About this artwork

James Bruce was, at six feet four inches tall, an impressive figure. He was an explorer, archeologist and a brilliant linguist. In 1762 he spent six months in Italy where Batoni painted this glowing portrait. Bruce's travels subsequently took him to North Africa, Crete, Syria, Egypt and Abyssinia. He is best known for his exploration of the sources of the Nile, reaching the headstream of the Blue Nile in 1770.

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni

Batoni, a native of Lucca, was the son of a goldsmith. He began in his father's workshop but left for Rome in 1727 where he soon acquired a reputation for making fine drawings after the antique, which were often bought by British visitors. During his long career, Batoni executed altarpieces for the Roman churches and history paintings. In the 1750s he turned to portraiture, specialising in providing British gentlemen with a souvenir of their Grand Tour. His sitters are usually posed against a backdrop of Rome or beside some antique fragments, and appear effortlessly at ease with their classical surroundings.