John Apthorp was one of only a small number of American Grand Tourists known to have travelled through Europe in the eighteenth century. He was a passionate collector of art and in addition to the works by Patch, commissioned a portrait from Angelica Kauffman while on his tour.1 Apthorp was introduced to Thomas Patch through Sir Horace Mann; Mann and Patch were such famously good friends that they were reputedly never out of each other’s houses 'a whole day'.2 They are in fact depicted together in Johan Zoffany's The Tribuna of the Uffizi, discussing the merits of the Venus of Urbino.3
Patch had gained a reputation at this time for being a very capable caricaturist and depicted a great number of the numerous English tourists that passed through Florence at this time. Apthorp features in one entitled The Golden Asses,4 held at the Lewis Walpole Library, and is the sixth figure from the left. The painting takes its name from a golden donkey upon which Patch sits. This is turn is inspired by a poem by Machiavelli warning against getting too close to this 'rough and obstinate herd'.
1. Sold New York, Sotheby's, 30 January 2014, lot 299.
2. See F. J. B. Watson, 'Thomas Patch (1725–1782), notes on his life, together with a catalogue of his known works', Walpole Society, vol. XXVIII, Oxford 1940, p. 19
3. Royal Collection, inv. no. 406983. See, Grand Tour, The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century, A. Wilton and I. Bignamini (ed.), London 1996, p. 27, fig. 4, reproduced.
4. See, Wilton and Bignamini 1996, p. 85, cat. no. 41, reproduced.
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