Journal Article

Sir William Hamilton's Vase Publications (1766–1776): A Case Study in the Reproduction and Dissemination of Antiquity

Viccy Coltman

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 14, issue 1, pages 1-16
Published in print January 2001 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 2001 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/14.1.1
Sir William Hamilton's Vase Publications (1766–1776): A Case Study in the Reproduction and Dissemination of Antiquity

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In his Study of the consume revolution of eighteen-century England, McKendrick cites the importance of novelty for the fashionable patron: ‘In possessions for the home, new fashions were insisted on—in pottery, furniture, fabrics, cutlery, even wallpaper.’ This article explores how eighteenth-century artists reproduced a novel and idealizing version of antiquity out of the excavated and collected remains. We will follow the process whereby the collection of ancient vases belonging to Sir William Hamilton, the British ambassador in Naples, were reworked as two-dimensional canvas paintings and published as engravings in a luxury folio, Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities (Naples, 1766–76). These folios were not only collected as ‘ornaments’ for the aristocratic library, but their coloured plates were utilized as ’pattern books’ by English artists and craftsmen hand-crafting and mass-producing a range of imitation antique furniture (including pottery, furniture and fabrics) for the élite English home. In the cource of my article, we witness the transference and transformation of classial artefacts to a neoclassical setting: transposed from an ancient material culture in Italy into a new (fabricated) material culture in England. Through the transformation of the anciant material evidence, we witness the preoccupations of an eighteenth-century consumer society. That is, a society in which the acquisition and reproduction of ‘antiquity’ as possession is a means to manufacture material objects and social opportunities.

Keywords: consumption; eighteenth century; furniture; interior decoration; neoclassicism; pattern books

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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