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STUART, James / REVETT, Nicholas

The British architect and painter James Stuart (1713-1788), son of a Scottish sailor, started painting from a very early age. While still an adolescent, he was awarded a scholarship to attend the Society of Arts, where he cultivated 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 odd jobs on the way. In Rome, Stuart made friends with painter Gavin Hamilton and architects Matthew Brettingham and Nicholas Revett.

The British architect and designer Nicholas Revett (1720-1804) met Stuart, Hamilton and Brettingham in 1842, while he was in Rome 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 that would lead to their project in Greece. The idea gained the fervent support of the Society of Dilettanti in Rome, which financed the mission. Stuart and Revett arrived in Greece in the spring of 1751. They stayed there for about two and a half years, facing a multitude of adversities in their work, and returned to England in 1755.

The two worked mainly in Athens and Attica, but also visited Corinth, Thessalonica and Delphi. Revett measured the monuments and Stuart made the drawings. All the work was completed "in situ". Determined to delineate everything as accurately as possible, they excavated almost to the foundations. As they note in the introduction to the publication, no element was added to picturesque effect and 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 ended his collaboration with Stuart and sold him his rights to the work. Stuart turned to architecture and designed the first Neoclassical buildings in England. He died suddenly in 1788, while preparing for publication the second volume of the work. Revett continued to participate in archaeological expeditions, always as a member of the Society of Dilettanti, and also built Neoclassical houses. He died aged 84. The four-volume edition of the "The Antiquities of Athens" was completed posthumously by other prominent members of the Society of Dilettanti in 1816.

The edition includes more than three hundred drawings, with views and delineations, plans, sections and details of ancient monuments and architectural members, in exquisite copperplate engravings accompanied by explanatory texts on the use of the monument, archaeological comments and travel impressions. It inaugurated a new era, in which meticulous measurements replaced the generic, often imaginary representation of ancient monuments.

The first volume opens with a detailed introduction on the authors and the rationale behind this pioneering work. As in the rest of the series, the presentation of each monument begins with detailed explanations, followed by a panoramic view of it in its surroundings, and subsequently elevations, cross-sections, ground plans, underneath views and details of its architectural elements. The volume includes the Gate of Athena Archegetis (Pazaroporta), the Temple of Artemis Agrotera or Metroon "en Agrais" (church of the Virgin at the Rock), the Library of Hadrian, the Choregic Monument of Lysicrates (Diogenes’ Lantern) and the Horologion of Andronicus of Cyrrhus (Tower of the Winds). The representations of the last two monuments, especially the reliefs of the myth of Dionysus on Lysicrates’ monument and the personifications of the winds on the Horologion (clock-tower), are a fine example of Stuart’s accomplishment as a painter, while the meticulous architectural measurements are proof of Revett’s dexterity and diligence.

The second volume is dedicated to the monuments of the Acropolis: the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Propylaea, presented in the same way as the monuments of the first volume. The third volume, organized in the same way, includes explanatory texts, views and delineations of the Temple of Hephaestus (Theseion), the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Aqueduct of Hadrian, the Temple of Apollo in Corinth, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Odeum of Herodes Atticus, the Las Incantadas monument in Thessalonica, the ruins of Delos and part of a portico near the Choregic Monument of Lysicrates. Of special interest is the Catalogue at the end of introduction, which lists the modern names of settlements, villages, monasteries and farms in Attica, with their corresponding ancient toponyms, as well as observations, drawings and references. There is also a list of ancient and modern place names of the Megaris. Another list is of ports of call and harbours on the maritime route from Sciathos to Euboea, and ports, coasts and capes from Cenchreae to Sounion.

The fourth volume describes the monuments of Pula in Istria on the Dalmatian coast, with its temples and amphitheatre, as well as the Parthenon sculptures and some other antiquities. The fifth volume was published in honour of Stuart and Revett. Five acclaimed architects and archaeologists present monuments in Acragas, Phigalia, Corfu, Messene, Mycenae, Delos, ancient theatres in Epidaurus, Dodone, Syracuse, and other antiquities.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

STUART, James / REVETT, Nicholas -

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