Robert Fagan

Life
1767-1816 [occas. Faghan in Italian]; diplomat, archaeologist and amateur portrait-painter; consul-general in Palermo for Sicily and Ionian islands; took part in excavations nr. Laurentum with Corbert and Jenkins, resulting in discovery of the Venus at the Capitoline which William IV presented to the British Museum; also shared in the discovery of a Mithraeum with statuary at Ostia Fagan, 1797; travelled to Sicily with family, 1807; conducted archaeological digs at Tyndaris, 1808, and Selinus, 1809-10; portraits of travelling English families; purchased Claude’s “Landing of Aeneas” and ‘Sacrifice of Apollo’ from Prince Altieri and refused to deliver them up to French authorities, being imprisoned in consequence but succeeded in conveying the paintings to Palermo; exhibited three portraits in the Royal Academy; a portrait of “Lady Acton and her Children” discovered in modern times; the British Library holds his manuscript work, The Island of Sicily Reflecting its Antiquities; his romantic self-portrait of self and wife (uncovered) is in the National Gallery of Ireland. ODNB

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Criticism
See also Ann Cruikshank and the Knight of Glin, Irish Portraits 1600-1860 [Catalogue] (Belfast: Ulster Museum 1969) [infra]; R. Trevelyan, ‘Robert Fagan, an Irish Bohemian in Italy’, in Apollo (Oct. 1972), pp.298-31.

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Commentary
Ann Cruikshank & The Knight of Glin, Irish Portraits 1600-1860 [Catalogue] (1969), notices ‘his newly discovered “Lady Acton and Her Children”, showing the family on an antique seat with receding background of Palermo ... neo-classical style ... deserves more study’ (p.19).

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References
W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; this edn. 1984), remarks on Robert Fagan, b. Cork, c.1745, archaeologist and collector as well as painter; participated in excavations with Sir Corbet Corbert and Thomas Jenkins nr. Laurentum in the 1790s, entailing the discovery of the Venus at the Capitoline presented to the British Library by William the IV. He shared in the discovery of a Mithraeum with statuary at Ostia Fagan in 1797. In 1807 he went to Sicily with his family, digging at Tyndaris in 1808 and Selinus in 1809-10. His MS, The Island of Sicily Reflecting Its Antiquities, is in the British Museum. Fagan’s name sometimes appears as Faghan in Italian archives. [140; 143]

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