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John Wilton-Ely

Type of delicate, painted Neo-classical decoration, derived mainly from the shapes, motifs and colours of antique vases. It was part of the quest in Europe in the last quarter of the 18th century for a contemporary expression in interior design and the applied arts. The term is applied loosely to various schemes of decoration inspired by Classical sources, involving Renaissance Grotesque ornament, as well as themes inspired by discoveries made at Herculaneum and Pompeii (see Pompeii, §VI) in the 18th century, or frequently a mixture of these sources. This fact serves to underline the complex antecedents of this style, which was originally based on the misidentification of imported Greek vases dug up in southern Italy and thought to have been made by ancient Etruscans (see Etruscan §VIII), a culture promoted in some quarters as having been the original fount for the whole of Classical antiquity. Indeed, the Etruscan style derived little direct artistic influence from that culture as such, except for certain potent historical associations promoted by the controversies concerning cultural debts. Initially represented by ...