One thing I've been trying to do this morning, with no success to date, is to find a colour image, or indeed any image, of Antonio's Zucchi's A Student Conducted to Minerva who Points to Greece and Italy which formed the frontispiece of the Adam Bros's Works for two main reasons, and whose choice was likely to be 'of Adam's choosing' (Tait, Robert Adams: Drawings and Imagination 1993: 90). I've been looking for this image firstly to gauge whether Minerva as represented here might be inspiring, or the inspiration for, Industry-Virtue-&c as she's represented in the Adam Room's Choice of Hercules chimneypiece, and secondly, to find out if I can what the panel on the left of the painting might be showing - something appropriately allegorical presumably to match the allegory of the painting overall? Could it even be the choice of Hercules? I've not been able to discover, yet, where the painting now is, if it's extant. The illustration I've picked to accompany this posting is a 1775 engraving in the BM prints collection after Zucchi's work by Bartolozzi, a contemporary of Zucchi who was active in Britain between 1774 and 1799 (my source for these dates: the BM database) which won't I think help answer the second question, but will help with the first one.
The key question I wanted to address last Friday was: could the chimneypiece have been designed by Rysbrack? Back last summer when I was composing my abstract for the Hercules conference (for details see various earlier postings) I said that the paper would investigate whether this could have been the case. When I began revisiting the topic last month I became worried that I'd been naively taking two pieces of evidences I'd found and considering that there might be some connection between them: i.e. out of premise A) there is a chimneypiece in the Adam Room designed by Adam (well, possibily: see below), and B) Rysbrack did a design for a Choice of Hercules chimneypiece, proposing that C) Adam used Rybrack's design. I'm now thinking that my either instinct might have been right, or that at least it's worth positing whether this is a possibility. One thing I've become aware of is how much interaction there was between Adam and contemporary artists so much so that one can talk of a circle round him (ref. to follow for key bk on this topic...) incl. Rysbrack, and Zucchi as briefly looked at above; also Wedgwood?. So I want to find out more about interaction between Adam and Rysbrack.
But I do also want to consider whether it could Adam's own design, starting perhaps by looking at the Adam prints in the Soane Museum archives which include a large number of designs for chimneypieces. If there don't turn out to be any Choices, I'll still be able to assess the kinds of allegorial/mythological scenes that Adam depicted.
There is also this question: was the chimneypiece or the 'Adam Room' generally actually designed by Adam? I'll follow up here on an intriguing document in the Froebel Archive referring to the designs as 'Adameque' (ref. to follow). That said, to be 'after Adam' is itself to be engaging with his brand of neoclassicism.
Another question: why a chimneypiece? Perhaps because they are key to a room - as fixed items, providing a focal point unlike moveable furniture, which would in any case be moved out of a room for funcions (functions can't be an 18th-c term..), which was why Adam didn't focus heavily upon furniture design (add ref.).
Adam chimneypiece in Syon House (ill. to right)? What messages did this image convey for a showpice drawingroom? What image of antiquity is being appropriated? I want to keep my focus on 'why Hercules' Choice?' and 'why Industry/Virtue as Minerva?' but the question of why other figures were chosen will need some consideration.
Now I'm going to be looking more the Adam chimneypieces discussed in Stillman, The Decorative Art of Robert Adam (1966)...