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COCKERELL, Charles Robert / KINNARD, William / DONALDSON, Thomas Leverton / JENKINS, William / RAILTON, William. The Antiquities of Athens and other Places in Greece, Sicily etc., London, Priestley and Weale, 1830.

The fifth volume of the “Antiquities of Athens” is in fact an Appendix to the previous editions, published in the honour of J. Stuart and N. Revett. Five renowned architects and archaeologists, (first of all Ch.R. Cockerell but also W. Kinnard, Th.L. Donaldson, W. Jenkins and W. Railton) present the monuments of Agrigento, Figaleia, Corfu, Messene, Mycenae, Delos, and the ancient theatres of Epidaurus, Dodoni, Syracuse, and other antiquities. As in the previous volumes, detailed explanations come between general views of the monuments and the more detailed representations such as closer views, sections, floor plans, ceiling plans and architectural features.

James Stuart (1713-1788) was a British painter and architect, son of a Scotch sailor. He started painting from a very early age. While still an adolescent, he earned a scholarship for the Society of Arts, where he was able to cultivate his talent in drawing and geometry. In 1741, his siblings aided him to travel to Rome, as he had fervently desired. Stuart walked most of the journey, earning money from occasional jobs during his journey. In Rome, Stuart became acquainted with painter Gavin Hamilton and architects Matthew Brettingham and Nicholas Revett.

British architect and designer Nicholas Revett (1720-1804) met the aforementioned group in 1842, while he was studying painting with Cavaliere Benefiale. In April 1748, the four artists made an excursion on foot to Naples and toured the antiquities. At that time, in their treatise “Proposals for publishing an accurate description of the Antiquities of Athens”, Stuart and Revett first formulated the idea which would lead to their project in Greece. The idea gained the fervent support of the Dilettante Society in Rome, who financed the mission.

Stuart and Revett arrived in Greece in the spring of 1751. They stayed there for about two years and a half, facing a multitude of adversities in their work. They returned to England in 1755. The two worked mainly in Athens and Attica, but also visited Corinth, Thessaloniki and Delphi. Revett measured the monuments and Stuart made the drawings. All the work was completed in situ. Determined to delineate everything in high fidelity, they dug almost to the foundations of the buildings. As they note in their introduction, no element was added to make a more picturesque whole, even the human figures were depicted from nature.

The first volume of “The Antiquities of Athens measured and delineated by James Stuart F.R.S. and F.S.A. and Nicholas Revett Painters and Architects”, was published in 1762, receiving a warm welcome from the British public. The work was a landmark in European classicism. Stuart became famous, was surnamed “Athenian” and elected a member of the Royal Society. Revett, on the other hand, remained relatively obscure, as he interrupted his collaboration with Stuart and sold him his rights to the work. Stuart turned to architecture and designed the first neoclassical buildings in England. Stuart died suddenly in 1788, while preparing the edition of the second volume of the work. Revett continued to participate in archaeological expeditions, always as a member of the Dilettante Society, and also built neoclassical houses. He died aged 84. The four-volume edition of the “The Antiquities of Athens” was completed by other prominent members of the Dilettante Society in 1816 .

More than three hundred drawings, with views and delineations, plans, sections and details of ancient monuments and architectural elements, in exquisitely made copper engravings accompanied by explanatory texts on the use of the monument, archaeological comments and travel impressions, are included in their works. They inaugurated a new era, in which meticulous measurement replaced a generic, often imaginary representation of ancient monuments.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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