Art collector Gregorio Fellipe Franchi was born in 1770 in Lisbon, the son of an Italian singer employed at the Portuguese court. As a youngster he acted as a musician in the choir of the Patriarchal Seminary. In 1787 William Beckford was invited there to hear Franchi play Haydn. Beckford, an avid art collector and Britain’s richest man, had been involved in a homosexual scandal in 1784 involving William ‘Kitty’ Courtney, young son of the Earl of Devon. He was forced to spend many years in exile.
Franchi became his protégé and travelled with him to England in 1789. He acted as an agent for Beckford (and others). Franchi resided in Baker Street, London, but does not appear to have traded from commercial premises. He travelled regularly to the Continent collecting paintings, objets d’art, and books to fill Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire, where Beckford lived as a recluse from society, surrounded by a harem of boy-servants. Franchi died in 1827. His own collection was sold at auction in two sales held by Christie’s in London in May 1827 and again in 1829.