Etruscan, Roman and Greek Antiquities from the Collections by Sir William Hamilton and Millin-De GrandMaison of Aquatints Plates.
The world’s finest collections of Greek and Roman antiquities
Sir William Hamilton was the British ambassador to Naples during the city’s golden age, from 1764 to 1800. An avid antiquarian, Hamilton assembled one of the world’s finest collections of Greek and Roman antiquities.
The core of his collection was bought en bloc from the Porcinari family, after an introduction by Hugues d’Hancarville, an amateur art dealer. Hamilton added several more choice items before selling the entire collection to the British Museum in 1772 for £8400, where it became one of main collections in the department of Greek and Roman antiquities. However, before the collection was shipped to England, Hamilton arranged for Hugues d’Hancarville to oversee the cataloguing and drawing of every item. The published work appeared in 1766-1767 and is a triumphant example of graphic art of the highest order.
In addition to his duties as ambassador, Hamilton was also renowned as a knowledgeable guide and congenial host to the visiting English ‘Grand Tourists’. With infectious enthusiasm he would extol the wonders of Naples and the beauties of arts of the ancient world, inspiring in many of his aristocratic visitors a genuine love of the antique. This new-found enthusiasm, fuelled by images such as the present engraving, found its expression in the new style of neo-classicism and in the collections of antiquities which found their way to many of the stately homes of England.
The Picturalist purchased a few of the original prints found in Europe that had been separated from the original volume created by Hancarville. There aren't many copies of these original prints as most still remain in their original volume. The latest complete volume was sold at Sotheby's in 2001 for six figures at auction.
Josiah Wedgwood was inspired in particular by the artworks Sir William Hamilton began to collect in the 1760s. Hamilton's collections were published as Etruscan, although the term was a misnomer, as many of the "Etruscan" items turned out to be pottery of ancient Greece and he later sold them to the British Museum.
More authentically Etruscan in inspiration was Wedgwood's black basalt stone ware. The designers employed by Wedgwood, were able to adapt this classical art for the eighteenth-century market. This products were greatly admired in Britain and abroad.
The popularity of the earlier publication
The popularity of the earlier publication encouraged this editor to plan a series of more examples, to be published in fascicules. This later publication, L’Introduction à l’étude des vases antiques d’argile peints, vulgairement appelés étrusques, begun in 1817 and completed by 1834, spanned a period of great political and social upheaval in France, following the downfall of Napoleon.
Millin De GrandMaison & Dubois Maisonneuve
The death of Millin in 1818, shortly after the commencement of the project, did not deter Dubois-Maisonneuve, who continued working, once again, with Ange Clener for the illustrations, and P. Didot, “l’aîné, chevalier de l’ordre royal de saint-michel, imprimeur de roi,” a printer known for his high quality productions. Individual fascicules were advertised in journals such as the Foreign Quarterly Review for one price plain, and more than twice that for colored versions.
The resulting ensemble is seldom found complete or colored; since the large colored plates were attractive for individual framing, sets were often broken up.
Dubois-Maisonneuve’s first publication on this topic, Peintures des vases vulgairement appelés étrusques tirées de différentes collections... (1808-1810), in two volumes, was dedicated to the Empress Josephine.
The commentary, by the renowned scholar Aubin-Louis Millin de Grandmaison (1759-1818), naturalist, antiquary, and curator of medals at the Imperial library, included a discussion of the history of the connoisseurship and scholarship of these vases, and alluded to the interest of the French government in the publication of collections of antique vases to serve as an inspiration for contemporary manufacturers. Items from the collection of the Sèvres royal porcelain manufactory were featured among those illustrated in the volumes.
The drawings for the plates were executed by Ange Clener, who was responsible for the plates in the second volume of Hamilton’s collection.
All Art has Been Contemporary
A series of plates of the highest quality illustrating the breath-taking scenes depicted by the unknown masters who decorated the Etruscan vases of antiquity. The plates were also intended as exemplars for contemporary artists, with the publisher noting that the images offered a wonderful source of inspiration: a sentiment that is still true today.