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Understanding 18th century English porcelain as sculpture

3 November 2013

Matthew Martin (National Gallery of Victoria, International Decorative Arts and Antiquities) just uploaded a paper on Academia.edu:

“Joseph Willems’ Chelsea Pietà and Eighteenth-Century Sculptural Aesthetics”

 Art Journal of the National Gallery of Victoria 51 (2013), 21-32

View Paper<http://www.academia.edu/t/mhX1a/1824264>

This paper makes an important contribution to the topic of the categorization of the arts in England in the 18th century.

“The question of the extent to which porcelain figures were considered
sculpture – that is, figural works bearing an independent meaning, viewed
and engaged with as such, rather than objects which were seen as components
subsumed into a larger decorative scheme – in mid eighteenth-century England
is one of interest. In general, porcelain has acquired overwhelmingly decorative
connotations in art historical discourse and this has overshadowed its place
in sculptural aesthetics. The medium falls foul of the aesthetic critiques of
neoclassical theorists such as Winckelmann and Goethe, as it is seen to embody
the phenomena of material illusionism (one material being employed to imitate
another) and miniaturisation, both identified by Ludwig Giesz in his influential
study Phaenomenologie des Kitsches as art historical criteria for kitsch. The
failure to consider the work of the modeller of porcelain figures as an exercise in
compositional creativity is symptomatic of the more general failure to consider
porcelain figures as art and their creators as artists.”

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