Waldré, Vincent (1742–1814), history painter and architect, was born Vincenzo Valdre or Valdrati in November 1742 in Faenza, Italy, son of Carlo Valdrati, master of the wardrobe of Don Filippo, duke of Parma. The family resided in Parma, where Waldré studied with the painter Guiseppe Baldrighi (1723–1802). He completed his studies at the French Academy in Rome, where he was much influenced by the neo-classical movement.
He was in London by 1774, as that year he entered a painting, ‘Jupiter and Thetis’, in the Free Society Exhibition, from an address at 20 Frith St., Soho. While in London he worked as a pittore e machinista for the Italian opera. When George Grenville (qv) succeeded his uncle as Earl Temple, he employed Waldré as painter, architect, and designer to carry out decorative work at Stowe, his country retreat in Buckinghamshire. Between 1777 and 1780, among other works, Waldré decorated the Pompeian music room at Stowe with a ceiling painting of the ‘Dance of the hours’ and painted ‘The seasons’ around the frieze. The oval saloon was decorated with designs inspired by Roman remains.
Temple was made marquis of Buckingham (1784), and, with his cousin William Pitt as prime minister, was appointed for a second time lord lieutenant of Ireland (1787). Buckingham was a knowledgeable patron of the arts and one of his first projects was to decorate St Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle, the location of the inauguration of the Knights of St Patrick, of which he was grand master, and the venue for many state dinners and balls. Waldré was called on to decorate the ceilings and walls, for which he was to be paid £600 a year (c.1790–1795). The ceiling paintings, oil on canvas, consist of two rectangular panels, one at each end of the ceiling, and a larger central oval panel set in a square frame, and the iconography for the subjects was likely chosen by Buckingham and intended to ‘imply history and legitimacy’ (Cullen, 76). The rectangular panels showed ‘St Patrick lighting the paschal fire on the hill of Slane’ and ‘King Henry II meeting the Irish leaders’, set against a backdrop of the walls of Dublin and the round tower of Clondalkin. The central panel is of ‘George III supported by Liberty and Justice’, a symbolic reference to the act of union between Ireland and England (1800). A modello of the ceiling painting (RDS) is more baroque in style, whereas the ceiling painting is neo-classical. Much to Waldré's displeasure the ceiling was installed before it was finished, as his services were always required elsewhere. In the year 1791 he was paid £415. 3s. 9d., a sum far short of the £600 promised. His assistant Charles O'Clare received £50 (McParland, 467). Indeed, he was engaged for much of his time in the design of decorations for the festivities of the viceregal court. These elaborate occasions required invention and imagination and were often described in the newspapers of the day. There is just such an account of a ball, held in St Patrick's Hall in May 1789, in the Freeman's Journal of 19–21 May 1789.
Waldré was appointed chief architect to the board of works (1792) on the death of Thomas Penrose and in this capacity was asked to rebuild the debating chamber of the house of commons (originally by Edward Lovett Pearce (qv)), which was destroyed by fire on 27 February 1792. His chamber was circular in design and he did not rebuild Pearce's dome, although he intended to. He instead deviated from his original plan and replaced it with a wagon-head roof in accordance with instructions. Many were disappointed and felt that it was not as grand as the original design. He was also engaged on various other architectural projects at Dublin Castle, including a plan to reconstruct St Patrick's Hall, which was never completed.
He supervised the redecoration of Crowe St. theatre, which was carried out by an Italian, Fillipo Zafforini, and Lord Westmeath commissioned him to paint the ceiling, proscenium, and capital scenes in Fishamble St. music hall (1793). His easel work was shown on occasion in the Dublin exhibitions, such as ‘Joseph and Potiphar's wife’ (1800), ‘St Patrick and the druids’ (1801), and ‘Henry II meeting the Irish leaders’ (1802). A watercolour, ‘A view of Howth abbey’ is in the Beranger collection in the RIA, Dublin.
Waldré married at Stowe in unusual circumstances: he had been invited to a wedding and when the groom failed to arrive he offered to take his place and was accepted. His wife, Mary, came to live with him in Dublin and they lived at 12 Charlemont St. (1804). They also had a country cottage in Leixlip but had a frightening experience there: a gang of thieves broke in, and both Waldré and his wife were tied to the bedpost and severely beaten. A perpetrator of this crime was later hanged. Although considered conceited, Waldré was a popular and well-liked man. He died in August 1814 aged 72; not long after his death his wife wrote a memorial applying for a pension to Lord Whitworth (qv), the lord lieutenant (cited in McParland, 467).