Thomas Baker

In order to complete this run of posts about Englishmen who were in Rome in October 1638, I need to say something about Thomas Baker, the wealthy country gentleman from Whittingham Hall in Suffolk, who is presumed to have been the person who brought Van Dyck’s triple portrait of Charles I with him for Bernini to make his lost bust.   He was on the continent at least intermittently from 1634, signing the visitor’s book at the English College in Rome on 16 November 1636, and seeing Bernini at the same time as Nicholas Stone.   He was so impressed by the quality of Bernini’s work that he ‘wooed him a long time to make his effigies in marble’.   Money was no object and he paid him 6,000 scudi, well over the going rate, to undertake his bust, now in the V&A, in spite of the fact that Bernini was under the strictest possible papal orders not to undertake new commissions.

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