The antiquarian interior 1815-1851 : the aesthetics of erudition

Borozdin-Bidnell, Michael (2016) The antiquarian interior 1815-1851 : the aesthetics of erudition. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis explores the way in which antiquarianism in Britain influenced the decoration and layout of interior spaces between 1815 and 1851, and seeks to address broader contexts of antiquarianism and collecting during the first half of the nineteenth century. While traditional design histories have portrayed the development of the interior design model through stylistic criteria and the continuing advance of convenience and comfort during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this thesis addresses issues which have remained outside the current context of design history. Whilst acknowledging the linear strand of art and design history, this study seeks to offer a complementary appraisal which considers the role of the antiquarian collector within the cultural and social transformations between the years 1815-1851. This investigation examines the ways in which scholarly antiquaries, almost all of whom where male, mediated a new model of interior decoration. This new construct, as this thesis argues, engaged with the transmutation of the classical collecting traditions of the eighteenth century, through their conjunction with notions of Romanticism and the Picturesque within the context of the Gothic Revival, into new constructs that responded to early-nineteenth century reconfigurations of the past. It argues that through the dissemination of scholarly antiquarianism, in semi-private, semi-public interior environments, to a wider audience the past became a commodity available for consumption within private, middle-to-upper-middle-class homes; that history became a vehicle through which individual identities were expressed in the home. The emergence of the domestic interior during the first half of the nineteenth century is explored through the nature of antiquarian collecting, which included increasingly visible expositions of antiquarian architects, like Lewis Nockalls Cottingham, and experts in mediaeval costume and armour, like Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick. In an era of volatile amalgamations of political, religious and social upheavals, conflicting ideologies and concerns over the loss of Britain's built environment, this study's analysis attempts to offer a broader understanding of the way in which collections of historic objects and artefacts in the publicly-accessible private homes of antiquarian collectors, with a motivation to educate and inform, offered new cultural meanings and values to the past, offering a new model for the development of the modern interior in Britain.

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