‘Worthy of Eve before the Fall’: Representations of Palmyra in Eighteenth Century Britain, Elisabeth Grass
‘The Ruins of Palmyra’ (1753) was the first of a new genre of architectural publication which appeared in the mid-eighteenth century, applying empirical taxonomy to the buildings of the ancient world. It promulgated the architecture of Roman Palmyra in modern Europe and was instrumental in the development of British Neo-
Classicism. This essay considers two Palmyra-inspired artefacts: Gavin Hamilton’s ‘James Dawkins and Robert Wood Discovering the Ruins of Palmyra’ (1758) and Robert Adam’s ceiling to the drawing room at
Osterley Park, Middlesex (c. 1763). Contemporary mimetic responses to ‘The Ruins’, these artefacts are recognised as masterpieces of their respective makers and seminal to the narrative of Neo-Classicism, but they have seldom been assessed as private commissions for private individuals. This essay suggests that they offer an insight into architectural trends, self-fashioning agendas and spheres of influence, and provide a unique prism through which to view eighteenth century connoisseurship.