Anecdotes of Eminent Painters in Spain, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; with cursory remarks upon the present state of arts in that kingdom. By Richard Cumberland. In two volumes. Vol. I [-II]. London, J. Walter, 1782.
First Edition. Two volumes, 12mo (156 x 95 mm), pp. [iv], 225, ,  index; [iv], 224,  index, , in contemporary tree calf, spines ruled in compartments and numbered in gilt, red morocco labels lettered in gilt.
A handsome copy of this guide to Spanish art written by the dramatist and diplomat, Richard Cumberland. Public awareness of the art and artists of Spain was growing as travellers made comparisons with the work of the Italian masters. Collectors and dealers were beginning to look towards Spain as a new source of supply and Cumberland’s detailed work was a great success. It was based in part on Cumberland’s observations made in Spain and in part on Antonio Palomino’s Vidas de los pintores y estatuarios eminentes españoles, which was translated into English in 1739.
In 1780, Cumberland was sent on a confidential mission to Spain in order to negotiate a peace treaty during the American War of Independence that would weaken the anti-British coalition. Although he was well received by Charles III of Spain and his government, the sovereignty of Gibraltar proved insurmountable and Cumberland was forced to return to England empty handed. The government then refused to repay his expenses, even though he was out of pocket to the tune of £4500, a blow to his finances that he never really recovered from. One of the few positive results of his time in Spain was the research that he did for this book.
‘I had already published in two volumes my Anecdotes of eminent Painters in Spain. I am flattered to believe’, Cumberland wrote, ‘it was an interesting and curious work to readers of a certain sort, for there had been no such regular history of the Spanish School in our language, and when I added to it the authentic catalogue of the paintings in the royal palace at Madrid, I gave the world what it had not seen before as that catalogue was the first that had been made and was by permission of the King of Spain undertaken at my request and transmitted to me after my return to England’ (Memoirs of Richard Cumberland, 1806, pp. 298-299).