Sir William Hamilton
Pierre-François Hugues d’ Harcanville
Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities… Antiquités Etrusques, Grecques et Romaines. Tirées du Cabinet de M. Hamilton
Painting from an antique vase. [Naples: Francesco Morelli, [1766-1767].
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: the present image is one of the results.
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.
Cf. Blackmer 845; cf. Berlin Katalog 890; cf. Brunet I, 321; cf. Cohen-de Ricci 474; cf. Vinet 1528