Winckelmann and Curiosity - Vases

Before and during Winckelmann’s time most catalogues of antiquities classed all ancient vases, along with other artefacts discovered throughout the Italian peninsula, as Etruscan [1]. While serving as a diplomat in Naples from 1764 to 1800, Sir William Hamilton amassed two large collections of ancient vases, the first of which he sold to the British Museum in 1772. Joshua Reynolds’ 1777 portrait of Hamilton [2] shows him with his favourite vase from this collection, a large hydria that had been lavishly illustrated in Baron d’Hancarville’s 1766 publication, Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman antiquities from the cabinet of the Honourable William Hamilton [3]. The figure of Aphrodite on a squat lekythos from the Ure Museum [4] echoes the image of Aphrodite on Hamilton’s hydria. Both vases were painted in the workshop of the potter Meidias, who ‘signed’ Hamilton’s hydria.

1.    Antonio Francesco Gori, Museum Etruscum exhibens insignia veterum Etruscorum monumenta I. Florence 1737¬. Christ Church Library, A.F.1.8–10; Photograph of Giovanni Battista Passeri, Picturae Etruscorum in Vasculis nunc primum in unum collectae. Vol. 2. Rome 1770, plate 123 (showing the vase in the upright case V, no. 22).

2.    Photograph of Portrait of Sir William Hamilton with the Meidias hydria (British Museum acc. no. 1772,0320.30.+), Sir Joshua Reynolds 1777. Original in National Portrait Gallery, London, inv. no. NPG 680.

3.    Pierre Hugues d’Hancarville, Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman antiquities from the cabinet of the Honourable William Hamilton. Naples 1766, pl. 130. Christ Church Library, Wake Arch Inf F.1.2–3.

4.    Attic red-figure squat lekythos attributed to the Makaria Painter, showing Aphrodite with her entourage, ca. 420–400 BCE. Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, University of Reading, inv. no. 52.3.2.

To view more, please click on the headings below:

Winckelmann and Curiosity - Antichità diverse
Winckelmann and Curiosity - Coins
Winckelmann and Curiosity - Gems
Winckelmann and Curiosity - Miscellanea