The Hamilton Vase: entwined histories

Williams, Cynthia S. (2021) The Hamilton Vase: entwined histories. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The lives of the 11th Duke of Hamilton and glass designer Daniel Pearce intersected in early 1860s London when the Duke purchased a gift for his son and heir William. The gift was the Hamilton Vase, a luxury glass vessel engraved to the design of Mr. Pearce and further personalized for the young Marquis. Still in possession of the Hamilton family today, the Vase’s biography reveals it as a portal to a multitude of intertwined relationships that capture the complex artistic, cultural and societal panorama of the Victorian era.

This study will begin by building portraits of the collecting life of the 11th Duke of Hamilton and the art education and entrepreneurial life of designer Daniel Pearce. To give context to the creation of the Hamilton Vase, it will continue with a thorough background of nineteenth century Britain’s golden age of glassmaking.

The investigation of the Vase’s story is advanced by an exploration of the multiple re-uses of the Hamilton Vase design and how the evolution of the design was affected by shifting consumer tastes, nineteenth-century interest in the exotic, scientific and technological advances, and design innovations in glassmaking.

When the Hamilton Vase reappears in 1919, it is withdrawn as a lot in the second and final auction of the remaining contents of Hamilton Palace, one of the nation’s most magnificent country houses and art collections in British cultural history. At that moment, the history the Vase narrates is one of socio-economic change with the decline of the aristocracy and a new age of a wealthy, educated and art-minded middle class.

A full exposition of glass designer and decorator Daniel Pearce’s life and career will add a new perspective to the understanding of the history of nineteenth-century British glass, its designers, manufacturers, consumers and collectors. It will highlight the pivotal role played by heretofore mainly anonymous glass artists and engravers and in numerous instances will suggest attributions for previously unidentified objects in museum and private collections.

This study will contribute to current object-centered scholarship by using the Hamilton Vase to reveal hidden histories and noteworthy cultural intersections during the nineteenth century in Britain, one of the most complicated periods in the History of Design and the Decorative Arts. Excavating the history of the Hamilton Vase will increase current knowledge of the complex artistic and socio-economic networks at play in Britain and will uncover the pronounced significance of Daniel Pearce’s seventy-year contribution to British glass history.

Too, Pearce’s connection to the 11th Duke of Hamilton as the purchaser of the Hamilton Vase affords an additional perspective on the Duke’s collecting history and places it in the context of his collecting contemporaries. The relationship of Pearce and the 11th Duke also is an entryway through which to examine the role of the century’s international expositions of art and industry.

The elucidation of Pearce’s significant contributions to the history of nineteenth-century British glass will be a new and original area of research within the History of Glass. Its analysis of the extraordinary visual record provided by the Pearce pattern book in the Dudley Archives combined with new historical research will contribute to a fuller understanding of the production and consumption of Britain’s world-renowned nineteenth-century engraved art glass.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Daniel Pearce, 11th Duke of Hamilton, British 19th Century engraved glass.
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts
Supervisor's Name: Pearce, Professor Nick
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Ms. Cynthia Williams
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-81996
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2021 17:27
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2021 17:34
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81996

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