Farquhar McCrae & The Burning of Troy:

Farquhar McCrae & The Burning of Troy: The Search for a Lost Masterpiece & the Appreciation of the Fine Arts in Colonial Australia

For nearly 180 years, between the early nineteenth and early twenty-first century, many art historians believed that Federico Barocci’s 1589 masterpiece variously titled Aeneas and his family fleeing Troy or simply The Burning of Troy, was last seen in London at an auction of paintings from the Orléans Collection in February 1800. We know what the painting looked like, and why it was created, and we know the details of the journey taken by the painting: from Italy to Prague; from Prague to Sweden; from Sweden back to Italy; then to France and to London. But for most who have written about the painting it disappeared from public sight after the auction of February 1800.

This is the story of how the painting in fact was not lost after the 1800 auction but was sold on several more occasions and went from London to Scotland and ultimately ended up in Australia where it was exhibited by Dr Farquhar McCrae. This is also the story of Farquhar McCrae, perhaps better known to Australian readers through his sister-in-law, Georgiana Huntly Gordon McCrae and the journal she wrote describing life in Melbourne during the 1840s. But Farquhar’s life story is at least as interesting as that of Georgiana’s, yet it has previously not been told, at least not in this detail.

But this story is not a mere list of dates and facts documenting a sequence of auctions and the sellers and buyers who traded in art works. They are the mere dots of history. The data points. And in joining those data points this story narrates the journey taken by Barocci’s lost painting. During the search, like Alice following the White Rabbit, we encounter clues that entice us to enter pathways that sometimes turn out to be dead ends. And, at the end of the journey, we may, or may not, have found the treasure we seek, but, either way, we can look back at the journey with a sense of great reward.



Federico Barocci, Aeneas and his Family Fleeing the Burning City of Troy, Oil on Canvas, 1598, Borghese Gallery, Rome

Carracci_Engraving_1595_Prague National Gallery CZE_NG.R_103823
Agostino Carracci, (after Federico Barocci), Aeneas and His Family Fleeing the Burning City of Troy,  engraving, 1595, The University of Melbourne, Rare Prints Collection

Purchase this book: Douglas Wilkie, Farquhar McCrae & The Burning of Troy, Historia Incognita 2021, ISBN: 9781034570868, 478 pages, illustrated throughout.

The softcover book of 478 pages with extensive colour illustrations is available for purchase online here for approximately $40 AUS.

A PDF version suitable for reading on eBooks, iPads, Tablets and other devices is also available for $20 AUS here.

A preview of the book pages is available on the sales site.

It is anticipated that the book will be made available through worldwide online bookstores such as Amazon, Bookdepository, Booktopia, and others in the near future.

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