Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sir Andrew Fountaine: Collector, Tutor, and Enthusiast

"Sir Andrew Fountaine and Friends in the Tribune Gallery of the Uffizi, Florence" by Giulo Pignatta. (Sir Andrew is the one of the left)
(To me this looks like the cover of an 18th century rap album)

Sir Andrew Fountaine was born in 1676 in Norfolk, England into a respectable family at Narford Hall. He was the eldest son of the gentleman, Andrew Fountaine, and his wife, Sarah, Sir Thomas Chicheley’s youngest daughter. A gifted and charismatic man, he graduated from Christ Church in 1697 and was introduced to the court of William III by family friend, the second Duke of Devonshire. He moved quickly through the academic sphere and was chosen by Dr. Henry Aldrich in 1698 to present an oration in Latin to William III, for which Fountaine was knighted in 1699. Fountaine was a man of virtuosi interests, especially coins. In 1705, he contributed to George Hicke’s Thesaurus Septentrionalis, his personal research on Anglo- Saxon and Danish coinage. Nevertheless, what truly landed him into the realm of the Royal Court occurred in 1701 when he chosen to carry the Act of Succession with Lord Macclesfield to the elector of Hanover. His unbridled enthusiasm and scholarly interests in medals and coins, combined with a charismatic personality, made him a popular man amongst the court. Afterwards, Fountaine chose to extend his trip from Hanover and head to Germany and then Rome for the first of two European tours he would make throughout his lifetime. These journeys would effectively establish his reputation as an art collector and amateur architect.
            Fountaine’s first trip to Italy began around the year 1702, the same year he was admitted to the Royal Society of Berlin. Most of what is known about this trip is through his correspondence with Leibnitz, the German philosopher and mathematician, whom he wrote frequently. Writing from Rome in June 1702, he told Leibnitz that he had “very little time to Spare in this Town, because the antiquities are soe numerous, and the other curiositys so diverting, that a stranger always has something to fill his time about." While in Rome, Fountaine was introduced to the renowned artist, Carlo Maratta, who would later produce the portrait of him seen below. 

"Sir Andrew Fountaine" by Carlo Maratta

            Before setting out on his second tour of Europe, Fountaine was to accompany his friend, Lord Pembroke, newly appointed Lord- Lieutenant of Ireland, as Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod to the opening of Ireland Parliament in 1707. During this venture, Fountaine established a friendship with Jonathan Swift, the poet and essayist. In a letter from London in 1710, Swift spent time lingering at home before dining with Sir Andrew; he called this a “silly day.” Swift also mentions how the pair "sauntered through China shops and booksellers" before heading off to the tavern. Evidently, Fountaine's passion for curious objects was something in which he liked to include his friends (I can't help but picture Fountaine meticulously studying the items in the shop while his friend stands off to the side wondering how on earth he was going to get him to leave. Like me in Barnes and Noble). 
            In 1718, Fountaine was Vice Chamberlaine to Princess Caroline as well as the tutor to her third son, William Augustus as well as his (proxy) knight of the Bath. Not much has been documented about Fountaine's position in the Royal Court, but it evident that he was one of Princess Caroline's favorites. The admiration and respect Fountaine had for the Princess and Queen is evident from the portrait he placed on the staircase of his home in Narford.
            Fountaine added another prestigious title to his name in 1727 when he became the warden of the Royal Mint. While the DNB states he was the successor of Sir Isaac Newton, the Chancery patent rolls cited by the Institute of Historical Research show that Walter Cary was actually Fountaine’s predecessor. He held this position until his death if 1753, after which Richard Herbert took on the role.
Eventually, Fountaine grew tired of London and court life and retired around 1733 and spent his final two decades expanding on his family estate, Narford Hall. It is unclear how large Fountaine’s fortune was during his lifetime; however, there is a record of the House of Lords reimbursing Fountaine for 215 pounds, 14 shillings, and 9 pence. The fact Fountaine was able to spend such an amount suggests he had a rather sizable fortune at his disposal. Furthermore, his expansive collection of art and majolica, considered the “finest outside of Italy”, would also require a substantial income to upkeep. Fountaine’s pieces of majolica would become the centerpiece of his collection and collectors from all over the world would make pilgrimages to see it.

Sir Andrew is considered the "first great collector of majolica in this country" (England)

On 16 June 1884, Messrs. Christie, Manson, and Wood held a four-day sale that scattered most of this legendary collection.
Sir Andrew Fountaine never married and passed away on 4 September 1753, leaving behind no children. His sister, Elizabeth, married Colonel Edward Clent and had one daughter also named Elizabeth, who would go on to marry Captain William Price. This Elizabeth, (Fountaine's niece) had a son named Brigg Price who would go on to assume the Fountaine surname and arms, carrying on the family name. 


Ford, Brinsley. 1985. "Sir Andrew Fountaine: One of the Keenest Virtuosi of His Age". Apollo. 352-358.

Grazebrook, H. Sydney. The heraldry of Worcestershire. London: J. R. Smith, 1873.

Kemball, John Mitchell. State papers and correspondence illustrative of the social and political state of Europe from the Revolution to the accession of the house of Hanover. London: J.W. Parker, 1857.

Moore, Andrew W.. “Fountaine, Sir Andrew (1676–1753).” Andrew W. Moore In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: OUP, . (accessed January 30, 2015). 

Sainty, J.C. “Wardens of the Mint 1572-1869” Institute of Historical Research. Last modified May 2002.

Swift, Jonathan. The Journal to Stella. Project Gutenberg, 2003. <>. 

'Warrant Books: January 1709, 11-20', in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 23, 1709, ed. William A Shaw (London, 1949), pp. 44-63 [accessed 26 January 2015]. 

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