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Nicolson was the elder son of authors Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West and the brother of writer and politician Nigel. His parents were famously devoted to each other and the boys grew up at Sissinghurst Castle, in the rural depths of Kent, surrounded by the renowned gardens that are now run by the National Trust. Nicolson was educated at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, studying modern history. In 1939, he was appointed Deputy Surveyor of the King's Pictures under Kenneth Clark, but soon after, war was declared and he joined the Intelligence Corps, rising to the rank of Captain. In 1945 he resumed his Royal post as Deputy Surveyor, then under Anthony Blunt.
After the war, Nicolson told his mother of having a homosexual relationship. Vita (herself a bisexual woman with an open marriage) thought the relationship would jeopardise his position at court and urged him to marry instead. He was married on 8 August 1955 to Luisa Felicita Vertova, the elder daughter of Professor Giacomo Vertova of Florence, and they had a daughter, Vanessa Pepita Giovanna (b. 1956), before divorcing in 1962.
After being appointed a MVO, Nicolson resigned from the Royal Household in 1947 and went on to edit The Burlington Magazine. Nicolson spent much of his life collecting photographs of early seventeenth-century works in the Caravaggio manner which he wrote about in The Burlington Magazine and which eventually filled three large volumes.
|Ancestors of Benedict Nicolson|
- The Painters of Ferrara (1950)
- Hendrick Terbrugghen (1958)
- Wright of Derby: Painter of Light (1968)
- The Treasures of the Foundling Hospital (1972)
- Courbet: The Studio of the Painter (1973)
- Georges de La Tour (1974)
- Playing by the Rules - Kennedy Fraser
- Burke's Peerage & Gentry, 107th edition
- Dictionary of Art Historians
|Deputy Surveyor of the King's Pictures