…to this is annexed a Gallery completely furnish'd <with> whatsoever Art can call rare and singular, & a Library full of worthy Collections, Medails, Marbles, and Manuscripts;"
Diary entry, Rome, November 1644, John Evelyn, (ed. E.S. de Beer)
Among the Collections, was a Roman blue glass cameo vase, decorated with scenes in white relief, dating from the reign of Augustus, which (already famous for its beauty and mystery) was acquired by the Barberini family in 1627. Over a century and a half later in 1780 it was sold to meet gambling debts and in turn was sold on by James Byres to Sir William Hamilton in 1783.
James Byres, the dealer and intermediary, was an architect, antiquarian and scholar from Aberdeen, whose family fled to France after the Jacobite rising, then living in Rome and leading English visitors around the sights.
"My guide was Mr. Byres, a Scottish antiquary of experience and taste. But in the
daily labour of 18 weeks the powers of attention were sometimes fatigued." Memoirs Edward Gibbon
Temple of the Sybil in Tivoli, etching, G.& F. Piranesi, c. 1756
see: The Portland Vase Susan Walker © Trustees of the British Museum