Francesco Bartolozzi RA (1727 - 1815)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

The engraver and painter Francesco Bartolozzi was a Founder Member of the Royal Academy who served as engraver to the King for almost 40 years. He engraved works by several of his fellow Royal Academicians, including Angelica Kauffman, Benjamin West and Joshua Reynolds.

Bartolozzi was born in 1727 and trained in his native Florence before moving to Venice. There, he spent six years working for the engraver and printseller Josef Wagner before setting up his own workshop.

The prospect of better commissions tempted Bartolozzi to Rome in 1762, where he quickly gained a reputation as a masterful engraver. In 1763 a set of Bartolozzi’s etchings after Old Master drawings was published, raising his profile across Europe. The same year he met Richard Dalton, King George III’s Librarian, who had been sent to Italy to seek out suitable acquisitions for the King’s collections. Dalton persuaded Bartolozzi to travel to England in 1764 with the promise of an appointment as engraver to the King. Bartolozzi stayed for the next 38 years.

He made prints of many of the Old Master drawings in the Royal Collection, including works by Guercino, Holbein and Michelangelo. Between 1765 and 1768 Bartolozzi exhibited with the Society of Artists, before seceding to the newly-established Royal Academy in 1768. The new Academy’s laws specifically excluded engravers from membership, but Bartolozzi was held in sufficiently high regard to be considered above this rule and was made an Academician in the category of Painter.

Bartolozzi worked closely with his fellow Royal Academicians, particularly his lifelong friend and compatriot, the architect Giovanni Battista Cipriani. Bartolozzi is best known as the leading exponent of the “stipple” technique he developed in the 1770s, which created images through delicate networks of dots rather than lines (as in etching or line-engraving). Bartolozzi enhanced the decorative effect of his work by favouring a range of red, orange and brown inks, rather than the more common black. Bartolozzi’s studio expanded rapidly to cater to the demand for this new technique, resulting in a distinctive “school of Bartolozzi” in the late 18th century.

Bartolozzi received invitations to work in several European cities, and in 1802 he moved to Lisbon to reform the royal printing press, with the aim of producing a magnificent edition of the Portuguese epic poem The Lusiads. However, Bartolozzi was in his seventies by this time and ultimately delegated much of the work to one of his students. Despite his prolific output and standing as one of the most influential printmakers of his day, he was forced to sell most of his prints and possessions to satisfy debts. Bartolozzi died in his studio in 1815, aged 87 years old, and was buried in the common grave of his parish church in Lisbon.


Royal Academician

Foundation Member

Born: 21 September 1727 in Florence, Italy

Died: 7 March 1815

Nationality: Italian

Elected RA: 10 December 1768

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Printmaking and Reproductive engraving

Works by Francesco Bartolozzi in the RA Collection

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Works after Francesco Bartolozzi in the RA Collection

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Works associated with Francesco Bartolozzi in the RA Collection

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Associated books

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Associated archives

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