New Book | Then and Now: Collecting and Classicism

Posted in books by Editor on August 15, 2015

From McGill-Queen’s University Press:

Jean Coutu, Then and Now: Collecting and Classicism in Eighteenth-Century England (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), 340 pages, ISBN: 978-0773545434, $100.

9780773545434In the mid-eighteenth century, English gentlemen filled their houses with copies and casts of classical statuary while the following generation preferred authentic antique originals. By charting this changing preference within a broader study of material culture, Joan Coutu examines the evolving articulation of the English gentleman.

Then and Now consists of four case studies of mid-century collections. Three were amassed by young aristocrats—the Marquis of Rockingham, the Duke of Richmond, and the Earl of Huntingdon—who, consistent with their social standing, were touted as natural political leaders. Their collections evoke the concept of gentlemanly virtue through example, offering archetypes to encourage men toward acts of public virtue. As the aristocrats matured in the politically fractious realm of the 1760s, such virtue could become politicized. A fourth study focuses on Thomas Hollis, who used his collection to proselytize his own unique political ideology.

Framed by studies of collecting practices earlier and later in the century, Coutu also explores the fluid temporal relationship with the classical past as the century progressed, firmly situating the discussion within the contemporaneous emerging field of aesthetics. Broadening the focus beyond published texts to include aesthetic conversations among the artists and the aristocracy in Italy and England, Then and Now shows how an aesthetic canon emerged—embodied in the Apollo Belvedere, the Venus de’ Medici, and the like—which shaped the Grand Manner of art.

Joan Coutu is associate professor of art history and visual culture at the University of Waterloo, and author of Persuasion and Propaganda: Monuments and the Eighteenth-Century British Empire.

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1  Temporal Elision and Sculpture Collections in the First Half of the Eighteenth Century
2  An “Old Whig”: The 2nd Marquis of Rockingham and His Collections
3  The 3rd Duke of Richmond and His Sculpture Gallery in Whitehall: Munificence Worthy of a Prince
4  The 10th Earl of Huntingdon and the Arcadian Plains of Leicestershire
5  Thomas Hollis and His Life Plan
6  Conclusion: The Nuances of the Classical Archetype


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