James Campbell of Baker Street


Venus bound by two Putti

Venus being bound by two putti, by Pietro Liberi, oil on canvas, sold by Christie's London in 2003. The Lot Essay suggests that James Campbell, the descendant of Colin Campbell the third son of Dugald Campbell, had received a set of paintings from Joseph Bonaparte, including the Pietro Liberi painting. The painting, and others, were certainly sold by James Campbell through Christie's 25/06/1831. The Lot Essay from 2003 gives the provenance as James G. Campbell (1786-1836 [sic]) of New Hope and Albany London.


Joseph Bonaparte, the elder brother of Napoleon, formed his first art collection as King of Naples from March 1806. He was proclaimed King of Spain in 1808 and during his short reign gave away a number of works from the Spanish royal collections, among them Murillo's Marriage of the Virgin (London, Wallace Collection). In 1813 he was defeated at the Battle of Vitoria by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who captured a number of his baggage wagons loaded with pictures. These included such masterpieces as Correggio's Agony in the Garden and Velázquez's Waterseller of Seville; they entered Wellington's collection and are now at Apsley House, London. After the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815 Joseph fled to the United States, where he lived under the pseudonym the Comte de Survilliers. He took with him nearly two hundred paintings that were to enhance his property at Point Breeze on the Delaware - the original building at which was partly destroyed by fire in 1820 and replaced with a classical mansion. To provide an income, he gradually sold off the collection in New York - for instance Titian's Tarquin and Lucretia (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum) and a Murillo Virgin (Houston, Museum of Fine Arts) - and in London, where he stayed in 1832 and 1835. On returning to Europe in 1839 Joseph brought back the principal works remaining in his collection. Some sixty paintings still at Point Breeze at Joseph's death were sold there in August 1845.

James Campbell was a descendant of the 3rd son of Dugald Campbell of Torblaren and Kilmorie, Colin Campbell, who had emigrated to Jamaica in the early eighteenth century, where he acquired a considerable estate at New Hope. Family tradition holds that James was a friend of Joseph Bonaparte, and that, following Point Breeze's rebuilding after the fire of 1820, Joseph gave a group of pictures for which he no longer had room to Campbell, some of which were put up for auction by the latter at Christie's in 1831. The present work had been included in that auction, but was withdrawn prior to its sale, being Campbell's favourite. Not included in the 1831 sale, but nonetheless a part of Campbell's collection, was the copy of the Venus d'Urbino recorded as having been in Joseph's collection (to be offered on behalf of the present vendor, Christie's, South Kensington, 10 April 2003, lot 216), strongly suggesting that there was indeed some veracity to the family tradition.

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