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Macpherson portraits - sixth group

Today the most important group of artists’ self-portraits is in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence. This collection, founded by Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici in the mid-seventeenth century, today totals over 1,600 self-portraits which are displayed chronologically along the Vasari Corridor connecting the Galleria degli Uffizi and the Palazzo Pitti. Some were commissioned directly from living artists, others gifted by foreign rulers or sourced via agents across Europe.

In the 1760s, George, 3rd Earl Cowper (1738–89), a notable art collector based in Florence, commissioned the Italian-born Giuseppe Macpherson to paint a series of miniature copies of the Uffizi self-portraits, which were subsequently presented by Cowper to George III in two batches.

At the time of Macpherson’s commission they were displayed together in the Uffizi in standardised frames in a large room known as the ‘Painters’ Room’ which faced the octagonal Tribuna. Macpherson’s copies follow the originals closely, sometimes cropped to fit the head-and-shoulders oval format. The current mounts were probably added in the nineteenth century. The subject’s name is written on the back of each miniature. Into this Hall of Fame, Macpherson has inserted his own likeness, which is suitably inscribed ‘Giuseppe Macpherson / Autore della serie’.

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