Thomas Hope

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A text from Thomas Hope’s Household Furniture and Interior Decoration from 1807, with illustrations, including John Flaxman’s bust of Hope’s brother Henry Philip Hope, G271. He reflects on the style of the bust as opposed to what he calls the Greek method, the herm.




No. 1. Mantle-piece, belonging to the eating-room, to which belongs the sideboard represented Plate 9.

The slab or shelf of this mantle-piece is very wide and projecting; and the stiles or jambs are made to slope downwards, in the manner of brackets; as may be seen in the profile of the mantle-piece, given in the next plate. Over the mantle-piece project two antique horses heads, in allusion to the name of ΦιλιπποϚ, inscribed on the bust placed between them. Bacchanalian masks adorn the jambs.

No. 2 and 3. Candelabra, or stands: the one surmounted by an ewer, the other by a flower basket, in gilt bronze.

I avail myself of the occasion of the bust represented in this plateI, to notice an error of taste, into which have fallen some English sculptors: no doubt in imitation of the French sculptors of the last centuryII ; since the practice which I allude to seems sanctioned by no ancient example whatever, of a pure style of art. I mean the fashion of representing, in a bust, the head, not looking strait forward, and in the same direction with the chest, but turned over the shoulder, and looking sideways: a position which, except in the busts of CaracallaIII, no longer belonging to the pure style of ancient art, is, I believe, found in no ancient busts, that did not originally form part of entire statues, and are only preserved as fragments of such.

In a production of the pencil, which can only exhibit a face in a single aspect, if the most striking or most favourable view of that face be not a direct front view, there may, in the eligibility of bringing the features more in profile, be a very good reason for turning the head somewhat over the shoulder. Nay, even in a work of the chissel, if it be an entire statue, the peculiar attitude or action of the body may present a sufficient motive for giving such a turn to the head.

But if a mere bust, which we may easily view in every possible aspect, by ourselves moving round it, in place of being allowed to leave this task entirely to the beholder, be made itself to turn its face away from our sight, though it have not a body, to account for this less easy and less usual position of the head, the portrait loses all claim to naturalness and truth; it forfeits the appearance of dignified simplicity, which is so essential and so fascinating, for an air of inane and pompous affectation; and it moreover, from the different direction given to the face and to the chest, can seldom be so situated as not to look ill placed and awkward.

I shall beg to add that the Grecian method of cutting the chest square, and placing its whole mass immediately on a termIV or other solid support, seems much preferable to the more prevailing Roman fashion of rounding off that chestV, and balancing its center only on a slender and tottering pivotVI.


General Comment

This text is an excerpt from Thomas Hope’s Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, op. cit, a collection of illustrations of different interior decorations. Besides being a banker, writer and art collector, Thomas Hope was also a furniture and interior designer, see Margrethe Floryans article The Fate of Jason – On Thomas Hope, His Houses and Hobbies.

Other references




G271 Henry Philip Hope, inv.nr. G271


  1. John Flaxmans buste af forfatterens bror, Henry Philip Hope, Thorvaldsens Museum, G271.

  2. Se eksempelvis Louis François Roubiliacs (1702-62) buste af William Hogarth (ca. 1741), National Portrait Gallery, London.

  3. Her tænkes sandsynligvis på den sideskuende bustetype af kejser Caracalla (ca. 212-217), Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli.

  4. Dvs. en herme, jf. Dictionary.com betydning 10: “Also called terminus. a figure, especially of Terminus, in the form of a herm, used by the ancient Romans as a boundary marker; terminal figure.”

  5. Dvs. busteformatet og dets afskæring.

  6. Dvs. den lille sokkel, som busten sædvanligvis placeres på.

Last updated 29.04.2020