Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things: Ornament in 18th-Century Britain showcases fanciful drawings and prints by Michel Angelo Pergolesi (died 1801), an Italian-born artist whose professional specialty, in his words, was “the ornaments of the ancients.”

In the early 1760s, Pergolesi moved to London, England, where he helped popularize a neoclassical style that employed ornament inspired by artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome. Brilliantly hued watercolors from Cooper Hewitt’s collection highlight Pergolesi’s skill in transforming ancient relics—what he called “curious Things”—into lighthearted decorative motifs.

Although his name is now largely forgotten, these rarely seen works call attention to Pergolesi’s legacy, to the Beaux-Arts neoclassical decoration of Cooper Hewitt’s historic mansion (built 1897–1902), and to the ways in which ornament of all kinds enlivens our built environment.

exhibition highlights

support

Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things: Ornament in 18th-Century Britain is made possible with generous support from the Marks Family Foundation Endowment Fund.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This exhibition was organized by Julia Siemon, PhD, Assistant Curator of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt.

Exhibition design by Field Guide Architecture and Design. Exhibition graphic design by Kelly Sung.
Three images of colorful ornament drawings by Michel Angelo Pergolesi set against a vibrant rainbow background.
Verbal Description and Touch Tour of Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things: Ornament in 18th-Century Britain
Join us for a hands-on exploration of the work of 18th-century designer and printmaker Michel Angelo Pergolesi, featured in the upcoming exhibition, Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things: Ornament in 18th-Century Britain.