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Sir Abraham Hume Correspondence



Sir Abraham Hume Correspondence



Archive reference number



The collection contains correspondence between Abraham Hume and the art dealers Giovanni Maria Sasso, in Venice, and Giovanni Antonio Armano, in Bologna, in addition to a few other agents and dealers based in Italy. The correspondence relates to the acquisition of works for Hume's art collection as well as mineralogical specimens and includes discussion of works by, or attributed to Tintoretto, Titian, Giorgione, and others which were offered to or acquired by Abraham Hume.

The collection also includes lists of paintings in Hume's collection, and later at Ashridge Park, where they passed by inheritance to his grandson Viscount Alford (1812-1851).

There are also hand-written and typed summaries [in English] of the contents of some of the letters, written by Robert Cust, in addition to transcripts of the letters from Giovanni Maria Sasso to Abraham Hume, made by Linda Borean in 2003.

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Administrative history

Abraham Hume Bt., art collector and politician (1749-1838), was born in London. He represented Petersfield in Parliament from 1774-1780 and Hastings from 1807-1818.

Hume began collecting art as early as the 1770s and continued to acquire works into the early years of the nineteenth century. He travelled in Italy in 1788. His collection included a large number of works by Titian, a significant number of works by Rubens and Van Dyck in addition to works by Rembrandt, Bellini, A and L Carracci, Velazquez, Conegliano, Catena, and other Dutch and Italian artists of the 16th and 17th centuries. Many of his Italian paintings were acquired through the Italian dealers Giovanni Maria Sasso and Giovanni Antonio Armano. His collection included only a few works by English and French artists. A Descriptive Catalogue of the collection was published in 1824.

Two pictures which were once part of Hume's collection are now in the National Gallery: Van Dyck 'Portrait of a Woman and Child' [NG3011] and Titian 'The Death of Actaeon' [NG6420]. His collection also included portraits of Abraham Hume and his wife by his friend Sir Joshua Reynolds. Reynolds' portrait of Abraham Hume is now in the Tate Gallery [N00305].

Hume was also a founder of the Royal Geological Society and its Vice President between 1809-1813. He amassed a well-known collection of minerals and precious stones, a catalogue of which was published in French and English in 1815.

He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in December 1775, and on his death in 1838 was its senior fellow. He was a founding director of the British Institution in 1805.

Custodial history

The correspondence was given to the National Gallery in 1931 by Robert Cust, who had been given the letters by his cousin Lionel Cust, art historian and Director of the National Portrait Gallery, and a descendent of Abraham Hume. Summaries of the letters, in English, were written by Robert Cust around the time of their acquisition by the Gallery or just after in the 1930s. They were originally kept separately in an information file but in 2006 they were added to the collection. The Italian transcription of letters from Giovanni Maria Sasso to Abraham Hume was presented to the National Gallery by Linda Borean in 2003.

Related material

The National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, holds a manuscript copy of a catalogue of Abraham Hume's Collection of pictures, c.1820 [reference MSL/1940/1935] and also two letters from Abraham Hume to Dominic Colnaghi, Feb 1830 & Jan 1834 [reference MSL/1903/9000/288-289].

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