Philobiblon: 18th-century postmodernism ...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

18th-century postmodernism ...

... or at least pastiche was today's topic, when I popped up to the British Museum for a talk on the Piranesi vase, the unmissable marble monstrosity - it is a fascinating piece, but you really couldn't call it fine art - inside the entrance of the Enlightenment gallery.

The current view if that two of the three bull's heads in the base are 2nd-century AD Roman, possible from Hadrian's villa at Tivoli, as the sellers claimed, as are the "calf" part of the lions' legs, and probably one of the three main images around the main "bowl", the one showing the picking of the grapes.

All of the rest is 18th-century work by Piranesi and his co-conspirators, whoops artists. No I suppose that is a bit unfair; from what I understand the Grand Tour buyers didn't really care if it was original, what mattered was that it was true to the "spirit" and "aesthetic" of ancient Rome.

It was at one time in the entrance to the BM, but when the museum realised in the 19th century that it was mostly "fake", it was condemned to a shed for decades.

I knew a bit about Piranesi but I also learnt for the first time about Johann Joachim Winkelmann, who worked with Piranesi and who is said to be the founder of modern art history. There's a biog of him here and a portrait here.

He was also, to put a female slant on it, the guide when Emma and Sir William Hamilton visited Rome soon after their marriage (and before she'd met Nelson). For her story, here's not a bad place to start.

I'm looking for the female slant a bit harder than usual because this post, as are all of mine, are now also going up on Feminist Blogs, a "community of weblogs by self-identified feminists, women's liberationists, womanists, and pro-feminist men. We use free software to syndicate our weblogs, in order to raise awareness, bring together feminist voices, and promote cross-linking and discussion between feminist bloggers."

Hi folks and thanks; great idea!

UPDATE: Sorry, but I've just removed the two links to the BM site, because it is suddenly not working properly (see comments). From here you should be able to search for all of the relevant material.


Blogger Ronnie Smartt said...

Why do I get a picture of a Japanese swordsmith instead of the Piranesi vase?

11/24/2004 05:31:00 pm  
Blogger Ronnie Smartt said...

Thanks; well worth your trouble. The vase is splendid and looks as if it would have been equally at home in hadrian's villa as in an 18C English country house, or even today in a certain kind of very good hotel. It appeals to the secret baroque imperialism in all us puritan republicans.

11/25/2004 12:09:00 pm  

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