Australia’s hidden masterpieces: Art historian Jaynie Anderson on the Melbourne Catholic podcast

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Communications Office
Professor Jaynie Anderson is Professor Emeritus in art history at the University of Melbourne. Jaynie was the first female Rhodes Fellow at the University of Oxford, where she remained until 1991 lecturing in art history. 
Jaynie is an internationally recognised Art Historian and Curator. Her publishing and research focuses on Venetian Renaissance painting and her outstanding contribution to the field saw her honoured with an Italian Knighthood in 2015.
More recently, Jaynie was part of the team that brought to life the cultural legacy of Archbishop James Alipius Goold, as part of an Australian Research Council discovery project. Along with Rev Dr Max Vodola, chairman of the Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission, and historian Shane Carmody, she produced the book The Invention of Melbourne: A baroque archbishop and a gothic architect which accompanies an exhibition of the same name, currently being held at Melbourne’s Old Treasury Building. 
The book is a bestseller and is in its second printing. 
At the opening of the exhibit, 'A Baroque Archbishop in Melbourne' the Hon. Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, pointed out Archbishop Goold’s role as one of the country's ‘leading citizens determined to furnish a ramshackle boomtown with all the trappings of civilisation: with theatres, galleries, museums, universities and libraries, as well as churches.’
‘Goold came to Melbourne just before the gold rush,’ Janynie says. ‘He was ambitious for the town.’
‘Goold went to Rome to purchase artworks during a period when they would not have been expensive. In 1852-53, he exported 132 old master paintings. If you compare other bishops’ activities at the time, the Archbishop of Texas had a huge diocese and was only allowed to buy nine. We don’t know how Goold got so many.’
‘He was very ambitious as a builder of churches and schools. The cathedral is an extraordinary building. It’s the largest neo-gothic cathedral in the world. Wardell was a wonderful colonial architect.’
In her essay, ‘Collecting for conversion: Bishop Goold’s passion for late Baroque painting’, she writes of Goold’s collection of sacred images as part of a ‘missionary activity necessary to excite devotion’ in what was still called ‘the new world’.
‘I was fascinated by the fact that all the art purchases are of a particular taste, late baroque, which is not common in the English-speaking world,’ she says. ‘We think he acquired the taste for this style in Italy as a young man. Baroque art is very emotional. And it’s very clear that he wasn’t interested in the names of artists, who had painted the works. That is perplexing but also revealing.’
‘It’s a highly individual thing, Goold’s love of late baroque. He was competitive with other religious groups in Melbourne. I found a document saying that Goold liked Italian imagery because it was superior to anything the Anglicans brought in.’
Melbourne was fortunate with Archbishop Goold’s purchases, as his acquisitions were made at a time before Italy clamped down on the flow of cultural treasures.
Jaynie describes Goold as one of the most important baroque collectors of colonial Victoria, ‘almost a century ahead of Australian museum acquisition policy—and much of the rest of the world—in his Baroque taste.’
When Jaynie first visited St Patrick’s Cathedral, she discovered that one of the paintings which had been hanging there for over 100 years—Jesus in the temple found by his parents by the French artist Jacques Stella—and thought to have been a copy, was, in fact, a genuine painting originally purchased by Archbishop Goold as part of his collection.
‘We had it taken down to be photographed and saw the back. It was clearly a 17th-century canvas in very good condition. And two inscriptions attributing it to Jacques Stella, who isn’t a very famous painter outside France. But he is a rather remarkable artist and this is probably his best work. We found on the reverse a Roman customs stamp indicating it was in the collection of Cardinal Fesch in Rome, who was Napoleon Bonaparte’s uncle.’
‘As a collector, he was quite remarkable and the collection was huge. In the French revolutionary period, it was easy to pick up pieces. This painting, I discovered in his notebook, was bought in Paris from a revolutionary, someone who stole it out of the church. It was originally painted for the Church of the Jesuits in Paris 1641.’
In tracing the history of the Stella painting, she made mention of Cardinal Fesch’s correspondence with his nephew (Bonaparte), wherein he defends his growing art collection.
In her work, Jaynie produced a catalogue of Goold’s paintings. ‘We’ve only discovered 60 out of many hundreds of paintings that Goold brought back, and we know there are many more out there.’
The exhibition 'The Invention of Melbourne: A Baroque Archbishop and Gothic Architect’ at the Old Treasury Building will close on 2 March 2020.

Next week the international free conference, Translating European Culture to Colonial Melbourne: James Goold and his Legacies celebrates the conclusion of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project on Archbishop Goold and his patronage. The conference takes place at Newman College Oratory (Monday) and Laby Theatre (Tuesday), Parkville, University of Melbourne on 17-18 February. 
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