Franciszek Smuglewicz’s ‘James Byres of Tonley and his family’: A Scottish Antiquarian Network in Eighteenth-Century Rome: 29th November 2016

A Paper Presented by Dr Lucinda Lax:

On 29th November 2016, the Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshop was delighted to welcome Dr Lucinda Lax, Senior Curator of 18th Century Collections at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  Lucinda is a graduate of the University of York.  Her doctoral research focussed on Edward Penny (1714-1791), first Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy 1768-1782.  Since her appointment to the SNPG in January 2014, she has developed a particular interest in the Scottish Diaspora and recently curated the Gallery’s Scots in Italy exhibition.  Her paper considered Franciszek Smuglewicz’s painting of James Byres of Tonley and his family.

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In late 18th century Rome, James Byres of Tonley (1734-1817) was the foremost tour guide of his day, celebrated in equal measure for his knowledge of art, architecture and history. The Aberdeenshire born Byres was the antiquarian’s antiquarian.  In 1766, he even started work on pioneering research into Etruscan tombs.  Amongst his illustrious clients, he numbered Edward Gibbon, the Hon.  Charles Greville and the Fifth Duke of Devonshire.  For twenty-five years, following the death of the English antiquarian James Russel, Byres was the leading Cicerone of his day. But what was the secret of his success? How was he able to exploit social, political, and even sexual networks?  In this fascinating paper, Lucinda argued that it was Byres’s ability to manipulate these networks which made him as much Cicerone as art dealer and cultural intermediary.

Franciszek Smuglevicz, James Byres of Tonley and members of his family (About 1780)

https://www.nationalgalleries.org/portraitgallery

Smuglewicz’s group portrait provides valuable context.  It was painted in about 1776-78. Byres is shown standing on the left.  On his right hand side, her hand on his shoulder, stands his sister, the recently widowed Isabella Sandilands. In the centre of the group are Byres’ parents: Patrick, standing to the left, cane in hand, and seated on the right,his bonneted wife Jane, whose upwards gaze is directed towards her son.  Patrick Byres was one of a number of Jacobite Scots who had fled to the continent after the failure of the 1745 Jacobite rising, which culminated in Culloden.  On the extreme right of the painting, James Byres’ business associate Charles Norton, looks on.  The inclusion in the picture of a non-family member may suggest a quasi-family relationship.  The backdrop to the painting is important:  a bust “not entirely unlike Charles Edward (Stuart)” sits in an alcove on the right hand side.  On the left, a sculptural representation of Ganymede looks down between father and son. The presence of several King Charles spaniels, rather than the more traditional Italian greyhound (often found in pictures of this type and period) may also be significant. Jacobitism, as Lucinda argued, re-enforces our understanding of the painting.  A second version of the portrait now in a private collection, provides a further insight into context.  Janet Byres sits pontifically enthroned, as it were, in the centre of the group whilst Saint Peter’s Basilica provides a conspicuous backdrop.

The prominence of Saint Peter’s may be significant. It is probable that the young James Byres converted to Catholicism during his time in Rome.  He arrived a Presbyterian but quickly came within the orbit of Andrew Lumisden, private secretary to James Francis Stuart.  Lumisden was well placed to assist fellow Scots.  Byres’s conversion to Catholicism would undoubtedly have reinforced Byres’s standing in the Jacobite community. The Lumisden circle included Colin Morison with whom Byres shared a house in the Strada Paolina.  With the death of James Russel in 1763, both Byres and Morison were well placed to fill the place vacated by Russel.  Their Jacobite connections gave them a crucial advantage over their English rivals.  A further key to Byres’ success was his manner.  Byres considered his clients not as his social superiors but as his equals.

There is another important clue in Smuglewicz’s’ picture.  Byres holds a copy of J. Rocque’s 1750 Map of Rome.  A closer examination reveals that Byres is pointing at the Mausoleum of Augustus (numbered 8 on the Map).  As Lucinda suggested, this appears to be an explicit reference to Byres’s profession as both Cicerone and antiquarian. It also highlights his particular interest in architecture.  Byres had originally trained with the German Bohemian Painter, Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779) but, whilst remaining on cordial terms with Mengs, he abandoned his studies and turned to architecture.  In 1762, he won third prize in an architectural competition and six years later was elected to the Academia San Luca.  Byres was a highly skilled architectural draughtsman.

Whilst he may have achieved modest architectural success, Byres developed a further – lucrative – sideline to his Cicerone business.  He became an art dealer and consultant on antiques.  The cultivated young tourists, with whom Byres came in contact, represented opportunities for gain.  Byres became a broker for Pompeo Batoni, amongst others.  His dealing activities including handling the Portland Vase.  As Lucinda argued, the presence of the non-family member, Charles Norton, in the Smuglewicz painting becomes even more significant.  Norton had trained as an artist at the St Martins Lane academy. He effectively acted as Byres’s fixer and enforcer.  Moreover, he shared the Strada Paolina residence with Byres and Morison.

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Lucinda revealed James Byres as a multi-faceted character who had access to a number of important networks in late 18th century Rome and knew how to use them.  Her excellent talk provoked questions and generated animated discussion.  The complex world of James Byres of Tonley provides fertile ground for further research.

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‘Toil and Care under the Scorching Sun’: Scots in Jamaica, 1776-1838.

On Monday 17 October, the Graduate Workshop was delighted to welcome Dr Stephen Mullen, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow.  His paper considered Scottish emigration to the Caribbean in the late 18th and early 19th century within its social and economic context. He adopted a transatlantic approach.

Stephen argued that levels of emigration from Scotland to the West Indies increased in the first third of the 19th century.  In the absence of Scottish port statistics during this period, precise quantification is problematic but contemporary advertisements from the Glasgow Herald suggest that between 1806 and 1834, 1742 ships made the transatlantic journey from the Clyde to the Caribbean, of which approximately 600 were bound for Jamaica.  An approach based on earlier work by Allan Karras and Douglas Hamilton (in relation to the second half of the 18th century), points to between 3000 and 5500 Scottish sojourners travelling to Jamaica alone during this period. Kingston was the most popular port of arrival. In 1774, the planter historian, Edward Long, had estimated that one third of the 18,000 (white) inhabitants of the island were either Scots or descended from Scots, a view endorsed by Lady Nugent a generation later. In 1801, she wrote, “Almost all the agents, attornies [sic], merchants and shopkeepers, are of that country [Scotland] and really do deserve to thrive in this, they are so industrious.”

A Scottish presence on the island was re-in forced by Scottish institutions, notably the Kingston Masonic Lodge of St Andrews, the Presbyterian Kirk (also St Andrews), and, arguably, the use of Scots law in order to secure the repatriation of wealth to the home country.  Attempts to establish a Scots Kirk were initially resisted in the Jamaican assembly but evidence of rapid and successful fundraising suggests a broadly based and relatively affluent Scots community within Kingston and other parts of the island. St. Andrews Kirk was opened in 1819. The first three ministers of the Kirk, were educated at Old College in Edinburgh; the third minister, James Wordie, established a st-andrews-scots-kirk-1local Sunday school.

As Stephen observed, the Scottish emigrant was typically a”sojourner in the sun”: the single young man who had travelled to the West Indies “less  in quest of fame than of fortunes” (pace Long) but whose principal motivation was to return to his native land in affluent middle age to enjoy and – when the time was right – transmit his new found wealth.  The motive of the sojourner raises the mechanism of repatriation of capital as much inter vivos as post mortem.  The example of Andrew Taylor, an upwardly mobile overseer on the York estate in Trelawney, is a case in point.   In the 1820s, Taylor’s correspondence provides evidence suggesting that he was making provision for family members in his native land in the event of his not returning to Scotland.  Stephen argued that Scottish merchants played a pivotal role in the transmission of wealth.  They were able to convey bills of exchange to Scotland and, on the death of a Scots testator, were well placed to act as executors.

How wealthy were these sojourners in the sun?  How much wealth did they repatriate?  And what was its impact on the Scottish economy?  Stephen’s recent work has comprised an analysis of the wills and inventories in Scottish archives.  They provide first hand evidence of the nature of repatriation of wealth and the extent of  individual fortunes.  Of the “super rich” William Rae had a fortune approaching that of William Beckford. Scots law, Stephen argued, provided a means of channelling Scots wealth.

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Our next Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshop will take place on Tuesday 1 November at 1 pm in G 16 in the William Robertson Wing of the School of History Classics and Archaeology (Doorway 4)

Sean Murphy of the University of St Andrews investigates the apparent enthusiasm for Scottish literature and Lowland Scots language within the United States.  His paper highlights the manner in which Scots forms were seen to set an example for the development of an American English.

Sean’s paper is entitled :

“Imprest on vellum”: Lowland language and the early American republic, c. 1800-1830.

All are most welcome to attend.

Alastair Learmont

Business, Farming and Jolly Good Times: 4 October 2016

On Tuesday 4 October, the Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshop welcomed Shane Smith, a third year PhD student from the University of Northumbria.  Shane’s paper, entitled “Business, Farming and Jolly Good Times”, charted the migration of the British and Irish soldiers to the Perth settlement in Upper Canada between 1815 and 1850.

Perth, south-west of Ottawa, formed the focal point of significant military re-settlement in the years immediately after the Napoleonic wars.  Between 1815 and 1831, 1425 soldiers, together with their wives and children, settled in Perth. From the early 1830s, the balance shifted significantly to civilian emigration.

land-grants

Examples of Land Grants: Libraries and Archives Canada, Upper Canada Land Petitions, Volume 421, Microfilm 2739, Folio 48 e (Shane Smith)

The central contention of Shane’s paper was that a small group within the military elite was well placed to dominate the administration, agriculture and business of an evolving community.  Its members also played a pivotal role within the social life of the settlement.   Seniority within the military enabled former officers to benefit from sizable grants of land of as much as 1000 acres.  Allocation was essentially based on a tariff system according to seniority.  In addition, all former military personnel could reasonably expect to receive one acre of land within the urban community of Perth.  Shane considered the involvement and advancement of notable individuals in the civic life of Perth including Roderick Matheson and Anthony Lesley. The military, he argued, formed part of an interconnected world where patronage played a vital role.

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Our next Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshop takes place on Monday 17 October when Dr Stephen Mullen of the University of Glasgow will speak on the emigration of Scots to the Caribbean between 1776 and 1838.  His paper is entitled “Toil and Care under the Scorching Sun:  Scots in Jamaica, 1776-1838”.