Robert Fullerton Udny of Udny


Portrait of Robrt Udny

Portrait of Robert Udny c. 1770 Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, granted an export license in 2006-2007.


A PAINTING BY POMPEO GIROLAMO BATONI, PORTRAIT OF ROBERT UDNY The painting is oil on canvas and measures 99.7 x 74.9cm. It shows Robert Udny in half-length before a parapet, holding a hat and gloves in his right hand and a snuff box in his left. He is wearing a white frock coat and an orange waistcoat, both trimmed with gold costume and the background has a column on the left and on the right the Temple at Tivoli – one of the sites outside Rome which most serious visitors visited. The applicant had applied to export the painting to Italy. The value shown on the export licence application was £260,420, which represented the hammer price at auction plus buyer’s premium. The Assistant Curator of Baroque Paintings at the National Gallery, acting as expert adviser, had objected to the painting’s export under the third Waverley criterion on the grounds that it was of outstanding significance for the study of the work of Pompeo Batoni. The expert adviser considered that the painting’s excellent quality in execution and the sensitively captured likeness of the sitter made it one of Batoni’s finest half-length portraits. The expert adviser informed us that Robert Fullarton Udny (of Udny and Dudwick, Aberdeenshire), was a successful West Indian merchant who made his fortune by trading sugar from the West Indies. A man with scholarly interests, he was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and in 1785 was elected to the Royal Society. Udny collected principally Italian Old Master paintings and assembled a particularly distinguished collection of drawings. The portrait was commissioned by Udny while visiting Rome in 1770, and remained with his family until it was sold in July 2006. The expert adviser stated that unlike so many of Batoni’s British sitters who visited Italy in early manhood, Udny was already 48 at the time he sat for the artist. Batoni would have been aware of the importance of satisfying his client, as Udny’s Aberdeenshire links must have meant that he knew two key members of the foreign community in Rome, the Abbé Peter Grant, influential in Papal circles, and James Byres of Tonley, doyen among ciceroni. The expert adviser considered that the portrait demonstrated that even at a time when Batoni was known to have been fully stretched by commissions from patrons as important as the Emperor Joseph II, he had the artistic energy to paint this fluent and sympathetic portrait of a discerning Scottish visitor to Rome. Udny owned the Leonardo cartoon The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist, now on display in The National Gallery, and was a discerning collector of great significance in the history of British collecting. This portrait by Batoni was an important record of him. The painting was in good condition in spite of a slightly flattening relining. The applicant said that the departure of the painting from Britain would be almost entirely unmissed because it had remained in private collections of the sitter’s family and had never been publicly seen. The sitter’s contribution to British history was negligible, and the fact that the name Udny carried some resonance in art history was due not to the sitter, Robert, but to his younger brother John. Furthermore, Batoni was popular with British Grand Tourists and was very well represented in British collections. Although the painting was a very fine work in excellent condition, it did not stand within the first rank of Batoni’s works, and could not be called outstanding in general artistic terms. As there were more than 50 works by Batoni in British public collections all aspects of his work and contribution to art history were readily accessible and in the public domain. We heard this case in November when the painting was shown to us. We found that the painting was interesting, but was not of such outstanding significance that it met the Waverley criteria. An export licence was therefore issued.

DCMS, Export of Objects of Cultural Interest, 2006/2007, Case 19. [accessed 25/11/2015].

Further Information

Current Location
Current Owner
Private? (1770 - 2006)