The greatest paintings in today's most famous museums were once part of a fluid exchange determined by volatile political fortunes. In the first half of the 17th century, masterpieces by Titian, Raphael, and Leonardo, among others, were the objects of fervent pursuit by art connoisseurs. Francis Haskell traces the fate of collections extracted from Italy, Spain, and France by King Charles I and his circle, which, after a brief stay in Britain, were largely dispersed after the Civil War to princely galleries across the Continent. From vivid case studies of individual collectors, advisers, and artists, and acute analysis of personality and motive, Haskell challenges ideas about this episode in British cultural life and traces some of the factors that forever changed the artistic map of Europe.
Francis Haskell (1928-2000) was one of the most influential art historians of the 20th century. He expanded the discipline to include the study of patronage and collecting, the formation of museums and canons of taste, the idea of revival and of illustration. He was professor of art history at the University of Oxford from 1967 until his retirement in 1995.