English art historian and museum curator. He pioneered the study in Britain of Italian Renaissance sculpture, of which he was a great connoisseur, and was Director and Secretary of the Victoria and Albert Museum 1967–73, and Director of the British Museum 1974–76. Knighted 1971.
Pope-Hennessy realized that the study of sculpture remained relatively underdeveloped in comparison with painting, and dedicated himself to a new catalogue of the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection; his work was published in three volumes 1964, and immediately became standard reference works. In 1976, he became consultative chair of the Department of European Painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1976, and spent 10 years in New York, combining his museum work with teaching at the Institute of Fine Arts. In 1992 he made his final home in Florence, and in 1993 he published a book on Donatello, and was made an honorary citizen of Siena.
Pope-Hennessy's astringent and authoritative manner earned him the nickname ‘The Pope’. His gravitation to the study of Italian art began while he was at Balliol College, Oxford; his commitment to art was strengthened by a friendship with Kenneth Clark, then at the Ashmolean Museum. He travelled across the Continent 1935–36, feasting on his main passion, art. He first joined the staff of the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1938 as a member of the department of painting, although his work there was interrupted by World War II, which he spent largely in the Air Ministry.