The Warwick Vase: The History Behind the Norman BrookesChallenge Cup.
Today Roger Federer, the most successful male tennis player ever to grace aninternational court raised a solid silver trophy. It's big, handsome and just a little bit ugly;it's the Warwick Vase.Most sporting trophies started life as the nearest big lump of cheapish and suitably gaudysilver that came to hand, but the Warwick (as it's known) is a little different. The 18thcentury saw the heyday of the Grand Tour, and the English enthusiasm for the antiquitiesof the ancient world. Rome was a particular focus for the young men who travelled to theContinent and whilst there they met up with various people who both showed them thesights and acted as agents for procuring a little, or a large piece of history to take homewith them. One of these fixers was Gavin Hamilton. Ostensibly an artist, he was a skilled negotiator and succeeded in getting some astonishing antiquities out of Italy during the late18thC. The marble Warwick Vase was found in marshy ground on the site of Hadrian'sVilla at Tivoli in 1771, and Hamilton rapidly secured permission to excavate it. It was in apoor state of repair and mostly smashed, but it has the diameter of a modern paddling-pool and was exceptionally rare. Hamilton got it out of the ground and with the help of thefamed artist Piranesi and a large block of Carrera marble, reconstructed its originalappearance (see the image in the gallery). Sir William Hamilton, husband of Emma, was the buyer of the pieces and he had itrepaired, with the replacement segments hewn from a block of Carrera marble. WilliamHamilton was not only a collector, he was a speculator and he wanted to sell the vasewhen it was restored. He hoped to raise some interest from the recently establishedBritish Museum but they could muster neither funds nor enthusiasm for the giganticpiece. In the meantime, Piranesi published his famous book of Classical designs in 1778,securing the reputation of the vase. Still no buyer was found, and Sir William deemed ittoo large to sit in any house he could ever afford. He sent it to his nephew, GeorgeGreville, Earl of Warwick. George was cash-rich, but wasn't going to set the intellectual or artistic world alight. He initially placed the vase on the lawn in front of Warwick Castle,