Antonio Panizzi (Sir Anthony Panizzi) arrived in England as a refugee from Italy in 1823. Through talent and good connections he was appointed to the Museum in 1831, becoming Keeper of Printed Books in 1837 and Principal Librarian in 1856. An outstanding librarian, he immensely improved the Museum’s holdings and cataloguing methods and was the driving force behind the construction of the Round Reading Room which opened in 1857. A forceful individual, he inspired both hatred and devotion.
Gambardella was a Neapolitan artist then resident in England. Panizzi is said to have disliked the portrait. When dining with Lady Holland in 1847 she persuaded him to have an informal portrait painted by Watts. In a letter to a friend he wrote ‘what will Gambardella say when he hears of it?’
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