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Spence, William Blundell

British, 1814 - 1900


Born in Yorkshire to William Spence [1783-1860) and his wife Eliabeth Blundell, William Blundell Spence spent most of his childhood traveling. His father was a successful importer who took his family abroad to live from 1826-1832. Young William lived in Brussels, Dresden, Florence, Geneva, Pisa, Spain and Paris. In Paris he had occasion to study briefly in the Ingres studio before the family returned to England in 1833. As soon as he reached legal age, William Blundell Spence left England again for Italy, where he married Alisia Teresa Renard (1815-1852) of Siena in 1835. The young couple moved to Munich where they lived for a year before returning to Italy and settling in Florence. There Spence pursued his artistic goals and ultimately began to deal in pictures as well. One of his most important clients was collector Thomas Gambier Perry (1816-1888). Spence left Florence in 1859 due to political upheavals there, and relocated to London for a year before returning to Italy, this time with a substantial inheritance. This money allowed him to acquire a villa and thirty acres of land in Fiesole, as well as to build a theater there. He continued his art dealing activities, despite the lack of financial need, selling to the South Kensington museum (now the Victoria and Albert) as well as private collectors. Spence died in 1860. He three two children by his first wife: William Campbell Spence (b. 1839) and Flavia Bianca (1836-1868, later Marchesa della Stufa) and Francis Alfred (b. 1843). He was survived by his second wife, Enrichetta Renard (d. 1893).


Fleming, John. "Art Dealing in the Risorgimento II" The Burlington Magazine 121 no. 917 (August 1979):493-508
Fleming, John. "Art Dealing in the Risorgimento. Part 3," The Burlington Magazine 121 no. 918 (September 1979):569-580.
Levi, Donata. "William Blundell Spence e Firenze," Studi e ricerche di collezionismo e museografia a Firenze, 1820-1920. Pisa, 1985:87-178

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