The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, 1820-1897

Nationality: Italian
Date of Birth: 1820
Place of Birth: Legnago, Italy
Date of Death: 1897
Place of Death:


Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle an artist, art historian and connoisseur.


Cavalcaselle trained at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice. Involved in the 1848 Italian revolution, he was forced into exile to avoid execution. Through independent study and extensive travel, he became an expert in Italian art of the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. He had a varied career, working in London in the 1850s as a draughtsman and restorer, whilst being consulted on artistic matters by Charles Lock Eastlake, and collaborating in Paris with Otto Mündler, the Travelling Agent for the National Gallery in London. In 1853 he was sat on the Select Committee of the National Gallery. He was also involved with the catalogue for the 1857 Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester.

Between 1857 and 1861 he was engaged by the publisher Murray, Eastlake, Austen Henry Layard and the art critic Tom Taylor to carry out research in Italy for an edition of Vasari's Life. In 1867 he was appointed Inspector for the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence. In the 1870s he travelled throughout Italy, supervising important restoration work and giving advice on museum organisation and acquisitions. He famously collaborated with Joseph Arthur Crowe on a number of authorative art historical volumes, in particular on A New History of Painting in Italy, a seminal work for the study of Italian art history.


Crowe, J. A. and Cavalcaselle, G. B., Early Flemish Painting, 1857; Crowe, J. A. and Cavalcaselle, G. B., A New History of Painting in Italy, 3 vols, 1864-68; Crowe, J. A. and G. B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in Northern Italy, 2 vols, 1871; Crowe, J. A. and G. B. Cavalcaselle, Titian: His Life and Times, 1877; Crowe, J. A. and G. B. Cavalcaselle, Raphael: His Life and Works, 1882-85; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; Houfe, S., ‘David Croal Thomson, Whistler’s Aide-de-camp’, Apollo, vol. 119, 1984, pp. 112-19; Levi, Donata, 'Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, accessed 29 August 2002,