Enfilade

In the May 2012 Issue of ‘Apollo Magazine’

Posted in journal articles by Editor on May 6, 2012

From the current issue of Apollo Magazine:

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Elizabeth Angelicoussis, “An Olympiad’s Portrait,” Apollo Magazine (May 2012)

During excavations at Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli the archaeologist Gavin Hamilton unearthed a classical statue of Hermes. Hamilton’s conservation of the sculpture transformed its identity to create an 18th-century image of an Olympic victor inspired by the ideals of ancient Greece

In the late 18th century, the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, William Petty-Fitzmaurice (1737–1805), assembled the most impressive collection of classical marbles in the British Isles, which he displayed in Lansdowne House, in London’s Berkeley Square.1 Many prime specimens were sold at a Christie’s auction in London in 1930, but at a Sotheby’s sale in New York in 1972, a very perceptive buyer purchased one choice piece that deserves examination.2

The sculpture represents a life-size youth with a smooth complexion and flawless features (Figs. 1–4).3 The nose is straight and large; from its bridge the razor-sharp ridges of the eyebrows flare out horizontally. The thin-lidded eyes are unmarked and only the rightwards torsion and the slightly parted lips animate the face. The coif is unfinished: at the crown, thick hair clusters, coarsely carved into spiral curls, lack drill holes to define their centres, while the hair at the back is roughly modelled into two large masses divided by a deep furrow. A lump of marble protrudes from the hair at the right, while a branch chiselled into the tresses above the left ear divides into two sprigs bearing a lanceolate leaf and tiny berries – the genus of the foliage remains undetermined. A wide groove encircles the head. The nude bust is ancient, and the uneven fracture around the neck argues for an original connection between the two parts.4 . . .

Elizabeth Angelicoussis specialises in ancient sculptures in private British museums.

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1/ This article is an offshoot from my project of the reconstruction of the Lansdowne collection of classical marbles. For surveys of the Lansdowne collection and the construction of Lansdowne House, with further bibliography, see Adolph Michaelis, Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, Cambridge, 1882, pp. 103–06, 453–71; Jonathan Scott, The Pleasures of Antiquity: British Collectors of Greece and Rome, New Haven and London, 2003, pp. 160–68; Ilaria Bignamini and Clare Hornsby, Digging and Dealing in Eighteenth-Century Rome, New Haven and London, 2010, vol. I, pp. 321–26. For more on the Marquess, see Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn. May 2010, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22070 (J. Cannon).

2/ Catalogue of the Celebrated Collection of Ancient Marbles, the Property of the Most Honourable the Marquess of Lansdowne, 5 March 1930, p.77,  lot 60; Sotheby’s Sales Catalogue of Egyptian, Western Asiatic, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, 4 December 1972, p. 30, lot 122.

3/ See Michaelis op cit., Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, Cambridge, 1882, p. 452, no. 62. The restorations include the tip of nose, a section of the left brow and a piece of the right side of the neck at the front.

4/ There is a diagonal break running from the back across the chest. The repairs of the bust include the base and index plate, the patchwork of the spine, and the left breast. The inside and the rim of the support have been smoothed over. . . .

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The full article is available here»