual painting for Panini. It presents itself as a view from between the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine looking towards the Arch of Titus, the Palatine and the Temple of Venus and Rome, but is in fact an assemblage of discrete components with made from various viewpoints and heights that add up to a plausible topographical view. But I won’t go into that here.

The Batoni

The assumption that the Paninis were acquired by George Gordon, Lord Haddo, derives from the fact that the acquisition of a Panini implies antiquarian interests, which research (mainly by Francis Russell) has shown Haddo seems to have had.

Central to this issue is Haddo’s Batoni portrait (Fig. 4).[5] Initially the identity of the sitter was unclear,[6] but the only possibility, given that it is dated 1775 and  has always been at Haddo House, is George Gordon, Lord Haddo. The Haddo title was at this date reserved to the eldest son of the Earl of Aberdeen. George Gordon never succeeded, and so was Lord Haddo from his father’s death in 1745 until his own in 1791. His son was Lord Haddo from then until his grandfather’s death in 1801, when he became the 4th Earl.

Given that the Batoni is signed and dated 1775 it is significant that George Gordon, Lord Haddo is documented as being in Rome from 26 December 1774 to 9 April 1775, when he could have commissioned it in person. His Roman movements are known from the diaries of Roger Newdigate, as was first pointed out by Francis Russell,[7] who wrote that Newdigate saw Haddo

in Florence on 12th December 1774, drank tea with him and Mr Livingston at Siena on the 20th and visited them both in Rome on the 26th, two days after his own arrival. Thence- forward they met regularly until 9th April 1775, for dinner, for tea or for prayers on Sunday mornings. On at least three occasions James Byres was of the party, understandably in view of the cicerone’s own Aberdeenshire connexions. Haddo, … invited Newdigate to dine with him on his birthday, 6th February.[8]

The Batoni is known for its unusual choice of antique props: as Ingamells puts it, ‘the surrounding statuary suggests a serious interest in antiquity’.[9] Namely, the statue of a priestess carrying a vessel at the left ‘bought by Benedict XIV from the Villa d’Este, Tivoli, in 1753 for the Museo Capitolino … is unique in Batoni’s oeuvre’ (Clark and Bowron).[10] The relief is a detail in reverse of the right side of a sarcophagus of a child depicting the legend of Prometheus that entered the Museo Capitolino in 1733 from the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani. It had been published by Montfaucon, 1721, vol. 1, p. 4, fig. 4, but it is hard to find this online.[11] Does the reversal imply Batoni used an intermediary source that was reversed? Clark and Bowron do not say.

In addition, as Russell noted, Haddo was a subscriber to Clérisseau’s Monuments de Nismes, finally published in 1778 (Fig. 5).[12] The subscribers from ‘Angleterre’ are headed by Milord Dunmore and Milady Dunmore, followed by ‘Milord Haddo’ and ‘Milord Trentham’. Lord Dunmore (1730–1809) was the last colonial governor of Virginia and was responsible for the ‘Dunmore Pineapple’ of 1761.

The purchase of signed Paninis of the Colosseum/Arch of Constantine/Arch of Titus and the Interior of the Pantheon fits such interests well, so on this scenario, as in the case of Batoni, the purchase of his Paninis can be seen as the choice of someone well-informed about antiquities, rather than simple tourist mementoes.

Haddo’s dates

There is a fly in the ointment, however. Haddo’s date of birth has traditionally been given as 1764, which makes him impossibly young for his Grand Tour (only 10 or 11 years old). Francis Russell in 1973 published a reference to him in 1777 when he is described as a ‘young man’, and Batoni’s sitter is certainly this.[13] Russell at this point concluded from this that the Batoni was actually dated 1785, but this has not been accepted as the date on the painting is clear enough and fits the references on Newdigate’s diaries. Consequently Clark and Bowron in 1985 concluded that the birthdate is wrong and gave Haddo’s dates in their entry on the Batoni simply as ‘died 1791’).[14] That the 1764 birthdate is in error is generally accepted. Francis Russell  in 1991 revised it specifically to 1754, although as far as I can tell there is no hard data for this, and is presumably based on the assumption that at some point a ‘5’ has been misread for a ‘6’.[15] The revised edition of Clark and Bowron (2016) accepts the 1754 birthdate.

It would, however, be good to have some hard data on Haddo’s date of birth. Wikipedia and genealogical sites give the day and month as well as the year: ‘28 January 1764’; his date of death, with is uncontested, is ‘2 October 1791’. These dates go back at least to Burke’s peerage in 1845 and Lodge’s Peerage of 1843 (under Aberdeen, Earl of) (Fig. 6). It is likely that the ultimate source is Haddo’s grave in the churchyard cemetery at Methlick, Aberdeenshire. The churchyard website publishes a picture of the grave but all you can see is a coat of arms (Fig. 7); there is nothing claiming to be a transcription of writing on the grave that might give the date of birth.[16]  The Wikitree genealogical website, however, publishes what looks like a gravestone inscription:

GEORGE Lord Haddo b.28 Jan. 1764 Grand Master Mason of Scotland d.suddenly 2 Apr.179l aged 27 & was buried here & of his wife CHARLES (sic) BAIRD Lady Haddo dau. of WILLIAM BAIRD of New Byth d. Clifton 8 Oct.1795 aged 38 & buried here 7 Nov.l795. [17]

The source is not very clear; it is given as ‘[MI Methlick]’ which seems to refer to the churchyard.

If this is what this is, it is interesting that the age at death, 27, correspond to the 1764 birthdate, not 1754. This suggests that the gravestone has not been simply misread; that if there is an error, the error was in the information given to the composer or carver of the inscription.

In addition, the DNB entry on his son, the Fourth Lord Aberdeen, gives the date of his parent’s wedding as 1762: ‘The third earl was a colourful character. In 1762 he had married Catherine Elizabeth Hanson, the daughter of a Yorkshire blacksmith, in a literally shotgun marriage [citing J. W. Walker, Wakefield, its history and people, 2nd ed., 2 vols, 1939, 2.530–31, and W. Yorks. AS, Leeds, correspondence with Lord Canning; papers relating to Hanson family].[18] This again seems to be very specific and fits the 1764 birthdate not the 1754 one. It is dismissed in Clark and Bowron, 2016.

On the other hand, according to the presumed grave inscription, Lord Haddo’s wife was seven years older that he, being born in 1757. (Their marriage took place on 18 June 1782). This is unusual for an aristocratic marriage at the period, but not impossible. Since the fourth Earl was born on 28 January 1784, this would make her 27 at the time, when Lord Haddo was either 20 or 30, depending on the preferred date of birth; and age of 30 derived from a 1754 birthdate sounds more plausible.

To conclude: while it makes sense to follow the Batoni literature a revise Haddo’s birthdate back a decade, it is a little worrying that there is a cluster of data pointing to the later date. It would be good of research from the Haddo end in Scotland could turn up more about George Gordon, Lord Haddo; it seems hard to believe that there is not more about him somewhere.

Who acquired the Paninis?

As I have indicated, the case for the Paninis having been acquired by Haddo is largely circumstantial, being based on the assumption that they are the sort of pictures that would have interested a patron with antiquarian interests, the evidence for which is the company he kept in Rome, the relatively unusual background antiquities in the Batoni, and the fact that he subscribed to Clerisseau’s book on Nimes.

But we need to explore the other possibilities. Haddo’s eldest son, George Hamilton-Gordon, also Lord Haddo from his father’s death until 1801, when he became Earl of Aberdeen on the death of his grandfather, the 3rd Earl, travelled in Europe from 1802–04 , including Rome from some point in 1802 to before April 1803, and was a Member of the Society of Dilettanti. As befits a man of his generation, he was more interested in Greece than Rome, and spent time in Greece as Asia Minor. He left diaries (not yet consulted) which might throw more light on this.[19]

The 3rd Earl can also not be ruled out. In the Haddo collection there is a painting of David and Goliath (Fig. 8), formerly given to Domenichino but downgraded by Spear to possibly a Tuscan artist, that was purchased from Christie’s, 14 June 1794, lot 55 (£4.4), by the 3rd Earl. (The sale catalogue annotations simply say ‘Aberdeen’ (Figs. 9, 10).)[20] A search of the Getty Provenance index throws up only a few transactions by him from 1781 (none earlier) to 1801, all at Christie’s. These were mostly sales of Dutch paintings (but one Pellegrini), either mythological scenes or farmyard scenes, in 1781, 1782, and 1786.[21] His purchases were a Luca Giordano Mars and Venus in 1782, the Domenichino in 1794, and a Peter Lely full-length portrait of the Duke of Monmouth in 1796 which was sold for a third of the price in 1797.[22] None of these paintings were particularly important or valuable (the maximum price was £4.4). The 4th Earl’s purchases were likewise few but much more significant. They included a Portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici by Sebastiano del Piombo after a Michelangelo drawing, which cost £525 in 1805 (sold by Robert Heatchcote or others and now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas), and a Tintoretto The Doge and the Court of Venice Returning from the Ceremony of Wedding the Adriatic for £105 in 1813 (sold by Richard Westall). He also acquired a Murillo in 1805 from one of the first sales of Spanish paintings imported from Spain,[23] and an anonymous Interior of the Inquisition bought in Dublin that supposedly had belonged to the 4th Earl of Bristol.

A search in the Getty Provenance Index does not return anything for ‘Haddo’, but a few items for ‘Gordon’ are interesting. These, of course, could refer to any number of people by this name, but in a Christie’s sale of 9–10 May 1785 several drawing consigned by the dealer Noel Joseph Desenfans (1744-1807) (whose paintings would form the basis of the Dulwich collection) were purchased by ‘Gordon’.[24] What is interesting in this context is that these included a Clérisseau and two Paninis. A ‘Gordon’, presumably the same one, also consigned two Paul Sandby drawings that were bought in.[25]  (As an aside to an aside, for two paintings at a Christie’s sale a month later on 9-13 June 1785 the buyer was ‘ Lrd W Gordon’, which must be Lord William Gordon (1744–1823), the last colonial governor or Virginia.)[26]

Another ‘Panini’ at Haddo House

At Haddo House there is another painting that is currently attributed to ‘circle of Panini’, a Prison Interior (Fig. 11).[27] This has nothing to do with Panini. The left half is a fairly exact copy of Piranesi’s  Carcere Oscura from the Prima Parte (1743) (Fig. 12).[28] It is enlarged (less than 2X) and proportionally close but not exact. The interesting thing is that the composition has been doubled to create a two-arch design, using the same elements. It is almost as it if was a exercise in mastering Piranesi’s perspective.


Bowron, 2016: Edgar Peters Bowron, Pompeo Batoni: a complete catalogue of his paintings, New Haven and London: Yale University Press in association with The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016.

Chamberlain, 2004: Muriel E. Chamberlain, ‘Gordon, George Hamilton, fourth earl of Aberdeen (1784–1860)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.

Clark and Bowron, 1985: Anthony M. Clark and Edgar Peters Bowron, Pompeo Batoni : a complete catalogue of his works, Oxford: Phaidon, 1985.

Harris, 1996: Eileen Harris, ‘Adams in the family: Wright and Mansfield at Haddo, Guisachan, Brookhouse and Grosvenor Square’, Furniture History, vol. 32, 1996, pp. 141–158.

Ingamells,1997.  John Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701–1800. New Haven and London, Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press.

London, 1991: John Hardy and Francis Russell, Patronage Preserved: and Exhibition of Masterpieces Saved for Country Houses, exh. Cat., Christie’s, London, 1991.

Russell, 1994:  Francis Russell, ‘Notes on Grand Tour Portraiture’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 136, No. 1096, July 1994, pp. 438–43.

[1] Liechtenstein, the Princely Collection. Giovanni Paolo Pannini, The Interior of the Pantheon in Rome, 1735. Oil on canvas, 127 cm x 99 cm. Signed and dated on the pedestal of the column to the left: JO. PAULUS PANNINI MDCCXXXV. Inv.-No. GE166. Provenance: until 1791 probably owned by George Gordon, Lord Haddo; until 1969 in the possession of Major David Gordon, Earl of Haddo, Aberdeenshire; sold at auction at Sotheby’s, London, in 1969; acquired in 2001 by Russell, 1994; rince Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein.) (Information frrom Liechtenstein website.)

[2] Giovanni Paolo Panini, Capriccio View of the Arch of Constantine, the Arch of Titus and the Temple of Venus and Rome, the Colosseum, with an Obelisk, Oil on canvas, 105.2 x 98.2 cm. Signed and dated ‘I. PAVL PANINI / ROMÆ 1744’ (lower right). Provenance: Private collection, Florence.
 David Gordon of Haddo, Haddo House, Aberdeen.
 Anonymous sale; Hampel, Munich, 26 June 2014, lot 198, where acquired by the present owner. (Information from Christie’s, New York.)

[3] References to the Haddo House collection in the Batoni literature, not consulted by me, include Forbes, Sir William (1739-1806) 6th Baronet, Journal of a Continental Tour 1692–93, National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Collections, MS.1539-1545; Cosmo Gordon, A Souvenir of Haddo House, Tuffiff, 1958, unpaginated.

[4] Eileen Harris, ‘Adams in the family: Wright and Mansfield at Haddo, Guisachan, Brookhouse and Grosvenor Square’, Furniture History, vol. 32, 1996, pp. 141–158, National Trust of Scotland photos.

[5] For the Batoni, which belongs to the National Trust for Scotland and it at Haddo Hall, Aberdeenshire, see Clark and Bowron, 1985, cat. 394; Bowron, 2016, cat. 394 on pp. 497–98; the VADS record by David Taylor.

[6] In Artist and Patron in the North East 1700–1860, Aberdeen Art Gallery, 1975, cat. no. 12, the sitter was given as  George, 3rd  Earl of Aberdeen. (From Clark and Bowron and Taylor.)

[7] Russell, 1994, p. 442; Ingamells, 1997, s.v. ‘Haddo, George Gordon, Lord, 1764–91, p. 439). Russell cites Warwickshire Record Office, Warwick, Newdigate MSS.

[8] Russell, 1994, p. 442.

[9] Ingamells, 1997, p. 439.

[10] Bowron, 2016.

[11] The best online copy is from the University of Heidelberg which is the second edition, 1722. Vol. 1, after p. 24 has a different relief with Prometheus.

[12] Russell, 1994, p. 442.

[13] Russell, 1973, p. 1756.

[14] Ingamells, 1997 (or his editor), though, still gives Haddo’s date of birth as 1764.

[15] London, 1991.


[17] (

[18] Muriel E. Chamberlain, ‘Gordon, George Hamilton, fourth earl of Aberdeen (1784–1860)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004. Chamberlain is the author of M. E. Chamberlain, Lord Aberdeen: a political biography (1983) which I have not consulted. The Wikipedia version is ‘Lord Aberdeen married Catherine Elizabeth Hanson (c. 1730–March 1817 Rudding Park House), daughter of Oswald Hanson, in 1759; they had six children. According to recent sources, she was the cook at the Stafford Arms in Wakefield, and a handsome woman of 29. She apparently blackmailed him into marriage with a loaded pistol after he had seduced her.’

[19] Chamberlain, 2004.

[20] Sale Christie’s, London, 14 June 1794, Lugt 5225, Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri) (Italian), David with the head of Goliah,  seller Christie’s, sold, 4.4 pounds to ‘Aberdeen’. From Getty Provenance Index. For the painting, still at Haddo hall, see the entry by David Taylor. in VADS (Visual Arts Data Service): The essential information is: Attributed to circle of Domenichino, probably about 1620, David with the Head of Goliath, National Trust for Scotland (Haddo House), accession number 79-72. Oil on canvas, 104.1 x 74.9 cm (estimate). Purchased from the 4th Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair 1978. From Taylor’s entry: ‘Borea, E., Domenichino, Milan, 1965, p. 55, n. 56; Spear, R. E., Domenichino, New Haven and London, 1982, vol. I, p. 211-12, no. 58, n. 19. A version of the painting shows David’s left arm, still holding his sword, raised in the upper left hand corner of the canvas (Museum of Fine Art, Budapest). Evelina Borea, in her 1965 monograph, thought the Haddo picture was by Domenichino and the Budapest picture was a copy of it. However, Richard E. Spear in his 1982 monograph, says the Haddo picture has been wrongly attributed to Domenichino, and tentatively suggests it may by a Tuscan artist.’

[21] Sales at Christie’s, London, by the 3rd Earl of Aberdeen: Herman van der Myn, A pair, nymphs with satyrs, 1–2 June 1781, lot 46, £4, sold by Smith; Abraham Hondius, Venus and Adonis, 7-8 June 1782, lot 47, bought in for £1 but, successfully sold four years later: on  25-26 May 1786, lot 41, £1.8, bought Seguier; Abraham Diepenbeek, The head of our saviour, June 7–8 1782, lot 49, £3.3, bought Halked; Jan Siberechts, A landscape, with a farm yard and figures, 7–8 June 1782, lot 72, bought in for £1.6; Antonio Pellegrini, Mars and Venus, 25–26 May 1786, lot 43, ?£1.1, unknown buyer; Willem Romeyn, A farm yard, 25–26 May 1786, lot 42, £1.7, bought Seguier.

[22] Purchases at Christie’s, London, by the 3rd Earl of Aberdeen in addition to the ‘Domenichino’: Luca Giordano, Mars and Venus, 7–8 June 1782, lot 28, £1, seller Robn; Peter Lely, A whole-length portrait of the Duke of Monmouth, 11–12 March 1796, lot 11, £4.4, sold by Benjamin Van Der Gucht; this was then sold on 8-9 December 1797, lot 57, for £1.5, no buyer given.

[23] This is The Infant Christ as the Good Shepherd. See Dulwich catalogue.

[24] Christie’s, London, 9–10 May 1785, all these on 9 May, Lugt 3879; all purchased by ‘Gordon’: Lot 53, Clérisseau, Charles Louis (French), One, Clarissau [High Finished Drawings], seller Noel Joseph Desenfans, sold, 0.8 pounds; Lot 64, Panini, Giovanni Paolo (Italian), Two, Pannini [High Finished Drawings], seller Noel Joseph Desenfans, sold, 0.4 pounds; Lot 59, Vlieger, Simon De (Dutch), One, De Vlieger [High Finished Drawings], seller Noel Joseph Desenfans, sold, 0.9 pounds; Lots 62a and b, Picard (Picart) (French) and Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) (Italian), Two, Picart and Guerchino [High Finished Drawings]; seller Noel Joseph Desenfans, Sold, 0.13 pounds for both. From Getty Provenance Index.

[25] Christie’s, London, 9–10 May 1785, on 9 May, Lugt 3879, with ‘Gordon’ as seller: Lot 68,  Sandby, Paul (British), One, a view on the terrace of Windsor Castle, P. Sandby, framed and glazed [High Finished Drawings] (companion to lot 69), bought in, 11.0 pounds; Lot 69, Sandby, Paul (British), One, another view of ditto [Windsor Castle], the companion, ditto [framed & glazed] [High Finished Drawings] (companion to lot 68), bought In, 8.18 pounds. From Getty Provenance Index.

[26] Lots 70a and b, John Fyte, Dead game and a portrait, capital; and Anonymous, Dead game and a portrait, capital, 14.3 pounds.

[27] From the VADS entry by David Taylor: Circle of Panini, Giovanni Paolo, A Prison Interior (or Prison of the Inquisition). National Trust for Scotland (Haddo House). Acc. no. 79-40. Oil on canvas 59.6 x 86.3 cm (estimate). Purchased from the 4th Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair 1978. Provenance: By descent in the Gordon family. Notes: ‘The frame includes a label with a painted inscription reading ‘PRISON OF THE INQUISITION/ PANNINNI [sic]’. The NTS paintings list for Haddo House calls the artist Giovanni Paolo Pannoni ’ Description: ‘This fanciful interior was painted by an artist in the circle of the famous veduta painter Paolo Giovanni Panini (about 1692-1765). Typical of Panini’s style, the imagined prison scene shows great attention paid to architectural details and the rules of perspective. Small figures in the foreground include two monks, a washer woman and a man on all fours passing a bowl of food to an unseen person through a grill on the floor.’

[28] Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Carcere Oscura, from Prima Parte di Architettura, e Prospettive (Part One of Architecture and Perspectives), 1751. Etching, image 36.5 × 23.7 cm; inscription) 2.2 × 23.3 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1937. Accession Number: 37.45.3(5).

This entry was posted in All Posts, Architectural paintings, Architecture, Art, Baroque architecture, Catalogue of painting by G. P. Panini, Country Houses, Paintings by G. P. Panini, Rome, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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