Revett, Nicholas (DNB00)

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REVETT, NICHOLAS (1720–1804), architect and draughtsman, was second son of John Revett of Brandeston Hall, near Framlingham in Suffolk, where he was born in 1720. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Fauconbridge. Adopting the profession of an artist, he made his way to Rome in 1742. He studied painting there, under Cavaliere Benefiale. At Rome, Revett became acquainted with James Stuart (1713–1788) [q. v.], the artist, Matthew Brettingham, and Gavin Hamilton [q. v.], the painter. In April 1748 he made an expedition with them to Naples and back on foot. It seems to have been during this journey that the idea occurred to Revett and Hamilton, and was eagerly taken up by Stuart and Brettingham, of making an expedition to Athens to measure and delineate the monuments of Greek antiquity still remaining there. This idea was warmly supported, with money as well as other encouragement, by many of the English dilettanti in Rome. In March 1750 Stuart and Revett left Rome for Venice, Hamilton and Brettingham being unable to accompany them. At Venice they missed their boat, and were delayed some months, during which they visited the antiquities of Pola in Dalmatia. They became acquainted with Sir James Gray, K.B., the British resident at Venice, and, through his agency, were elected members of the Society of Dilettanti in London. Eventually they reached Athens in the spring of 1751, and resided there, with some intervals, until late in 1754, returning to England early in 1755. They drew and measured most of the antiquities in Athens and its neighbourhood, but their work was hampered by tumults due to the bad government of the Turks, and by incursions of a more formidable enemy, the plague. On their return to England they were admitted to the Society of Dilettanti, and, with the aid of some of the most influential members, they succeeded in publishing, in 1762, the first volume of ‘The Antiquities of Athens, measured and delineated by James Stuart, F.R.S. and F.S.A., and Nicholas Revett, Painters and Architects.’ The success of this book was instantaneous, but the lion's share of the credit fell to Stuart, who was dubbed ‘Athenian’ Stuart therefrom. Revett seems to have been displeased at this, and therefore parted with all his rights in the work to Stuart, having no connection with the succeeding volumes. Revett, however, continued an active member of the Society of Dilettanti, and was selected by them to go on an expedition to the coast of Asia Minor, with Richard Chandler (1738–1810) [q. v.] and William Pars [q. v.], Revett undertaking the duties of the architectural measurement of antiquities. The party left England in June 1764, and returned in September 1766. Subsequently their journals and drawings were handed over to the Society of Dilettanti, who made a selection from them, which they entrusted to Revett to prepare for publication. The remainder were handed over to Chandler for the same purpose, on his own account. The first volume of ‘The Antiquities of Ionia’ was published in 1769, but the second volume did not appear until 1797. Revett remained a prominent member of the society, and was employed by some of them, notably Lord Le Despencer (Sir Francis Dashwood), to execute various architectural works in the ‘Grecian gusto.’ One of the most important architectural works executed by Revett was the church of Ayott St. Lawrence in Hertfordshire. During the later years of his life he fell into pecuniary difficulties. He died on 3 June 1804, aged 84, and was buried at Brandeston. A portrait of Revett was presented by Mr. Weale to the Institute of British Architects in 1825; this was engraved to form the frontispiece to the fourth volume of ‘The Antiquities of Athens.’

[Memoir in vol. iv. of the Antiquities of Athens; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Hamilton's Historical Notice of the Society of Dilettanti; Michaelis's Ancient Marbles in Great Britain; Gent. Mag. 1821, ii. 423.]

L. C.