Decorative painter and draughtsman Giovanni Battista Cipriani was born in Florence in 1727. He first studied painting in Florence under the Anglo-Florentine Ignazio Hugford and Antonio Domenico Gabbiani. In 1750 Cipriani moved to Rome, where he met the architect William Chambers and the sculptor Joseph Wilton. They travelled together to England in August 1755.
Cipriani settled in Broad Street first and moved to Hedge Lane in 1770. His last years were spent in Hammersmith. Cipriani established himself as a teacher of drawing and painting at the Duke of Richmond’s Academy, Whitehall, and he was a member of the St Martin’s Lane Academy. His designs are associated with the neo-classical interiors created by Robert Adam and William Chambers.
In 1768 he completed the decoration of the drawing room at Lansdowne House, designed by Robert Adam. The ceiling showed Mercury Presenting Psyche to Jupiter, and four wall paintings illustrated scenes from the life of Achilles. Dispersed in 1930/1, the paintings were acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1972.
Cipriani found favour with George III. He decorated the king’s first state coach (designed by Chambers), and in 1768 he was nominated by the king as one of the foundation members of the Royal Academy. Among his sculptural designs was one for a statue of George III, executed by John Bacon in 1789 for the courtyard at Somerset House.
Cipriani was a prolific draughtsman, and many of his designs were engraved by his fellow Italian Francesco Bartolozzi. His Rudiments of Drawing, published posthumously in 1786/92, became a source for book illustration. Cipriani died at Hammersmith in December 1785. The contents of his studio, forty-six paintings and 632 drawings, were dispersed in three sales in March and April 1786 (Lugt 4001, 4007 & 4168).