Wednesday, 26 September 2012
‘There is still nothing like Roehampton anywhere in London to get an impression of the aristocratic Georgian country villa’
As Pevsner put it, ‘There is still nothing like Roehampton anywhere in London to get an impression of the aristocratic Georgian country villa’ (Buildings of England 687). I have just sent off my abstact for a conference on the reception of Hercules that Emma Stafford is organising in Leeds. What I say in the abstract is that the paper will focus upon one aspect of this ‘impression’: the ‘Choice of Hercules’ on the chimneypiece of what is now one of the showpiece rooms of the University of Roehampton: the ‘Adam Room’ in Grove House. I state that to explore why the myth was thought suitable for display in an eighteenth-century gentleman’s residence, I shall first consider the key inspirations for the chimneypiece, notably the works of Matteis and Shaftesbury, and the Farneze Hercules, the ‘must see’ of the Grand Tour and staple feature of the gardens of the men who were transforming their estates into simulacra of classical sanctuaries. I shall also consider whether - as I discussed in a previous posting to this blog - the chimneypiece is following Rysbrack’s design for a ‘Choice of Hercules’ chimneypiece. I will explore the place of the chimneypiece within the iconography of the room, which, usually ascribed to Robert Adam, has been described as ‘a good example of classical restraint’ to quote from Audrey Coe's History of Grove House). I plan, too, to discuss how the image exemplifies eighteenth-century uses of Hercules as an every(gentle)man, while also appropriating the concept of the ‘underside’ of Hercules by pointing to the hero's connections with the decadence and indulgence of ‘Vice’.