Ennio Quirino Visconti, after 1798
Vernis mou etching. 230 x 175 mm
Inventory number: E2232
The Italian archaeologist Ennio Quirino Visconti (1751-1818) settled in Paris in 1799 and lived there until his death. Already by the age of 19, Visconti became linked to the papal court and the Vatican Library. And in the Vatican, his father, Giovanni Battista Antonio Visconti (1722-1784) also made use of his son’s help to set up the first Vatican Museum, the Museo Pio Clementino. Visconti was sympathetic to the French Revolution and actually helped to establish the Roman Republic when the French entered Rome on 11 February 1798. Thanks to his position in the Vatican he was able to supply Napoleon (1769-1821) in Paris with lists of works of art in Rome. As a token of thanks, Visconti was appointed consul in 1798. But that was not to last for long. As early as November 1799, when Neapolitan troops occupied Rome, Visconti was obliged to flee to Paris, where he found a considerable number of works of art deriving from Rome. An agreement had been made in 1797 between the Papal States and the Republic of France whereby a vast number of works of art from public collections in Rome were to be surrendered. Thorvaldsen was able to witness the fact that no delay was made in effecting the transfer. In a letter to Nicolai Abildgaard (1743-1809) in Copenhagen, Thorvaldsen tells how the sculptures are being packed. In fact, the packing had already commenced the previous year. That was before the arrival of Thorvaldsen. And so he had not had a chance of seeing them all. (Letter, late 1797).