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The Hidden and the Visible. Diocletian’s Palace in British Travelogues from the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century


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Špikić, Marko. (2012). The Hidden and the Visible. Diocletian’s Palace in British Travelogues from the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century. Radovi instituta za povijest umjetnosti , 36. pp. 63-72. ISSN 0350-3437

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The article deals with British travelogues published between 1848 and 1887 which discuss the original appearance and the ways of presenting and maintaining Diocletian’s Palace in Split, including the following texts: John Gardner Wilkinson, Dalmatia and Montenegro (1848), Andrew Archibald Paton, Highlands and Islands of the Adriatic (1849), James Fergusson, The Illustrated Handbook of Architecture (1855), William Frederick Wingfield, A Tour in Dalmatia, Albania, and Montenegro (1859), John Mason Neale, Notes, Ecclesiastical and Picturesque, on Dalmatia, Croatia, Istria, Styria, with a visit to Montenegro (1861), Edward Augustus Freeman, Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice (1881), and Thomas Graham Jackson, Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria (1887). The reason for selecting texts from this period is a change in the perception of monument conservation, which occurred in Britain in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. The author has concluded that writers concerned with the Palace from the 1860s onwards followed the cultural prejudices of their predecessors and contemporaries, which consisted in observing the principle of curiosity, established by Robert Adam in 1764 in his book Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian in Spalatro as referring to the ideal reconstruction of the original state of the building. By the time of Wilkinson’s arrival to Split in 1844, that principle of antiquarian reconstruction had become a set practice in archaeology and restoration, which is why the Egyptologist admired the well-preserved state of the Palace and at the same time called for »disencumbering« it from »the unsightly mass of modern buildings.« Diplomat A. A. Paton was likewise inspired by Adam’s book, so for him the fusion of the »existing remains« and the reconstruction of the Palace was supposed to create »an idea of what the palace may have been.« In 1855, art historian Fergusson wrote on the »remains« as something that was supposed to help create the picture of the original state, although Ruskin had called for preserving the dignity of all old buildings as early as 1849. W. F. Wingfield continued to express his disgust at the fusion of ancient and medieval architecture in 1859, while Neale was barely touched by Split’s ancient architecture. E. A. Freeman visited Split in 1875, 1877, and 1881, accompanied by Arthur Evans. He has also been remembered as the author of a discussion on the Principles of Church Restoration from 1846. Freeman’s opinions may be related to the theoretical writings of G. G. Scott, W. Morris, and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. Even though he dismissed the postclassical additions as »mean excrescences«, he showed a far greater sensibility towards modern elements and the genius loci of the Palace. Architect Th. G. Jackson, who visited Dalmatia in 1882, 1884, and 1885, was rather inclined to this new concept of conservation. In his travelogue from 1887, he expressed his disappointment because of the restoration works, referring to the interventions in the interior of the Split cathedral, supervised by the Viennese architect Alois Hauser. Whereas a plaque placed in the cathedral in 1885 justified the restoration works as a medicine administered to a building »corrupted by old age« (vetustate corruptum), Jackson observed with disappointment that they caused the »removal, clearing off, injuring of antique character« and »scraping«. His statement about the unacceptable »new-fangled splendour« as opposed to the lost appearance of old age shows that Jackson accepted the ideas of Ruskin and Morris, which had just began circulating around Europe, some twenty years before their general recognition in Central Europe.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: British travelogues, Split, Diocletian’s Palace, archaeology, conservation
Subjects: History of art
Departments: Department of Art History
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2014 10:59
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2014 10:59

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