The Earl of Manchester, 1662–1722
Charles Montagu, fourth earl and later first duke of Manchester, displayed a connoisseurship that was shaped and informed by his experiences as a diplomat. He was a follower of French fashion, but his cultural patronage also included Italian artists, architects, upholsterers, and cabinet-makers, and he proved himself to be a fervent patron of Italian music. Many of Manchester’s Italian purchases and commissions pre-date the more widespread shift that occurred in the second decade of the eighteenth century, when sections of the British social and political elite turned to Italy rather than France for cultural superiority; this makes Manchester’s relatively early Italian patronage significant. Were his choices connected to the Whig/Tory argument? This chapter looks closely at his patronage of architecture, painting, music, furniture, and textiles and finds that his artistic consumption was informed by an appreciation for talent and novelty, political ambition and pragmatism, and, above all, opportunity.
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