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Part of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts
Attributed to William Vile (British, Somerset 1700/05–1767 London)
Date: 1760–61Accession Number: 64.79
Josiah Wedgwood and Sons (1759–present)
Date: ca. 1840–60Accession Number: 94.4.172
Robert Adam (British, Kirkcaldy, Scotland 1728–1792 London)
Date: 1765Accession Number: 65.127a, b
Paul Storr (British, 1771–1844)
Date: 1814/15Accession Number: 65.205a, b
Date: 1765Accession Number: 60.31.2a–c
John Flaxman (British, York 1755–1826 London)
Date: ca. 1782–90Accession Number: 10.101.1a, b
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The light colors, delicate ornament, and slender proportions of the works in this gallery are characteristic of the mature English Neoclassical style. Influential architects, including the famous Robert Adam, traveled to Rome to study the buildings of the ancient world. This new generation of architects routinely supplied drawings for buildings as well as every interior detail. Thus furniture, door fittings, chandeliers, and carpets would share an ornamental vocabulary of antique urns, masks, and garlands of foliage drawn from classical architecture and Roman wall painting.
This admiration for antiquity was fostered by the Enlightenment, a philosophy that promoted reason over superstition, and the social and political notions of dignity and liberty. The arts of ancient Greece were admired as the highest expression of these ideals. Commissioning a Neoclassical interior was considered a modern and optimistic choice, appropriate to a nation that was growing ever richer and more powerful. English patrons were often well-educated aristocrats who traveled to Continental Europe on the Grand Tour, a sort of finishing school for young noblemen. While abroad, they often bought antique sculpture, Greek vases, coins, medals, bronzes, and Old Master paintings to furnish their English residences.
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