In studies of English artistic culture of the first half eighteenth century, the notion of art-historical consciousness has attracted little attention, in contrast to an immense interest in issues of picture consumption and taste. This article provides a new perspective on the rise of art-historical consciousness by examining publications associated with the Raphael Cartoons, then at Hampton Court. Through a wide range of engraved reproductions and written commentaries, the Cartoons not only came to be the most visible Old Master paintings in England in the period, but also became central to an on-going process whereby ideas about painting were formulated in terms of artistic standards and historical development. The Cartoons publications illustrate a trend in which works of art formerly enjoyed privately by royal or aristocratic collectors became increasingly accessible to wider audiences. In consequence, ideas associated with these works penetrated diverse levels of society and art-historical consciousness assumed a public value.