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Horne, Herbert P.

    Image Credit: Penny's Poetry

    Full Name: Horne, Herbert P.

    Other Names:

    • Herbert Percy Horne

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1864

    Date Died: 1916

    Place Born: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Place Died: Palazzo Corsini, Florence, Italy

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): Italian (culture or style), Italian Renaissance-Baroque styles, and Renaissance

    Career(s): art collectors


    Art collector and historian of Italian Renaissance art. Horne was the son of Horace Horne (d. 1894) and Hannah Louisa Gibson (Horne) (d. 1903). His father was a practicing architect. He attended the Kensington grammar school where the art critic for the Birmingham Post, D. Barron Brightwell (1834-1899), first introduced Horne to art. Horne then apprenticed to the architect George Vigers in London. Horne moved to the studio of Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo (1851-1942 ), becoming a partner in the 1880s. A social visionary, Mackmurdo, like William Morris, founded the Century Guild in 1882 with the artist Selwyn Image (1849-1930)–and likely Horne–to promote crafts of decoration and book publishing as fine arts. The Century Guild published the periodical The Hobby Horse, between 1884 and 1894, dedicated to fine design. Horne had read the Studies in the History of the Renaissance by Walter Pater which emphasized an aesthetic approach to art. Privately a libertine, his personal life amounted to frequenting bars and keeping numerous mistresses in a bohemian lifestyle. He was frequently in contact with Oscar Wilde between 1886 and 1891. Horne’s interest turned to Renaissance art in earnest. He met the art historian and Bernard Berenson in 1888 and the (then Italian renaissance) art scholar Roger Fry. In 1889 he traveled to north Italy to study architecture for a commission. In England, he lived with his parents until 1890s when he fitted himself out with an aesthete’s apartment replete with Renaissance prints. Horne left Mackmurdo in 1892 to practice on his own, designing buildings in a vague quattrocento style. Using an 1894 commission of George Bell & Sons intended for a popular treatment on Botticelli, Bell moved to Italy to study the artist seriously. From then on, Italian art history became the focus of his life. He sold his collection British of works on paper, including an important group of Alexander Cozens in order to remain in Florence. In Italy in 1897 he conducted tours of the monuments to Britishers such as Mary Costelloe (later Mary Berenson) and Julia Ady. In 1901 the first of two articles on Botticelli’s Adoration in the first issue of the Burlington Magazine. Horne moved permanently to Italy in 1904. He published his most important book in 1908, on Botticelli, in a small edition, dedicated to Pater. Fry’s elegant review in the Burlington Magazine of the same year praised Horne’s analysis. In Florence he developed his art dealing, partnering sometimes acerbically with Fry and Berenson, facilitating and possibly an accomplice to smuggling art works to Italy to Britain and the United States. He bought and restored the Palazzo Corsi in 1911, a fifteenth-century edifice which he transformed into a living museum of renaissance life. The same year he sold the Baltimore collector Henry Walters the magnificent Entombment predella by Giovanni di Paolo. The Hamburg art historian Aby M. Warburg visited a dying Horne in 1915, occupying only the tiniest rooms in his palazzo. Berenson’s wife, Mary Berenson convinced Horne to leave the palazzo to the Italian state, which he did as “Museo Horne.” Horne died there in 1916 and is buried in the Gli Allori (protestant) cemetery in Florence. Horne’s art history, clearest in his Botticelli is a narrative parsed with personalized descriptions of the paintings. His approach was compatible with Berenson and Fry, i.e., centered on the formal qualities, assigning attribution, and identifying the details in the manner of Giovanni Morelli. Horne’s archival research, unlike Berenson or Fry, was solid and stated in a forthright manner. As contrasting scholars as the museum curator John Pope-Hennessy and Warburg scholar Fritz Saxl, praised Horne’s works years after his death (1979 and 1944). Leopold D. Ettlinger described Horne’s Botticelli in 1978 as “one of the finest and still unsurpassed art-historical books ever written.” John Rothenstein was wary of his personal traits. Horne’s contrasting personality of scholar and bohemian (in her diaries Mary Berenson alluded to his bisexuality) makes his life difficult to characterize.

    Selected Bibliography

    “The Story of a Famous Botticelli.” Monthly Review (February 1902): 133-145; “A Lost ‘Adoration of the Magi’ by Sandro Botticelli.” Burlington Magazine 1 no. 1 (March 1903): 63-74; The Life of Leonardo da Vinci, by Giorgio Vasari, done into English from the Text of the Second Edition of the “Lives”. London: At the Sign of the Unicorn/Edinburgh: Morrison and Gibb, 1903; translated, Condivi, Ascanio. The Life of Michelagnolo Buonarroti collected by Ascanio Condivi da la Ripa Transone. Boston: Merrymount Press, 1904; Alessandro Filipepi, Commonly Called Sandro Botticelli, Painter of Florence. London: G. Bell & sons, 1908; A Lost Adoration of the Magi, by Sandro Botticelli.” Burlington Magazine 16 no. 79 (October 1909): 40-41; “Botticelli’s Last Communion of S. Jerome.” Burlington Magazine 28 ( 1915): 44-46; Some Considerations of the Nature of Fine Art. San Francisco: Harold Seeger, Lawton Kennedy, Albert Sperisen, 1947 [paper read at Whitechapel Craft School in Little Alie Street, London, 1891];


    Fletcher, Ian. “Herbert Horne: The Earlier Phase.” English Miscellany 21 (1970): 117-157; Exhibition of the Herbert Horne Collection of Drawings. London: Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1916; Saxl, Fritz. “Three ‘Florentines:’ Herbert Horne, Aby Warburg, Jacques Mesnil.” Lectures, vol. 1. 1957, pp. 331-344; Fletcher, Ian. Herbert Horne: the Earlier Phase. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1970; Codell, Julie Francia. Chelsea Bohemian: Herbert Percy Horne, the Critic as Artist. Ph.D., dissertation, Indiana University, 1978; Ettlinger, Leopold. [Review of Ronald Lightbown’s Botticelli]. Burlington Magazine 121, no. 920 (November 1979): 729; -Pope-Hennessy, John. “Introduction.” Horne, Herbert P. Botticelli: Painter of Florence Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980, pp. ix-xiii; Codell, Julie. “Horne’s Botticelli: Pre-Raphaelite Modernity, Historiography and the Aesthetic of Intensity.” Journal of Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic Studies 2 (1989): 27-41; Fletcher, Ian. Rediscovering Herbert Horne: Poet, Architect, Typographer, Art Historian. Greensboro, NC: ELT Press, 1990; Codell, Julie, “Herbert Horne,” 1890s Encyclopedia of Art, Literature & Culture. New York: Garland, 1993, pp. 284-5; Preyer, Brenda Isabel. Il Palazzo Corsi-Horne: dal Diario di restauro di H.P. Horne. Rome: Istituto poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, Libreria della Stato, 1993; Chaney, Edward, and Hall, Jane. “Herbert Horne’s 1889 Diary of his First Visit to Italy.” The Sixty-fourth Volume of the Walpole Society (2002): 69-82; Crawford, Alan. “Horne, Herbert Percy (1864-1916).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.


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