This hand-colored engraving is from Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein after Sir William Hamilton’s collection of vases. The full title reads Recueil de Gravures d’après les Vases Antiques or Collection of Engravings from Ancient Vases… The work was published in Naples in 1791.
This is Tischbein’s famous work on Sir William Hamilton’s second and greatest collection of antique vases. His first had been sold to the British Museum in 1772, the second nearly did not make it to Britain (about a third were lost in a shipwreck), but the collection was eventually brought by Thomas Hope, one of the great champions of the neo-classical style. The present image is both a technically brilliant record of a priceless object and a highly-pleasing graphic image that has as much appeal today as when it was produced in Florence two hundred years ago.
Sir William Hamilton was the British ambassador to Naples from 1764 to 1800, during the city’s golden age. An avid antiquarian, Hamilton assembled one of the world’s finest collections of Greek and Roman antiquities. 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 found its expression in the new style of neo-classicism and in the collections of antiquites which found their way to many of the stately homes of England.