Search results

Start typing

A woodcut showing the Emperor Maximilian in a triumphal chariot.
This large woodcut, over 2 metres in length, was originally planned as part of a huge printed frieze. The work, undertaken by a team of designers and woodblock cutters, was to show a triumph
Highlights from the print collection

An introduction to the print collection of the Royal Collection

History of the Cassiano Collection

The Paper Museum has had an unusually complex history since Cassiano’s death in 1657. It passed first to Carlo Antonio, who played a significant role in augmenting and arranging the collection. Ill health seems to have brought Carlo Antonio’s collecting to a halt in 1685, for no material in the Paper Museum can be dated after that year. On Carlo Antonio’s death the collection was inherited in turn by his son Gabriele and grandson Cosimo Antonio, who in 1703 sold the Paper Museum to Pope Clement XI for the Vatican Library.

The terms of the sale, according to which the Vatican Library was to repay the papal treasury in full within three years the sum of 4,500 Roman scudi that had been paid for the collection, could not be met by the Library, resulting in the selling on of the collection in 1714 to the pope’s nephew, Cardinal Alessandro Albani. In 1762 the greater part of the cardinal’s collection of drawings and prints was acquired by George III and shipped to England. (Eight volumes of botanical and mycological drawings from the Dal Pozzo collection remained in the Albani library in Rome until their requisition by the French in 1798, and are today in the library of the Institut de France in Paris.)

Material now held elsewhere

Most of the Paper Museum is therefore now to be found in the Print Room at Windsor Castle, but there have been major depletions. Six volumes from the Paper Museum, containing 803 largely architectural drawings, found their way into the collection of the king’s architect Robert Adam; those albums were bought at the sale of Adam’s collection in 1818 by Sir John Soane, and are now in Sir John Soane’s Museum. These drawings have already been published and are therefore not included in the Cassiano catalogue series (Lynda Fairbairn, Italian Renaissance Drawings from the Collection of Sir John Soane’s Museum, 2 vols, London 1998).

Further material from George III’s purchase entered the private collection of the king’s librarian Richard Dalton, at whose sale in 1791 the Scottish lawyer John MacGowan bought at least four Dal Pozzo albums; these were purchased by the antiquary and collector Charles Townley at MacGowan's sale in 1804, and eventually sold in 1865 by Charles Townley's descendant John Townley. Of Townley's Paper Museum drawings, 638 antiquarian drawings passed to the British Museum in 1903 through Sir Augustus Franks (Keeper of the British Museum's Department of British and Medieval Antiquities). Upon Franks' death in 1897 the drawings passed to his successor Charles H. Read, who in turn presented them to the British Museum. These are the so-called ‘Franks’ and ‘New’ drawings in the Department of Greece and Rome and the ‘Townley Album’ in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan). A further two albums from Charles Townley's collection, containing 410 antiquarian drawings, were acquired indirectly following the same 1865 John Townley sale by Sir William Stirling-Maxwell and broken up at auction in London in 1990.

Cassiano in the Royal Collection

In the 1820s, when most of George III’s library was given to the nation, George IV retained his father’s collection of drawings (including many Dal Pozzo albums) and the King’s Military collection (which by then incorporated about 400 prints from the Paper Museum), and some albums of ‘artistic’ prints, including the ‘Dutch Drolls’ and several albums of portraits from the Dal Pozzo purchase. But thirteen volumes of more ‘documentary’ prints, one volume of fortification drawings, and the Dal Pozzo topographical prints and maps which had been incorporated into George III’s topographical collection, all went to the British Museum (and are now in the British Library).

During the reign of Queen Victoria, the Dal Pozzo albums of portrait prints were broken up and their contents amalgamated with portrait prints from other sources, and distributed alphabetically in portfolios within the Print Room. The sale at the start of the twentieth century of most of the foreign non-royal portrait prints thus resulted in the loss of many of the Dal Pozzo portrait prints, though the English non-royal portrait prints and the royal prints (mostly French) were fortuitously retained, and the contents of the dispersed albums can be partly reconstructed from the detailed inventories of George III’s prints and drawings compiled c.1800-20. A final dispersal of material from the main body of the Paper Museum that had been retained in the Royal Collection took place after the First World War, when a large number of the natural history volumes and further antiquarian drawings were sold from the Royal Library at the behest of the then Royal Librarian, Sir John Fortescue.

For further details on the dispersal of the Paper Museum see Henrietta McBurney, 'The later history of Cassiano dal Pozzo’s “Museo cartaceo”’, The Burlington Magazine, cxxxi, no. 1037, August 1989, pp. 549–53. For George III's purchase from Cardinal Albani see J. Fleming, ‘Cardinal Albani’s drawings at Windsor: Their purchase by James Adam for George III’, The Connoisseur, CXLII, 1958, pp. 164–9

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.