The Archbishop’s Piranesis: an unlikely collection for nineteenth-century Melbourne?

Dr Colin Holden

The lecture focuses on the greatest single collection of art among the Baillieu Library’s Rare Books, which is a complete set of the works of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78) whose images of classical ruins and Roman baroque streetscapes distil much of the culture of the eighteenth-century Grand Tour, and are masterpieces of eighteenth-century printmaking. Besides their intrinsic aesthetic value, the provenance of this set has an interesting connection with the University — they were part of the library of James Alipius Goold (1812-86), the first Catholic archbishop of Melbourne and a founding member of the University’s Council. This lecture examines their wider context: Goold’s extensive library, his training in Italy, collecting of art and interest in classical architecture, and the presence in several other nineteenth-century Melbourne homes and collections of works by Piranesi — including one other complete set of his prints. Ultimately, the presence of such works in Melbourne by the 1860s was one sign among many of the cultural sophistication that followed in the wake of the gold rush.

Dr Colin Holden is a Senior Fellow of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. His research as Redmond Barry Fellow at the University of Melbourne for 2010-11 on the Piranesi holdings at these two major institutions resulted in his appointment as a curator at the State Library to oversee a major exhibition there of Piranesi’s works in 2014, an exhibition in which the Baillieu Library will be the major partner. His publication lists includes seven substantial books, including The Outsider: A Portrait of Ursula Hoff (Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne 2009) and Lionel Lindsay in Spain: An Antipodean Abroad (Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2003). He has guest-curated exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Geelong Gallery, and is currently curator of In Search of the Picturesque — the Architectural Ruin in Art (Geelong Gallery, 21 April-24 June).

The Joseph Burke Lecture in Art History was established in honour of the first Herald Chair of Fine Arts at the University of Melbourne, Professor Sir Joseph Burke.

Date: 6:30pm, May 2nd, 2012

Venue: Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre, University of Melbourne