An English collector in Italy: the Wilshere Collection of late Roman gold-glass

BSR–Corning Museum of Glass David Whitehouse Memorial Lecture

Tuesday 5 December, 18.00–19.30

An English collector in Italy: the Wilshere Collection of late Roman gold-glass

Susan Walker (Oxford)

Archival research in Rome and Naples has shed light upon the formation of the third largest surviving collection of late Roman gold-glass. Charles Wilshere (1814-1906), a landowner with a passion for early Christianity, built his remarkable collection through a network of Italian scholars and dealers, notably the great Vatican archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi, the Jesuit scholar Raffaele Garrucci, and the painter and dealer Vincenzo Capobianchi. In Italy, Wilshere took advantage of the political and social instability of the risorgimento years, and his collecting activities proved controversial. Nonetheless his motive was entirely didactic; within the UK, the collection has nearly always remained accessible to scholars and the public.

Recent research on the chemistry of the Wilshere gold-glass has built a chronological sequence offering insights into the social history of gold-glass in late antiquity.

Susan Walker is the principal author of Saints and Salvation: the Wilshere Collection of gold-glass, sarcophagi and inscriptions from Rome and Southern Italy, recently published by the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, where the Wilshere Collection is now displayed. From 2004-2014 she was Keeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean, where she is now Honorary Curator; she is also an Emerita Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Oxford, and Chair of Publications for the British School at Rome. She undertook much of the research forming the core of the Whitehouse Lecture as Hugh Last Fellow at the British School at Rome in 2013.

2017-12-05_SusanWalke_Image AN2007.13

Gold-glass base of a dish with a portrait of a couple surrounded by biblical scenes of salvation, about AD 330-360, Ashmolean Museum, Wilshere Collection, formerly Recupero Collection.