M4C Logo AHRC Logo

Alessia Attanasio

Visual Arts, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

From Vesuvius to the Thames. The fortunes of Baroque Neapolitan art in English collections, 1600-1900

My research project aims to investigate and understand the less known – and studied – history of collecting Baroque Neapolitan art in England during the Grand Tour, with a focus on the different meaning and significance of the Grand Tour of Southern Italy. The thesis covers the years from the 1680s to the 1820s, a period when a considerable number of English young aristocrats and collectors travelled to Italy; among them, John Cecil was certainly one of the most prolific patrons of his time with more than four hundred paintings collected in only five years spent in Italy. Although Cecil is an “early” exception, there were thousands of Neapolitan artworks collected during the Grand Tour by English patrons,  and many of these pieces are still displayed in country houses across England, under the patronage of the same ancient families who travelled to Italy in the eighteenth century.

Baroque Neapolitan art continues to be an essential part of private and public English art collections today, yet there is no publication that explores the significance of these collections as a whole, supported by an illustrated database. My project aims to provide the first comprehensive view of the Neapolitan paintings still admired today across England in private and public collections, with a particular focus on English country houses.

Research Area

  • Fine Art History, Theory and Practice
  • Visual Arts



  • Seminar in the History of Collecting: Baroque Neapolitan art in English collections during the Grand Tour, at The Wallace Collection (26 June 2023) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouXii25mP7Y
  • AHCVS Research Forum (15 June 2023).
  • Research Lunch presentation at Dept. Art History, Curating, and Visual Studies (10 May 2023)
  • ‘Re-imagining Renaissances in Visual and Material Cultures: Memory, Collections and Identities’ conference – a joint PGR knowledge-sharing event co-convened by Prof. Juliet Simpson (Coventry: CAMC) and Prof. Louise Bourdua (Warwick: SCAPVC), Wed 2nd Nov 2022, University of Warwick.

Public Engagement & Impact

Research and curator assistant for the exhibition and permanent redisplay Sensing Naples, at Compton Verney Art Gallery (UK): https://www.comptonverney.org.uk/event/sensing-naples/

Other Research Interests

Museum and curatorial studies, slavery and art collecting, european art market.