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Vortrag Arthur MacGregor



von 18:15 bis 20:15




Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Vortragsraum 242, II. OG, Katharina-von-Bora-Straße 10, 80333 München

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A late start but a strong beginning: patterns of collecting in England in the seventeenth century

While England played no significant part in the early phases of the history of collecting, its development in the seventeenth century was rapid, vigorous and multi-faceted, to the point where by mid-century it had become a major player on the European stage. In the field of fine art in particular, an explosion of interest around the court of Charles I led to the establishment in the palatial London residences of the King and his courtiers of one of the richest concentrations of paintings in Europe. Classical sculpture too made its first appearance in England at this time, but other aspects of European collecting culture failed to take root: the most famous Kunstkammer collection in England, for example, was that owned by the royal gardener. By the end of the Civil War the great aristocratic collections had been scattered, but in a sense collecting had become ‘democratized’ in the process and was practised by a much wider social spectrum at the end of the century. In equal measure, the empirical basis of the ‘new science’ propagated in the works of Sir Francis Bacon in the early 1600s became widely adopted, prompting new approaches to collecting and some re-evaluation of old cabinets. By the end of the century both the range and character of English collecting had fallen into line with developments elsewhere, a situation reinforced by the emergence on the European stage of the ‘grand tourists’ from England who quickly developed a reputation as the most avid of cultural consumers and the most rapacious of collectors.

Dr. Arthur MacGregor
graduated in prehistory from the University of Edinburgh and was deputy director of the York Archaeological Trust before becoming a curator at the Ashmolean Museum in 1979. His introduction to the history of collecting came with the need to produce a publication to mark the tercentenary of the Ashmolean - Tradescant’s Rarities (1983). In the same year he co-organized an international symposium, the proceedings of which were published as The Origins of Museums (1985) and led four years later to the founding of the Journal of the History of Collections, which he has co-edited ever since. In addition to many articles, he has edited and contributed to two major monographs, The Late King's Goods. Collections, Possessions and Patronage of Charles I (1989) and Sir Hans Sloane: Collector, Scientist, Antiquary; Founding Father of the British Museum (1994); he was also a co-editor and contributor to Enlightening the British. Knowledge, Discovery and the Museum in the Eighteenth Century (2003), published to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the British Museum. He is joint general editor of The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo, published by the Royal Collection. His archaeological interests have resulted most recently in a catalogue of the Roman engraved gems in the Ashmolean Museum (2004) while a long-term engagement with the interface between man and animals has led to committee memberships on the Society for the History of Natural History, the Linnean Society, and the Paris-based journal Anthropozoologica.