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Defining and displaying the human body: collectors and Classics during the British Enlightenment Author(s): Ellen

Defining and displaying the human body: collectors and Classics during the British Enlightenment Author(s): Ellen Adams Source: Hermathena, No. 187 (Winter 2009), pp. 65-97 Published by: Trinity College Dublin Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23317524 Accessed: 19-08-2015 18:47 UTC

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Defining

and

displaying

body:

British Enlightenment

collectors

and Classics

by Ellen Adams

the human

during

the

An

extensive

body

of

philosophical

literature

exists

on

developing

d e v e l o p i n g

This

paper

Classics

have

notions

attempts

also

the study

of the body, personhood

to

shaped

modern

and the individual.

artistic

practices

and

being

and

human.

medical

notions

show

how

collecting

about

ideas

Through

of the body

have been explored, established and contested. Enlightenment house-museums not only transmitted knowledge, but they also

certain

created it.1 Classics

collections,

of some

of London's

how

we can better understand

had

a large part to play in developing

such as health

Enlightenment themes,

core of British education during the Enlightenment and beyond.

Scholars at Eton in the eighteenth century spent 88 per cent of

their class time studying

world played an immense role in intellectual

elite life,3

and beauty.

In adulthood,

It formed the

the classical

and

the Classics.2

enhancing

developments

privileged

This

disciplines,

social

should

status.

be

Arguably,

all

through

Enlightenment

the

lens

of

reception.

the

a variety

of

studies,

considered

legacy

seeks

of the ancient

to

integrate

museology,

world,

or classical

from

reception

paper

approaches

classical

including

1 S.

Moser,

Wondrous

p. 2.

Curiosities:

Ancient

and New York 2006),

2 V. Coltman,

Fabricating

the Antique:

Egypt in the British Museum

(Chicago

NeocLassicism

in Britain

(Chicago

and

London

'Classicism

early

2006),

p.

11-4;

this education

continued

library: reading

Journal of the History of Collections

during

culture

the Grand

Tour:

V. Coltman

and

in the English

centuries',

classical

Concerning

in the late eighteenth

11 (1999).

nineteenth

3

J. Spence,

Polymetis: or, an Enquiry

the Agreement between the Works

of the Roman

them mutually from One Another (London

Poets and the Remains

'"That

of the Antient Artists; being an Attempt to Illustrate

1747),

p.

286,

e d u c a t e d

educated

meet

with

refers to a common,

men

(speaking

in underftanding

absurd

through

the claffics

them too much

at school"'.

This

over

paradox stated by mid-eighteenth-century

Polymetis):

I

now, arifes from my having

the greateft difficulty

read and ftudied

exposure

navigate

although

than the cleareft language

generated

a richness

Spence

even

of interpretations

questions

the

of texts

value

that were

impossible

dead

to

through.

the antiquities

of learning

languages,

'fpeak to the eyes; and are lefs equivocal,

can poffibly be'

(p. 290).

and more expreffive,

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66

Ellen Adams

history of medicine, archaeology,

art history and visual culture.4

Eighteenth-century

followed a distinct

trajectory from those

British developments on the Continent.5

The

focus

will

be

on

London because of its undoubted

role as a cultural

centre as well

as

the political

capital;

it

was

the hub

through

which

ideas,

information

and

indeed

objects

were

transferred,

particularly

through

house-museums

and

the

newly-established

royal

institutions.

These

provided

a

vital

communication

centre

between

the developing

and

emerging

disciplines

such

as

art

surgery. The

Enlightenment

(or

'long'

eighteenth

history

century,

aesthetic

disciplines

and

moving

to didactic

in certain

into the nineteenth)6

or 'professional'

witnessed

the shift from

collections,

which drove

directions.

It was

until

the

part sculpture collection

latter

of

not, for example, that

any

the

eighteenth

century

classical

creation',7

was

'in

any

sense

a scholarly

rather than

a less critical

assemblage

of objects,

albeit

obtained

on aesthetic

grounds.

This

paper

explores

the

of

and

attitudes

towards

ancient

sculptural

fragments

display

and

the role

of

human

remains

in defining

by key collectors, classifications.

bodily

The

museum

setting objectifies representations

of the

body;

stripped

to

the

skin or the bone, the viewed body may be sexualized

as well

as

scrutinized

that art meets medicine

Enlightenment; the mix. The

human

fragmentary

for medical

purposes.

in

a

seeks

has

variety

It

long

of

been

ways

the classical

the classical

of where

and

paper

recognized

during

heritage

the

to

and the

the body's

they

the

this paper

required

to add

nature of both the sculptures

a re-evaluation

remains

and

boundaries

could

relationships

representations

collections

lay, the meaning

should

be

of fragments,

This

men

had

in

the

whether

explores

reconstructed.

body

influence.

that key professional

of

the

human

with these various

context

of both

and the classical

4 See

the Journal for Eighteenth-Century

Studies

vol.

34

(2011)

for

a

call

for

interdisciplinary

5

For

counterparts

6

approaches.

British

example,

aristocrats

antiquities.

lagged

behind

their

in collecting

ancient

Historians

of the Enlightenment

agree that this period,

Italian

although

as a concept,

The Enlightenment

is difficult to pin down

(Oxford

in chronological

terms, for example

and New York 2010),

pp. 23-5.

7

and

French

recognizable

K. O'Hara,

J. Scott,

The Pleasures

of Antiquity:

British Collectors of Greece and Rome (New

Haven

and London

2003),

p.

169.

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Classics

and the human

body

67

1. Collecting, identifying and classifying the body

may be considered the ultimate empirical activity, but

Collecting

and

were

important

connoisseurs,

and medicine.

decoration

museums, although antiquities were not universally admired and

collected.9 The role classical antiquities

prestige is the influence, the human

ideas

less studied

aristocracy's

the

display

status, to

rationale

behind

the selection

theoretical.8

of objects

Classical

to acquire

sculptures

is always

highly

to aristocrats

and

striving to enhance

and

students

wanted

houses

had

is well

their social

to teachers

of art, architecture

to buy fashionable

or urban house

in enhancing

known;10

what

the

is

In particular,

in

collectors

country

social

body

status

for display

and

if any, they had on Enlightenment

in

both

medical

and

aesthetic

about

terms.

Much

sculpture

examples.

collections;11

travel

ancient

fundamentally

museum:

in.

of what

derives

Enlightenment

from

Roman

pieces

formed

Greece

the English

The

Britons

copies

the

basis

knew

of classical

Greek

British

to

buyers of

was

of

early was at this time too dangerous

classical

of

Italian

Ottoman

1770s,

By the

marble

were the principal

context

of these

set

stood

inside

a

sculpture.12

changed

objects

when

house

sentry, a silent audience,

British

the crowd of sculptures

8

A. MacGregor,

Curiosity and Enlightenment:

Collectors and

Collections from the

Sixteenth to the Nineteenth

in classical

in A. MacGregor

of the

(London

demonstrate

conspicuous

(New

Roman;

Cook,

9

Scott, Pleasures

of Antiquity,

antiquities:

(ed.),

British Museum

10

11

E.g.

R.

2001),

Century

(New

Haven

p.

215.

and London

Sloane

2007).

was notably

"Repository

Sir Hans

antiquities:

uninterested

of Time'",

Father

I. Jenkins 'Classical

Sir Hans

Sloane:

(London

1994),

Marble

qualifies

and

Mania:

Sloane's

Collector, Scientist, Antiquary,

pp. 167-73.

Sculpture

Galleries

'collectors

Founding

Guilding,

p. 4.

taste,

She

utility

consumption'.

in England

1640-1840

this, stating:

universal

laboured

than

under an onus

to

simply

practising

essentially

in

M.

1751-1824

Clarke

possibly

(Berlin

benefits,

rather

I. Bignamini

Haven

and

and C. Hornsby,

London

2010).

Digging

and Dealing

Townley's

formed

imitating

Richard

and

in eighteenth-century Rome

was

B.F.

part of his collection:

For example,

Greek

1985),

original

p.

and

27.

collection

ancient

art',

Payne

Knight

Archaic

However,

Hope's

Hope

only one fifth-century BC

(London,

12

The

N.

Townley

Marbles

Penny, 'Collecting,

Penny

(eds),

1982),

to

be

interpreting,

and

(Manchester

archaeologists

appears

acquired

N.

The Arrogant

Since

Connoisseur:

p. 65.

the Romans

had not shipped

of them.

kouroi

to Italy,

there is what

and aesthetes

a genuine

his visit

were not initially aware

Archaic

in

1799:

Greek

G.

Waywell,

kore in Thomas

Lever

collection,

Sculptures

during

41,

that collectors

1986),

p.

79.

were aware of this period

It is possibly

a good

Roman

of Greek art at this time.

copy, but it nonetheless

demonstrates

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68

Ellen

Adams

as

well

as

objects

of ancient b e a u t y
of ancient b e a u t y
of ancient b e a u t y

of ancient

beauty

to

be

viewed.

Winckelmann

in the present

felt that

day and

the

in the

art was 'located

experience

Theory

scholars.14

the eye

ones.15

through

however,

itself to be a two-way

Townley's

to become

British Museum,

country retreats, Townley's visited by many. He aimed

phase

chronological

collection

was individually with certain pieces

and over doorways, but Zoffany 'moved'

for

collection

correct, and with accompaniments

'with

beauty

of the modern

observer'.13

In contrast,

materialist

and idealist

the Platonic

French

where

of Forms,

is in

Hume

For him,

communal

such as Beauty, particularly

both

challenged of the beholder,

'the

rules

of

consensus

influenced

visions,

or neoplatonic established

empirically It is clear,

reveals

was

the

for

and

art were

and

the test of time'.16

that the relationship

between

viewer and viewed

collection

collections

specimens

not

relationship

when set in a museum.

collection,

Charles

eighteenth-century

which

of

the foundation

of the sculpture

Unlike

was exceptional.

art,17 although

rooms

destined

Park Street home

to possess

was accessible

displayed

displayed

from every

in

his

of ancient

they were

order. The

in which

Townley

look

were painted

in rich, dark colours,

The

cluttered

so that each marble

of his Library,

outlined.18

carefully fitted into areas on top of bookcases

paid

homage

to aesthetic

-

(Figure to the upper floor library

values

1

the heavier pieces

of

this

painting).19

an

Townley

exhibited

his

arrangement

classically

so admirably

selected,

that

the

purpose

symmetrically,

the interior of a Roman villa might be inspected

metropolis'.20 The Discus-thrower

visible from the front hall down

group stark, undomesticated

space,

a venerable

in

dining

our

own

room,

by

a

with

stood

in

a corridor.

Chambers'

the

It was surrounded

painting

depicts

of sculptures;

lacking

furniture but cluttered

13 Beauty and Art: 1750-2000

E. Prettejohn,

14 76-7.

(Oxford

1757).

Archaeology

p. 99.

2005),

and

p.

18.

Ibid.,

J.M.

15 D.

16 The Society of Dilettanti:

pp.

Hume,

Kelly,

(New

Four Dissertations

Haven

Mania,

p.

pp.

(London

26-7;

2009),

Identity in the British

pp.

201-3.

Townley's

Enlightenment

17

and London

10.

18 Guilding,

Cook,

Marble

Townley

Marbles,

Scott, Pleasures

19 V. Coltman,

of Antiquity,

'Representation,

replication

and collecting

in Charles

late eighteenth-century

20

J. Dallaway,

library', Art History 29 (2006).

Of Statuary and Sculpture among the Antients: with some Account

of

Specimens Preserved in England

(London

1816),

p. 328.

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Classics

and the human

body

69

Charles

although he would act as personal guide, and regularly updated catalogues for his collection.22

marble ghosts (Figure

2).

Townley

published

little,21

Thomas

Hope's

early nineteenth-century

house

(remodelled

their

backs against

The

3).23

country house

of statues,

served

than

careful attention

and

theatre, advocating

in antiquity.

design

articles

architectural

on the whole

the cast of Apollo

lower areas of the museum

of ruins'.27 This is house-museum as theatre, exploring the

relationship

very

taste, but rather

1799-1804)

in Duchess

Street had sculptures

set out with

the wall of the gallery, greeting

semi-circular

'Amphitheatre',

at the Deepdene and

cinerary

busts

to express

the visitor (Figure

in

his

constructed

in Surrey, contained

urns placed

status and

viewers.

an audience

on the tiers.24 They

Hope

paid

object

of

as

as props

solely

learning,

also

viewed,

they were

to the relationship

setting.25 He

had

the construction

between

studied

the displayed

its theatrical

He

the architecture

auditoria

of semi-circular

had sat on the Competition

Royal,

Drury

of

Our

is likewise

is likewise

Committee

for the

of the new Theatre

on

The

Structure

house-museum

as

he

had

Belvedere

humans

have

Lane,

and had written

John

and

Soane's

remains

is

Theatres.26

theatrical,

left it. A centrepiece

in a space

(Figure

with

of the museum

that unifies the upper and

landscape

The

4) 'into a simulated

their

built

environment.

aesthetic

body

is reassessed

in terms

of the practical

need

for

structures

to

protect

it.

Publications

of the time also offer insights

perceived.

a

into the manner

Spence's

rather

poets

and

Polymetis

rambling

art, but

in which antiquities has been described

account

were

as

Joseph

It

is

Roman

'simplistic'.28

between

of the relationship

21

H. Ellis,

1846),

The

p. 6,

Townley

10.

Gallery

p. 7.

of Classic

Sculpture

in

the British

Museum

(London

22

Cook, Townley Marbles,

23 T. Hope,

Hope

Household

Furniture

(London

1807).

and Interior Decoration,

This

volume

is

Executed from Designs

by

well

illustrated,

Thomas

extremely in the exhibits.

demonstrating

24

the strong symmetry of composition

of Antiquity,

pp. 244-5.

Scott, Pleasures

D.

Watkin,

Thomas

Hope

1769-1831

and

the Neo-classical

Idea

(London

1968),

26

27

Journal

28

p.

Watkin, Thomas Hope,

108.

p. 57.

S.

of the Society of Architectural

Feinburg,

'The

genesis

Scott, Pleasures of Antiquity,

of

Historians

169.

p.

Sir John

Soane's

43 (1984),

Museum

p. 34.

Idea:

1801-1810',

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70

Ellen

Adams

was nonetheless well-read at the time. Characteristics of key gods

are noted,

literary references,

by classical

archaeology the literary sources.31

about

Such

relevant

such

as

Mild

and

and

Terrible

Jupiter,29 with

ideas

the visual

an approach

serving

arts are informed

arts a r e i n f o r m e d
renders classical

renders classical

merely

to decorate

in

literary sources.30

a handmaid

to classics,

Indeed,

not all writers were interested

publishing

Hope,

the purpose of which was to inspire new artistic creations which

of

early nineteenth

to

larger agendas.

by the

Grandeur

Zürich),

colossal

ancients

How

representations of the body, never mind surpass it? Some artists

resisted the challenge

of a

the

were handmaid

embodied

'archaeological'

studies

importance

of sculptures. was as symbols

For Thomas

of antiquity,

'their overriding

their principles

but were adapted

to the demands

century life'.32 In this case, these classical

to modernity,

again

somewhat

drawing,

'The

Artist moved

Fragments'

(1778-80:

in hands,

passive

to Despair

bodies

props

In Fuseli's

of Antique

in the Kunstaus,

foot

of

the artist sits, head

statue.33

inspired

could

The

by the broken

and

techniques

a sense

craftsmanship

awe,

not only

modern

but also

of inadequacy.

match

ancient

Hogarth's

artists

possibly

classicism

could

offer. William

The

Analysis

of Beauty

was

not

an

overwhelming

success

critically,

connoisseurs,

were more

its perch

the beauty

possibly

because

classicism

it

explicit itself.34 Other

to knock

was

an

attack

on

if not

artists,

however,

art off

that

perfect

sympathetic

- for example,

to the attempt

embracing

was

ancient

declaration

the most

Hogarth's

of living women

greater than

29

30

Spence,

For example,

Polymetis, p. 53.

Spence,

Polymetis, p. 261:

'I fancy Mors was common

enough

in

the paintings

by the

31

of old;

poets'.

becaufe

Spence,

fuller as

fhe is fo frequently

Polymetis, p. 67 states:

former, than

and

to

the

The

mentioned

in a defcriptive

manner,

look

had

of

the

Roman

to copy

32

For example,

the poets

'To

any ftatue can

could

return to the eyes and

be. They

draw feveral ideas

fculptor

can

only

in any one

1986),

Venus;

painters

life, which

proportions

are

from, as well as the ftatuaries;

in marble.

Hope

from the

from the

give you

the

See

Hope,

are not

to be expreffed

of things, and one fingle attitude

The Lever and

of a perfon

ftatue

p.

48.

G. Waywell,

Sculptures

(Berlin

Household

Furniture.

33

L.

Nochlin,

The Body

in Pieces:

The Fragment

as a Metaphor

of Modernity

(London

34

1994),

pp.

W.

Hogarth,

7-8.

The

Analysis

of Beauty:

Written

with

a

Fluctuating

Ideas ofTaste (London

1753);

Kelly, Society of Dilettanti,

View

of Fixing

pp. 98-111.

the

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Classics

and the human

body

71

antique

and

Reynolds

Venus.35 However,

worlds

neoclassical

the

artists united

For

the modern

Joshua

poses of

Her

ancient

through

body.

example,

placed

statues, too did life imitate

his models

as 'essential

great

and sitters into recognizable

prototypes

of Emma

ancient

So

wife

performances

for the contemporary'.36

Hamilton,

art in the 'attitudes'

collector