The Antique in print: the classical past and the visual arts in the long 18th century

Classical reliefs, sarcophagi, frescoes, coins, and gems were frequently copied and readapted by Renaissance artists from the 15th century onwards. Yet it was only in the age of the Enlightenment that a selection of them was canonized, illustrated, and diffused in Europe through antiquarian publications. Scholars and travelers on the Grand Tour viewed antiquity through the lens of these books. Their printed illustrations offered a range of images and symbolic references for artists, decorators, and architects whenever they wanted to quote the Antique in their creations. 

Join us as Dr. Adriano Aymonino explores how the print culture of the long 18th century shaped the visual and allegorical language of Neoclassicism. At the same time, he will contextualize Michel Angelo Pergolesi’s drawings and popular set of prints (Designs for Various Ornaments, 1777–1801). Dr. Julia Siemon, curator of Cooper Hewitt’s Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things: Ornament in 18th Century Britain will provide a brief overview of the exhibition at the start of the program. 


Dr. Adriano Aymonino is Director of Undergraduate Programmes in the Department of History of Art at the University of Buckingham and Programme Director for the MA in the Art Market and the History of Collecting. He has curated several exhibitions, such as Drawn from the Antique: Artists and the Classical Ideal, held at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London in 2015. His book Enlightened Eclecticism was published by Yale University Press in June 2021 and has won the 2022 William MB Berger Prize for British Art History. He is currently working on a revised edition of Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny’s Taste and the Antique (2023); and on a critical edition of Robert Adam’s Grand Tour correspondence, which will be hosted on the Sir John Soane’s Museum website (2024). He is also co-editor of the series Paper Worlds published by MIT Press and associate editor of the Journal of the History of Collections.  

Dr. Julia Siemon is Assistant Curator of Paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Prior to joining the Getty, she was Assistant Curator of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, where she organized Mr. Pergolesi’s Curious Things: Ornament in 18th Century Britain, on view through January 29, 2023. Previously, as Assistant Research Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she organized The Silver Caesars: A Renaissance Mystery (2017-18) and was editor and co-author of the related volume. Her other publications include contributions to The Medici: Portraits and Politics 15121570 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2021), and A Royal Renaissance Treasure and its Afterlives: The Royal Clock Salt (British Museum Research Publications, 2021). She holds a PhD from Columbia University (2015), where she specialized in Italian Renaissance painting. 


This program will feature a lecture with a slideshow presentation followed by an audience Q&A hosted through Zoom, with the option to dial in as well. Details will be emailed to you upon registration. This program includes closed captioning. It will be recorded and available on Cooper Hewitt’s YouTube channel a week following the lecture. For general questions or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email us at or let us know when registering. 

Special Thanks

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