Thomas Hope (1769-1831): An Interdisciplinary Champion of Good Greek Design

Dr. Frances Van Keuren
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Thomas Hope (1769-1831) focused his manifold talents on promoting good Greek design. Through his extensive Mediterranean travels from 1787 to 1795 and thereafter, Hope gained expertise in Greek architecture. Through his collection of Greek vases and classical sculpture, he became intimately familiar with Greek art. He also studied Greek and Roman furniture, possessing some ancient pieces himself.

Hope promoted the emulation of the Greeks in all his writings. Early in his career, he championed the revival of Greek architecture in Observations on the Plans and Elevations designed by James Wyatt, Architect, for Downing College, Cambridge (1804). Shortly thereafter, he published Household Furniture and Interior Decoration executed from Designs of Thomas Hope (1807), and then the first edition of Costume of the Ancients (1809). These two publications had the purpose of providing for furniture producers and artists, respectively, models of classical design principles and representative costumes of the different ancient peoples.

It has been assumed that Hope's furniture designs and ancient costume renderings are archaeologically accurate. However, when compared with their named ancient prototypes, Hope's costume renderings can be seen to be substantially altered, both in their ornamental details and in their artistic style. Hope's unpublished preliminary and final costume drawings at the Gennadius Library in Athens show how he transformed his ancient sources. Hope's furniture designs often combine contemporary forms with ancient ornamental motifs. This eclecticism reflects Hope's stated intent that his furniture designs, rather than being exact replicas of ancient pieces, share in "the attributes of elegance and of beauty" exhibited by his antiquities (Household Furniture, p. 3).

The evidence of Hope's ancient costume and furniture designs demonstrates that his concept of antiquity needs to be redefined as his own unique vision. It involved an attempt to create a domestic environment with a harmonious "assemblage of productions of ancient art and of modern handicraft", that formed an aesthetically "consistent and… instructive whole" (Household Furniture, pp. 3-4).

Keywords: Thomas Hope, Costume of the Ancients, Household Furniture, Ancient Costume, Ancient Furniture, James Wyatt
Stream: Aesthetics, Design
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Thomas Hope (1769-1831)

Dr. Frances Van Keuren

Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia

Ref: H05P0258