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pp. 155-164
Although the fashion had taken some years to work its way through to the highest stratum of society, it had been assisted on its journey by the habits then prevailing among the Italians, and more particularly among the Venetians. As a reaction and protest against the incessant gaieties and the thoughtless extravagances of the day, many well-placed Italians, even if comfortably endowed, had, for some years before the publication of Piranesi's etchings, maintained the thrifty but ungenial practice of not allowing their homes to be used for hospitable gatherings, or indeed for scarcely any simple social meeting wherein monetary outlay would be incurred. Every effort was made to reduce the housekeeper's expenditure to a minimum, but the leading families made it a point of honour to divert a portion of their retrenchments towards the upkeep and replenishing of family collections of works of art, and others began to study and to collect, in order to acquire stronger title to social advancement. These motives were nearly sufficient to render a fine work of art certain of obtaining proper recognition, but there was an additional incentive to collecting because the taste for gambling, always present among the idle of all countries, could be gratified by the hazard of a speculation in mining for statues and for objects of archaeological interest, and among the spoils removed in after years from Italy to the Louvre were many pieces of sculpture which Francesco Piranesi or Hamilton or Jenkins had seen dug up, and the cost of whose discovery represents an Italian noble's larder economies.
Catherine II, Augustus of Saxony, Ferdinand IV of Naples, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany specially distinguished themselves as collectors. But with Gustavus III of Sweden rests the supreme distinction of having been the first Sovereign actually to maintain at Rome a properly accredited Minister for the transaction of affairs connected with Art, for that and for no other purpose. Gustavus, while Crown Prince, had shown an early inclination towards collecting works of art. This taste had been encouraged and educated by his tutor, the cultivated Tessin, himself an ardent collector, who, in former days, while Swedish Ambassador at the Court of Louis XV, had been the friend of Boucher, and on terms of intimacy with the artistic Bohemia of Paris of that date.
Gustavus's taste for collecting increased with age; he interested himself in all matters connected with Art, properly avoiding "oil painting" as the usual and sole definition of Art, and by degrees got together a collection of objects of the utmost beauty, which he later on handed over to the Museum at Stockholm.

Now, among the foreign diplomats accredited to the Swedish King was Bianconi, Minister from the Saxon Court, and a personal friend of Piranesi. Bianconi, who wrote Piranesi's obituary notice in the Antologia Romana formed a link between the etcher and the Crown Prince of Sweden; and when the latter, after two journeys to Italy, at length determined to enrich the Stockholm Museum with specimens of the Antique, he turned for assistance to Francesco, the son of the now deceased Piranesi. Gustavus had first seen Francesco at Pisa some years before, and Francesco Piranesi thus became the Swedish Agent, formally appointed, but of course not received by the Pope, being the representative of a Protestant Sovereign.
The famous statue of Endymion at Stockholm was bought by Gustavus III at Francesco Piranesi's recommendation. It is recognised as being a fine work, and is considered to be of earlier date than that of the reign of Hadrian, from the ruins of whose Villa at Tivoli it was reported to have been dug. Whether there is ground for thinking it was the fruit of carefully sown seed, it is not necessary to discuss here in connection with Piranesi, as he was not in any way concerned with that part of the statue's possible history.
After some years, Gustavus purchased from Francesco Piranesi the collection formed by his father, paying Francesco a life annuity of 630 sequins in return, which Francesco seems to have enjoyed for perhaps fourteen years.
Giovanni Piranesi's collection contained many items, the alleged origin of which was Hadrian's Villa, and probably they had actually come from the Villa, in view of the fact that the elder Piranesi had died just before Hamilton and Jenkins began serious operations at Tivoli; and although one recalls the suspicion attached to spoils from Hadrian's Villa, it must not be forgotten that Giovanni Piranesi had himself investigated and surveyed the Villa at about the time of Adam's visit in 1757. With the collection were sent to Stockholm two catalogues of the various items it contained. They describe accurately how the articles had passed into Giovanni Piranesi's possession, and give the names of their restorers, and state what restorations had been carried out.
Continual streams of Art treasures from Rome at length roused the Papal authorities into action, and Clement XIV and Pius VI, each in turn, placed legal restrictions against the removal of masterpieces for the purpose of sale and export. Papal funds, at this juncture, were instrumental in founding the Pio-Clementino Museum, and Clement XIV went so far as to appoint a competent person, Visconti, to superintend all archaeological excavations within the limits of Papal territory. Pius VI took great interest in archaeological research, assisting Francesco Piranesi, who dedicated to him a series of etchings of temples. The frontispiece of the series bears the portrait of Pius VI, together with indications of that Pope having been the restorer of the Appian Way, and the benefactor of the Pio-Clementino Museum.

Thus, the father having played his part in kindling the antiquarian taste of Europe, his son, Francesco Piranesi, completes the work of assisting to bring the desire for the possession of masterpieces to such a pitch as to awake eventually a sense of duty which compelled the Papal Government to join in the search, and at the same time to place itself at the head of the investigations, with a view not only of preventing dispersion beyond Italy, but of filling the Pio-Clementino Museum.
After the assassination of Gustavus III, Francesco Piranesi's position changed considerably: he became a sort of Swedish Consul. The Duke of Sudermania, Regent for Gustavus Adolphus IV, desiring to rid himself of a certain Count Gustav Armfelt, sent that nobleman on a mission to the Italian Court. Lady Holland met him at Florence, and speaks of him as "Armfelt with the white handkerchief round his arm, a pose which gained him considerable female interest." Francesco attached himself officially to Armfelt. Although Sweden had never varied in her chivalrous attachment to the Bourbons, Armfelt was under strict orders not to meddle with matters connected with the French émigrés many of whom had been his friends in earlier days. These orders Armfelt disregarded.
Piranesi then played the spy on Armfelt, writing frequent dispatches to the Government at Stockholm on the condition of affairs at Rome. This correspondence is in the Royal Archives at Stockholm, and it affords a peep, from an interesting angle, into the history of what was alleged to be going on in Rome during the period of the French Revolution.
Francesco was not, it seems, a man possessed of too acute a sense of honour, and, although it cannot be proved positively that such was really the case, I am inclined to think that a considerable number of the etchings bearing his name published by him after his father's death were simply etched by Francesco from carefully drawn detailed plans made by his father. This refers particularly to some of the Herculaneum and Pantheon plates signed by Francesco, and I am of the opinion that he deliberately concealed the fact that he owed anything, and perhaps everything, in connection with those plates, to material provided by his father. My view is moreover strengthened by the fact that Tipaldo does not regard the Theatre of Herculaneum plates as other than the father's work--he entirely ignores Francesco in relation to them. He bases his opinions on those of Bianconi, who was, as has been previously stated, personally acquainted with Giovanni Piranesi.
Having exhausted the possibilities of the unworthy intrigues attached to his office as spy, Francesco Piranesi sank into depths of an even more unsavoury nature, by acting as an official for the administration of the finances of the Roman Republic, after Rome had been occupied by the French. Michaud is unsupported in the statement that he was sent as Minister to France. His friend Ennio Quirino Visconti, however, had allowed himself to be made a Consul when the Roman Republic was set up. When Napoleon removed to France some of the finest specimens of ancient art, Visconti took them to Paris, where he was employed as Conservateur des Antiques, and in 1814 was among the first to detect the super- lative merit of the Elgin marbles.




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