I f you have a love of art and have never visited Dino & Raffaello Tomasso at Bardon Hall in Leeds, I urge you to do so. I have been there many times but, like cresting the hill as you approach Castle Howard, the anticipation of arrival never fails to set my heart racing. It is a place full of wonder and enchantment. Small museums, like the Frick or the Soane Museum, succeed in creating an intimate atmosphere, but as with all institutions they are governed by the precautions made necessary to accommodate public access.
Tomasso at Sotheby's | A Discerning Collection of European Art
Bardon Hall, by contrast, is private. It welcomes you on a personal level. Immediately upon arrival, you are struck by the subtlety of the lighting and the aroma of candles, whose glimmering light brings to life the sculpted faces of the marble busts and antiquities that surround you. The fire flickers in the grate, and arranged along its chimney piece is a selection of exquisite bronzes reminiscent of the famous painting by Zoffany of Sir Lawrence Dundas in Arlington Street.
To the left is a doorway that leads into a room where the floor and walls appear to be paved with giant slabs of porphyry. You are surrounded by European bronzes of every shape and size, dating from the early Renaissance to the Neoclassical: the languid pose of the Cesarini Venus beside the Borghese Gladiator and above them a huge bronze eagle with outspread wings.
Directly ahead is a cabinet lined with crimson velvet containing an exquisitely detailed miniature portrait of Mary of Modena by Ferdinand Voët beside a minute flask in the shape of a Hedgehog dating from around 550 BC.
A second room, bathed in natural light, is hung with an assortment of sumptuous paintings, including a portrait by Pietro Facchetti of a Nobleman standing amongst the ruins of the Colosseum, while opposite is a vast canvas depicting the interior of the Pantheon, and beneath that lies a beautifully carved fragment of a leg dating from the 1st-2nd century A.D. In the window stands an English serving table of neoclassical form recalling Chippendale’s important commission at Nostell, flanked by a pair of 18th century fauteuils by the French ébéniste Michel Cresson, and so it continues. Each room creates its own atmosphere, welcoming you to stay and contemplate its wonders.
There is no rush, no pressure to move out of the way to allow the next person to take your place. It is like being in a private museum where everything is available. Even if you depart with nothing, the experience lifts your soul.
In addition to Bardon Hall, the Tomassos hold exhibitions in their London gallery at Marquis House on Jermyn Street. As you enter these discreet ground floor galleries, you are transported from the centre of the Capital’s art market to a calm, classical Roman interior, subtly lit and filled with works inspired by the antique aesthetic. With stripped wooden floors and walls of tasteful greys, the environment is perfect for the appreciation of great sculpture.
The Tomassos have supplied works of art to many of the major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Bode Museum, Berlin; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Liechtenstein Collection, Vienna; the Yale Centre for British Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
“Approximately 15 years ago, when we first began purchasing lots online, we were fortunate to find an exquisite cast of Giambologna’s Rape of a Sabine by Antonio Susini. It was impossible for us to get there physically in time for the auction, but we managed to acquire it without too much competition. When it arrived at Bardon Hall, the anticipation and excitement as we unpacked the bronze was a memorable moment in our careers. During our initial studies of the bronze, we realised what a stunning cast of the model we had found. The fact that the bronze was in pristine condition enabled us to appreciate the beauty of the craftsmanship undertaken by Susini. The chiselling was exquisite, even down to the rendering of the cuticles.”
Dino and Raffaello support British and international museums and cultural institutions through sponsorship and the loans of artworks, such as for the seminal Hans von Aachen: Court Artist in Europe exhibition at Prague Castle in 2010. In 2012, they contributed to the realisation of the landmark exhibition Bronze at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. More recently, they sponsored the exhibitions Blood and Tears: Albrecht Bouts and the Image of the Passion at the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum in Aachen, Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill at the Strawberry Hill House Trust in London, and Bertoldo di Giovanni at the Frick Collection in New York. Their gallery has been part of a work placement scheme for Art History undergraduates at the University of Leeds and the University of Leicester, where Dino and Raffaello have sponsored an annual scholarship in the History of Art department.
Dino & Raffaello are the most charming of hosts. Their Italian lineage is evident in everything they do. They are surrounded by an adoring family who clearly appreciate how privileged they are to be brought up in this glittering world informed by such a wealth of knowledge.
Now, when so many doors, including those of the aforementioned institutions have been closed due to the pandemic, here instead they are thrown open, allowing us the opportunity to see for ourselves the wonderful eclectic world of the Tomassos.
From 5 April 2021, Tomasso Brothers Fine Art will be operating as TOMASSO. Dino and Raffaello have made this decision in order to include the next generation of the Tomasso family of art dealers. From this date their new email address will be firstname.lastname@example.org and the new website will be www.tomasso.art