This hand-colored engraving on laid paper is from Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein after Sir William Hamilton’s collection of vases. The full title reads Collection Of Engravings From Ancient Vases Of Greek Workmanship: Discoverd In Sepulchres In The Kingdom Of The Two Sicilies But Chiefly In The Neighbourhood Of Naples During The Course Of The Years MDCCLXXXIX and MDCCLXXXX Now In The Possession Of Sir Wm. Hamilton, His Britannic Maiesty’s Envoy Extry. And Plenipotentiary At The Court Of Naples. The work was published in Florence by Societe Chalcographique between 1800 and 1803.
This plate is from the scarce Florence edition of 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.