Motivation in Collecting Art

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“Collecting may be defined as a form of consumption characterized by the selection, the gathering together, and setting aside a group of objects” (Swann 6). Collecting art in the early modern period was a cultural phenomenon in England. “Collecting was a vital social practice during the early modern period because it served as a point of convergence for a wide range of cultural forces” such as social status, rarity of the object, and historical significance (Swann 16). It is imperative to remember that one does not collect art for the sole purpose of admiring it; but rather, in order to assemble a collection based on the rarity of the object in order to prove one’s wealth and status (Class Lecture 7/7).

The Wilton House, an English country estate located near Salisbury, exhibits all of these qualities. The Wilton House reveals how a room can embody social status, how a collection of rare marbles can provide power and reinforce the wealth and exclusivity of the family. Also the house is constructed in a classical Palladian style, and references the historical influence of Antiquity. In the early modern period, the aristocracy needed to display their wealth through their everyday life. Ones collection was considered “an exhibition of elite status” and reflected the “traditional material display of ‘magnificence’” (Swann 17). One’ s magnificence is directly related to one’s actions, generosity, extravagant lifestyle, and noble influence. The Wilton House is home to several significant works of art, including pieces from Rembrandt, Reubens, Brueghel, and Van Dyck. If one wanted a collection to be worth something, it was vital for one’s collection to consist of art across Europe, not just England. The most magnificent room in Wilton House is the Double Cube Room. This room was designed by Inigo Jones and exemplifies the family’s magnificence. The walls are painted white, with intricate gold leafed details. The red velvet furniture against the white wall...
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