(b Lucca, 25 Jan. 1708; d Rome, 4 Feb. 1787). Italian painter and draughtsman, the son of a distinguished goldsmith. He has been described as ‘Italy's last Old Master’ and he was certainly the last great Italian personality to dominate painting in Rome, where he spent virtually his whole career (he settled there in 1727). Initially he made his name with exquisite drawings of ancient statuary (which were much prized by antiquarians), then as a history painter, mainly of religious subjects. However, by the 1750s he was devoting most of his time to portraits and it is for these that he is principally famous. After Mengs left Rome for Madrid in 1761, Batoni's pre-eminence in this field was unchallenged, and he was particularly favoured by foreign (especially British) visitors making the Grand Tour, whom he often portrayed in an antique setting: one of his most celebrated works shows the sitter in spectacular Highland dress against a backdrop of the Colosseum (Colonel William Gordon, 1766, Fyvie Castle, Aberdeenshire, NT).
Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)