When William Carew (1689–1744) and Reginald Pole-Carew (1753–1835) unexpectedly inherited the Antony estates in the southwest of England, each invested in material culture to create, maintain and justify his distinction as a landowning member of élite society. Discourses around the uses of visual and material culture throughout the eighteenth century are usually framed in contrast: either the ostentatious collections of the hereditary nobility which denoted rank, wealth and power, or the status-seeking “middling sorts” who used luxury goods to paper over social and cultural gaps. In the space between these two social groups were the Carews (and a great number of landed gentry like them) who built relatively unpretentious country houses and who commissioned, collected and displayed luxury goods as statements of an identity not based on declarations of affluence, prestige, or social mobility. Using original, unpublished, archival research and testing the findings against historical and contemporary studies, the interdisciplinary approaches in this thesis will analyse the Carews’ uses of luxury goods – in country-house building, landscaping and portraiture– to cultivate an identity commensurate with their aims. Unpacking a strategy of distinction for each of William Carew and Reginald Pole-Carew offers a new perspective on eighteenth-century conspicuous consumption. The findings assert that what the Carews commissioned, collected and displayed fills a gap in current scholarship and must be integrated into any comprehensive understanding of the uses of luxury goods throughout the century

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