Our speaker of the evening will be Mr. William Keys Rudolph, who will lecture about "The `Choice' of Herakles and Homer: Two Wedgwood Designs by John Flaxman.
It is a truism in art history that the eighteenth century rediscovered antiquity. In England, for example, such works as John Flaxman's Homeric line illustrations and sculptural projects, as well as the Grand Style portraits of Sir Joshua Reynolds, were all informed by this rediscovery. The influence of the antique also extended into the decorative arts. An examination of two jasperware pottery designs by John Flaxman for the Josiah Wedgwood & Co. - The Apotheosis of Homer (ca. 1777-79) and Herakles in the Garden of Hesperides (ca. 1785) - reveals a rather selective, deliberate use of the classical tradition, one that provides fashionable trappings of culture.
Furthermore, the two designs, both taken by Flaxman from Pierre D'Hancarville's publication of Sir William Hamilton's collection, demonstrate how an existing iconography could appeal or be changed to meet contemporary needs. The Herakles' appeal may have arisen from the existing contemporary identification with the figure of Herakles as the prototype of the virtuous, public minded citizen. The Apotheosis aligned an antique scene of victorious citharode with the contemporary glorification of Homer and other classical authors, an altered iconography that Flaxman later extended in 1783-4 into an original design for Wedgwood.
Mr. Rudolph was the speaker at the Boston Wedgwood Society for the Elizabeth Chellis Lecture. He also has lectured on "Early Renaissance Art", "Gesturic" and "The Importance of the Figure to Art History." He was the President of the Art History Graduate Institute at the University of Virginia. He has an extensive educational background at the University of Virginia, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of Virginia. He has an extensive educational background at the University of Virginia, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and at University College, University of London. He has also had museum experience at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and at the Bayley Art Museum, University of Virginia.