Classical collecting in early America


James Logan did not travel to continental Europe on a Grand Tour. Instead, he kept objects sent to him from Peter Collinson, a fellow Quaker merchant in London, to represent his fascination with the Greco-Roman past. The small collection included a Greek wine cup, or skyphos, from Apulia in Italy, which may be the first piece of Classical pottery in North America, and a group of marble samples with paper wrappers labeled with their descriptions and origins. We see in Logan's collection the power of objects to engage imagination and to affect one's sense of self and identity through association with artifacts from other times and places.

Image Captions: 1) The wrapped marble samples collection. For Logan, the cataloging of these stones was important to his collecting. They are labeled in a variety of hands, suggesting that most of them probably arrived wrapped and labeled. 2) Alabasto Fiorito. 3) Marble Samples. 4) Nero antico (bottom) is a black marble found in fragments among Roman ruins. 5) The skyphos has been on loan to Stenton from the Commissioners of Fairmount Park’s Loudoun collection since the 2014 LOGANIA exhibition. In 1718, just a few years after James Logan began to assemble the acreage for the plantation he would eventually call Stenton, he wrote to London bookseller, Josiah Martin, “I confess as I advance in years, the ancients still gain upon me.”

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