Fagan, Robert (DNB00)

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FAGAN, ROBERT (d. 1816), diplomatist and amateur portrait-painter, was born at Cork about 1745. In the year 1809 he was appointed consul-general for Sicily and the Ionian Islands. For many years he resided in Rome, and between 1794 and 1798 he formed a magnificent collection of works of art, including several chefs-d'œuvre, formerly in the Altieri Palace, and a Greek marble of Alexander, which he presented to the Vatican Museum. The Altieri Claudes were purchased from Prince Altieri by Fagan, who, to save them from the French, took the precaution to secrete them within a wall built by himself under a staircase. It was not long before a rumour of the sale reached the French authorities, and the purchaser, refusing to deliver up the pictures, was arrested, and for some time confined in the castle of St. Angelo. But the place where they were deposited not having been discovered, he afterwards found means to convey them to England. When the French took possession of Rome in 1799, while attempting to take refuge on board Admiral Nelson's fleet Fagan was arrested with the pictures in his possession, but being released through the interference of a friend, he succeeded in conveying the two Claude pictures to Palermo. They were subsequently transmitted to a merchant in England for the purpose of sale, but through an error in the consignment they were deposited for a considerable time in a custom-house at some port in the west of England. On Fagan's arrival in London he ascertained that his pictures had been advertised for sale; he found no difficulty in proving them to be his property, and they were restored to him on payment of all expenses. They were subsequently disposed of to Mr. Beckford, with a few small Italian pictures, for 1,500l., and purchased from him for 12,000l. by Mr. Richard Hart Davis, by whom they were transferred to Mr. Miles. The Leigh Court paintings were sold in 1883, and the celebrated Altieri Claudes—the ‘Landing of Æneas’ and the ‘Sacrifice of Apollo’—are now in the collection of Mr. Vanderbilt of New York, U.S.A. A landscape, representing the embarkation of the queen of Sheba, was bought by Mr. Angerstein, and subsequently by the nation in 1824. Fagan exhibited at the Royal Academy the three following portraits: in 1812 ‘Children of Lord Amherst’ (Sarah and Jeffery), painted at Palermo; 1815, engraved in mezzotint by Dunkarten, ‘Portraits of Lady Acton and her Children;’ 1816, ‘Portrait of Captain Clifford.’ At Holland House there is a portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Holland, and at Bayfordbury Park are several works by Fagan. He married a Roman lady of great beauty, whose portrait he painted several times. He died in Rome, 26 Aug. 1816, leaving two children, Estina and George, diplomatist, who died at Caracas in 1869. Between 1812 and 1813 Fagan was at Naples, during which period he was much engaged in corresponding with Queen Caroline of Naples and Lord William Bentinck (see Historical Review, Cambridge, July 1887).

[Private information.]

L. F.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.119
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
117 ii 14f.e. Fagan, Robert: for Early in the century read In 1809