Thesis: The Re-evaluation of Medieval and Early Renaissance Italian Art in British Taste, during the Long Eighteenth Century: Creators, Collectors, Critics and “Gothic Atrocities”.
Supervisor: Dr Rosie Dias
Background: I am an AHRC-funded graduate of the University of St Andrews (MLitt), where my interest in the relationship between early Italian art and eighteenth-century Britain developed. My doctoral studies were supported by grants from the Leverhulme Trade Charities Trust, the Paul Mellon Centre and Il Circolo and a Warwick Postgraduate Research Scholarship.
Research Summary: The overriding aim of my doctoral research was to examine the changing attitude towards and appreciation of “Gothic” art in Britain between 1760 and 1860. Although there have been a number of studies undertaken into isolated aspects of the taste for early Italian art amongst eighteenth and nineteenth century Britons, as of yet no definitive, comprehensive synthesis has been produced from the available evidence. My research intended to take the next logical step in integrating the engagement between collectors, critics, artists and the Italian “primitives” in order to offer a fuller evaluation of the nature of the taste and appreciation for medieval and early Renaissance art. I located my examination of eighteenth-century artistic taste within the economic, social and cultural context of the era. Issues such as religious bias, the eighteenth-century Grand Tour, the subsequent rise of the ‘Cook Tour’ and the relationship between British and Italian collectors were covered, in addition to the political situation in Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which arguably provided the greatest stimulus to collecting during that period.
My preliminary research into the topic highlighted that the literature on the nineteenth-century appreciation of medieval and early Renaissance art far outweighs scholarly investigation into the preceding era. Many scholars conceptualise the reawakening of the interest in pre-Raphaelesque art as a mid-nineteenth century phenomenon, identifying it with the writings of John Ruskin and the artistic production of the Pre-Raphaelites. However, a few scholars have recognised that there were connoisseurs in Italy during the eighteenth century who demonstrated a significant interest in early Italian art (Frederick Hervey, the Earl Bishop being a prime example). Furthermore, the artistic response of Thomas Patch - who published copies after a number of (supposed) Tre and Quattrocento frescoes in Florence – to the Italian primitives has long been acknowledged, although somewhat disparaged as a largely unsuccessful early attempt at recording such art. As I believe individuals such as Patch and the Earl Bishop cannot have been entirely isolated in the attention they paid to late medieval art, I extended the conventional parameters of scholarship into this issue and, beginning with the inception of the Grand Tour as a cultural rite of passage (c.1720), traced British engagement with medieval Italian art both at home and in Italy during the long eighteenth century (c.1720-1860) with the aim of ultimately reframing our current understanding of the revival of interest.
- The relationship between British eighteenth-century artists and the Italian primitives: notions of copying, borrowing and artistic emulation
- Circles of connoisseurs and collectors who shared an interest in art outside of orthodox eighteenth-century taste
- The reception history of Italian art in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Britain, considering issues such as religious bias and sensibility (or prudishness)
- “Dogs, Casts and Daguerreotypes in Two Letters to Horatio Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford”, History of Photography, Volume 32, Number 4, Winter 2008.
- “A Forgotten Collector of Early Italian Art: Horatio Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford.” (forthcoming 2011, Burlington Magazine).