Networking in Hull

Thanks to Alice Rose, research and documentation assistant in Archaeology at Hull Museums, I’ve had the opportunity to consult Hull and East Riding Museum‘s archives relating to the collections of Arthur E. Hastings Crofts (1849-1912) of Bradford. Crofts was a keen collector of pottery and glass, mainly Roman, from the Near East and Cyprus, and much of his collection passed to Hull Museums through a family bequest after his death.

Crofts’ correspondence is particularly interesting to me for its information about early 20th century networks of people collecting ancient Cypriot objects in Yorkshire and the Humber. He appears to have been initiated to the pleasures of collecting by William Cudworth, a local historian from Bradford, whom I’ve discussed before in connection with the Kent Collection in Harrogate. Cudworth seems to have recruited his friends and acquaintances as fellow collectors; he asks Crofts to ‘allow me to consider you as a pupil in the little school of archaeologists under my charge’, suggesting he saw himself as a leader in this area. Cudworth’s recommendations to his friend give an insight into his own collecting practices:

‘In collecting, keep to certain definite lines, instead of being tempted to acquire relics, however cheap, simply because they are old. Otherwise you only get a lot of curious things which lead to nowhere. In your case, you might adopt as Line 1 – Palestine, Line 2 – Cyprus, Line 3 – Roman remains in England. The first two might suffice.’

‘A lot of curious things which lead to nowhere’ might describe many antiquarian collections, but Cudworth evidently had greater intellectual ambitions. He was enthusiastic about Crofts’ progress in Cypriot collecting:

‘In Line 2 you are already at the top of the school. So far as Bradford is concerned, you lick the master into fits. Go on urging your friend ad lib. Like Oliver Twist always be wanting MORE.’

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Letter from Cudworth to Crofts
© Hull and East Riding Museum: Hull Museums

Although Crofts diffused his collecting along several ‘lines’, he still managed to accumulate an impressive ancient Cypriot collection, much of which now belongs to Hull and East Riding Museum. Thanks to the excellent archival practices of both Crofts and the Museum, these objects have unusually rich collection histories, and can help to fill the gaps in our understanding of local, national and international Cypriot collecting networks.

As well as providing advice and guidance, Cudworth aided local collectors through his connection with the well-known dealer, ‘my London friend’, George Fabian Lawrence, best known for his role in relation to the discovery of the Cheapside Hoard. Lawrence regularly dispatched groups of objects from his dealership which Cudworth then sent on to his collecting friends, remitting funds to Lawrence for any sales made. The correspondence provides an insight into the domestic nature of this collecting, far removed from the archetype of the solitary antiquarian. Women’s voices are not heard in this archive, but their presences are detectable in the background; Cudworth mentions a piece which ‘Mr Fred Craven was taking away as a present to his wife’, and comments of a new purchase, ‘I hope Mrs Crofts will like [it] as well as yourself’. The collectors’ wives could hardly have been oblivious of the constant flow of ancient objects in and out of their houses, and may, to some extent, have been actively involved.

After Cudworth’s death in 1906, Crofts bought part of his collection, including Cypriot objects formerly part of the Lawrence-Cesnola collections. The Cesnola brothers’ publications seem to have been Cudworth’s main source of written information on ancient Cyprus, unsurprisingly for this period. He makes frequent references to A.P. di Cesnola’s Salaminia in describing objects from his collection; his edition of this work was donated to a local museum in 1951, and I am attempting to track it down.

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Salaminia by A.P. di Cesnola

Crofts then took over Cudworth’s role as Lawrence’s Yorkshire correspondent, and received many dispatches of ancient objects, mainly lamps and glass. One striking aspect of this collecting activity is how hands-on the process of gaining knowledge was; Lawrence comments to Crofts of one consignment of lamps that ‘At least they will be instructive for you to look at, if you have no room’. Looking at and handling objects was the means of building up expertise.

In September 1908, Lawrence sent Crofts a series of lamps which were ‘the result of the digging of a Mr Pierides on his property at Curium Cyprus’. This is a most welcome archival sighting of Kleanthes Pierides, the source of many ancient Cypriot objects in the Kent Collection in Harrogate. Pierides wrote extensively to the British Museum and the Cabinet des Médailles in Paris to enquire about objects in his collection and the possibility of arranging sales, but it hasn’t previously been clear how his objects made their way to Yorkshire. In my paper for the ‘Classical Cyprus’ conference at Graz in 2017, I speculated that Pierides had sent objects to England through arrangements with private collectors, and it is interesting to get some insight into how this took place. A sale at Christie’s in 1908 included gold, gems, and glass, but not pottery of the kind found in the Kent Collection; it’s therefore very pleasing to hear from Lawrence in September 1908 that ‘I got what remains of the Pierides Coll at a lower rate than he wanted when he first came to London. His best went to Christies and sold well.’

Crofts had already made more direct contact with Pierides in 1907 via J.R. Holmes, whom Alice has identified as a Bradford solicitor who moved to Cyprus and worked at the District Court in Limassol. From the tone of his correspondence, he appears to have been an old acquaintance of Crofts, and familiar with his collections. He gives a vivid description of Pierides’ collection, and suggests that Crofts should club together with local friends ‘so that you might buy for all and then the curios could travel in one parcel’. Most excitingly, photographs sent by Pierides survive in the Hull collection, evidently duplicates of those sent to his museum contacts but not preserved, alongside a list in Pierides’ handwriting of the objects he was prepared to sell.

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Photographs by Kleanthes Pierides of objects from his collection
© Hull and East Riding Museum: Hull Museums

The staging of the objects in this photograph is fascinating: propped on a desk against books and packets of photograph paper, in front of a painted background of a pillar and leaves. I would particularly like to see the object marked a.1, according to Pierides ‘a bronze vase Mycenaean piece, on the handle a human face, 7 inches’. All this can be cross-referenced against Pierides’ correspondence in the British Museum and the Cabinet des Médailles, and Olivier Masson’s research into Pierides’ collection and its destinations (CCEC 24), helping to fill some gaps in the overall picture of Pierides’ operations. The final stage of the journey of Pierides’ objects to the Kent Collection is still unclear, for now, but one of the photographs he sent Crofts includes an impressive pair of large Base Ring jugs, which can be identified with some confidence as those still in the Kent Collection today.

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Photograph by Kleanthes Pierides of objects from his collection
© Hull and East Riding Museum: Hull Museums

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Pair of Base Ring jugs from the Kent Collection, Harrogate
© Mercer Gallery, Harrogate

As a result of these rich and detailed archives, the networks of Cypriot collecting are coming into clearer focus. These ‘second generation’ collectors benefited from the influx of objects into the UK from the Cesnola brothers’ sales from 1871 to 1892, and the importation and later dispersal of  the collections of consular and early colonial residents on Cyprus. Pierides’ correspondence also suggests that, paradoxically, the 1905 Cypriot Antiquities Law prompted the sale overseas of his collection, though this claim may also have been part of his sales technique. These small collections tended to make their way to local museums after the deaths of their collectors, where their institutional settings gave them new contexts and audiences, and began a new phase of their histories.

Postgraduate Cypriot Archaeology conference, June 2019

This year’s Postgraduate Cypriot Archaeology conference was held in Berlin, one of my all-time favourite cities. Nothing could be a better antidote to the rainy British weather than walking to the venue each morning through the wide streets in 30 degree sunshine. The conference was hosted by the Humboldt University of Berlin, in a gorgeous building that I’ve often admired on Unter den Linden.

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Humboldt University, Berlin

The conference was expertly organised by the home team, with the programme encompassing an impressive 33 papers over two and a bit days without requiring parallel sessions. One of the best things about POCA is the opportunity to hear about such a wide range of research, with constant shifts in scale from the interconnected Mediterranean to ‘micro-regionalism’ and individual sites.

I enjoyed the opportunity to present some figurines from the Leeds Museums collection, and explore the opportunities afforded by their role as museum objects. It’s a good moment for Cypriot coroplastic studies – they feature strongly in a fantastic new volume on Hellenistic and Roman terracottas edited by Giorgos Papantoniou, Demetrios Michaelides and Maria Dikomitou-Eliadou. It was published just too late to read in advance of the conference, but is proving endlessly helpful as I revise my paper afterwards.

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Standing figure with raised arms, Cypro-Geometric II-III
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

Despite the packed programme I managed to find time for a quick trip to the Neues Museum to see the ancient Cypriot collection. The Berlin Museumsinsel is being redeveloped at the moment, and various parts are closed; the plans look exciting and I’m looking forward to going back when it’s all completed. In the meantime, the Neues Museum is very much open, and the Cypriot collection did not disappoint. Last time I visited – over five years ago – various cases were being redesigned, but this time much more was on display, including some fabulous votives, and more of my favourite jugs with a figurine on the neck.

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Centaurs and riders, C7th-C6th BC © Neues Museum, Berlin

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Musicians, C6th BC © Neues Museum, Berlin

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Jugs with a figurine opposite the handle. Cypro-Archaic II – Cypro-Classical periods.
© Neues Museum, Berlin

POCA was a wonderfully intensive and inspiring experience, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to go, thanks to WRoCAH. There are rumours that POCA 2020 will be in Cyprus – something to look forward to!

Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things, at The Hepworth Wakefield

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the private view of The Hepworth Wakefield’s new exhibition, Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things. I’ve previously seen some of Odundo’s ceramics displayed alongside ancient Cypriot objects at Nottingham Castle Museum, so when I saw this major exhibition planned for Wakefield, I had to visit. It charts Odundo’s development and influences as an artist, and brings together a wide selection of her work with objects from other artists and cultures. These include ancient Cypriot ceramics, including some on loan from the World Museum, Liverpool, and it was great to see the exhibition with Chrissy Partheni, Curator of Classical Antiquities at the Museum.

It was wonderful to see the interplay between Odundo’s ceramic forms and those of the other objects, including Cycladic figurines, canopic jars, and a Degas bronze dancer, though unsurprisingly it was the Cypriot resemblances that attracted me most. Some specific features of ancient Cypriot ceramics, such as string loops and high cutaway spouts, are echoed in Odundo’s work, but beyond that, there’s a witty, playful, exuberant quality to Odundo’s ceramics which really speaks to the ancient Cypriot forms; a continuity of attitude and expression across the centuries. I am endlessly interested in the journeys of things, as this blog demonstrates, and one of the ways in which ancient Cypriot objects travel forward into the future is through resemblances in contemporary art, an echo here and an influence there. As Odundo says, ‘Objects hold the knowledge of our history.’

The exhibition is stunningly designed by architect Farshid Moussavi, with low, stepped plinths giving broad lines of sight and a sense of unmediated access to the objects, minimising borders and boundaries and allowing the objects to speak to each other across the spaces. They include many loans from the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, an exhibition partner. The interpretation panels are unobtrusive and give an overview of key stages in Odundo’s life and career, and her techniques and influences. I liked seeing the Cypriot pieces labelled as ‘Unknown maker’, which serves as a reminder of the craftsperson behind the object.

There is no substitute for seeing the exhibition for yourself, but these are some of the highlights from my perspective:

This Middle Cypriot dipper belonging to Barbara Hepworth has previously been on display at the Hepworth Wakefield, as part of her personal collection of objects; it’s easy to see the attraction of its delicate form and high, looping handle, with simple yet striking red painted decoration. Here it’s joined by a vessel made by Odundo, a new take on the kylix form which looks so different in transparent glass – I love the flyaway ends to the handles –  and also a Kerma culture bowl from the Fitzwilliam Museum, whose layers of colour are said to represent sediment. This case says all sorts of things about materials, just through the juxtaposition of the objects.

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Drinking vessel, dipper, and bowl © The Hepworth, Wakefield

This type of symmetrical jar is perhaps one of the most striking of Odundo’s forms, and is used on the exhibition poster and branding; the red and black clay, and highly burnished finish, of these and other pieces irresistibly suggest ancient Greek Black- and Red-Figure vases.

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Dark Symmetrical Jar and two further vessels © The Hepworth, Wakefield

I particularly liked this conjunction of an Odundo vessel, a Cypriot juglet and a Mangbetu culture jar from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The explicitly human form of the jar is made abstract in Odundo’s piece, and is reminiscent of the way that a resemblance to a bird, animal, or mythical beast is never far away from ancient Cypriot ceramics. The different levels of lustre, and punctured decoration, sends the eye from one object to the next; in combination, they are more than the sum of their parts. There’s a real sense of movement, as though the objects have been caught in momentary stasis.

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Mangbetu culture jar, Odundo vessel, Cypriot juglet © The Hepworth, Wakefield

This Black Polished jar, one of the loans from World Museum, Liverpool, could stand next to almost any of Odundo’s work; it’s in remarkably good condition and clearly demonstrates how visually appealing these objects must have been in their original context of use, with their lustrous finish and contrasting incised decoration.

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Black Polished jar from World Museum, Liverpool © The Hepworth, Wakefield

The exhibition stays at the Hepworth until 2 June, then moves to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts from August to December. I don’t think one visit will be enough for me!

Links to Liverpool

Recently I visited the amazing ancient Cypriot collections belonging to the World Museum, Liverpool, thanks to the Curator of Classical Antiquities, Dr Chrissy Partheni. At present there is no specific gallery for ancient Cypriot objects, but visitors are greeted in the entrance hall by a display case under the banner of ‘Hidden Treasures of Liverpool’. This features a fish-shaped vessel, a oenochoe decorated in Free Field style with a fantastical bird, and a particularly beautiful Black on Red oenochoe, alongside some historic photographs from the Kouklia excavations carried out in the 1950s by J.H. Iliffe, then director of the Liverpool City Museum, and the archaeologist T.B. Mitford from the University of St Andrews.

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Display case of Cypriot material © World Museum Liverpool

I also really liked this vitrine in the brilliant Weston Discovery Centre, where visitors can get hands-on with parts of the Museum’s collections.

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Object history in the Weston Discovery Centre © World Museum Liverpool

It charts one jug’s journey from Cyprus to the museum, quietly challenging some of the prevailing narratives about colonial collecting, and hinting at the wealth of stories behind any museum collection.

Chrissy was kind enough to give me a tour of the stores, where I very much enjoyed seeing more of the wonderful and wide-ranging collections. I had a further purpose for my visit: my latest research into the destinations of Thomas Backhouse Sandwith‘s collection allowed me to join the dots and identify a few objects still in Liverpool which came from this source.

When Sandwith started sending ancient Cypriot objects to the UK in 1869, some were sold at Mrs Parkin’s Glass and China Saloon in Sheffield. I’ve also come across evidence that they were sold in Liverpool ‘at the shop of Mr Stonier, glass and earthenware dealer’, in the form of a newspaper article from the Liverpool Daily Post of 13 August 1870. This states that the objects were placed on sale by Henry Sandwith, T.B. Sandwith’s brother and ‘clergyman of the Church of England’, but the article bears every sign of having been written by John Holmes, who played a major role in disseminating Sandwith’s collection – not least the rather awkwardly shoehorned-in reference to Romans 9.21 (‘Hath not the potter power over the clay’). The article concludes:

“The Rev. Dr. Hume, Mr. J. A. Picton, and other antiquaries of the town… have made a selection of some of the rarest and most illustrative of the types, in the hope that the committee of the public museum will purchase them’.

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Liverpool Daily Post, 13 August 1870

This hope seems to have been fulfilled, as the 1870 Annual Report of the Free Public Library, Museum and Schools of the Borough of Liverpool records the purchase of ‘Ten specimens of Graeco-Phoenician Pottery and Glass found at Cyprus’. These turn out to have been accessioned at the Liverpool Museum under the name of Stonier, which makes sense as he was the immediate vendor, and this explains how the Sandwith connection was obscured.

We were able to see seven of these objects; a beautiful Bichrome amphora, oenochoe, and barrel jug; three pieces of glass, including a ‘candlestick’ vessel of the type which confused John Holmes; and a Red Polished spouted bowl. It’s easy to see why the ‘antiquaries’ selected these for the Museum, and they may give some idea of the rest of Sandwith’s collection put up for sale in Liverpool. I would guess that the Red Polished bowl falls into the category of ‘rarest’, and the others into ‘most illustrative’, but it’s difficult to be sure.

 

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Bichrome amphora with early display label © World Museum Liverpool

The Rev. Dr. Hume mentioned in the article is probably Abraham Hume (1814–1884) (on the right in the portrait below), joint founder of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire alongside Joseph Mayer, whose extensive collections formed the basis of the Liverpool Museum, and Henry C. Pidgeon. He was also secretary to the British Association at Liverpool in 1870, and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

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Portrait of the three founders of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire      © The British Museum (1943,0410.2094)

J.A. Picton was an architect and antiquarian who was instrumental in bringing a free public library to Liverpool. They were typical of the educated men, with a broad interest in the ancient past, who were in the first wave of encountering the ancient Cypriot objects that Sandwith caused to be imported. They certainly chose well on behalf of the Liverpool Museum.

Following up another piece of unfinished business, we also tried to track down the ‘large £5 vase’ purchased from Sandwith’s collection by G. Sinclair Robertson. The itinerary of this vase has become obscured over time, not least due to the damage incurred by the Liverpool Museum during WWII. While it’s not possible to be certain, this large amphora may perhaps be the one in question; it’s certainly similar in size to the large amphora that William Aldam purchased, also for £5, from Sandwith’s collection.

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White Painted amphora, © World Museum Liverpool

The Liverpool ancient Cypriot collection has a fascinating set of histories behind it, not least relating to the excavations at Kouklia. It was great to be able to link a small part of the collection to Sandwith’s activities in the 1860s-1870s, and find further evidence of how far his collection has travelled.

Recovering the image on a Mycenaean sherd

Thanks to a Twitter recommendation, I recently came across a fabulous online tool, retroReveal.org, hosted by the University of Utah. In its own words, it ‘provides documentation and web based image processing algorithms designed to help people discover hidden content.’ This technology has a whole host of uses, including the revelation of palimpsests in manuscripts; and it immediately made me think of a Mycenaean sherd in the Leeds City Museum’s ancient Cypriot collection.

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Sherd of Mycenaean krater © Leeds Museums and Galleries

I’ve written about this sherd before, when some experimentation with Photoshop marginally improved the appearance of the picture painted on it. Unlike most Mycenaean pottery, which has scenes in brown or reddish paint on a pale yellow-buff slip, this has an image in dark orange on a greyish ground. Presumably this was caused by some kind of error in firing, unless it’s due to later damage; I haven’t yet found a parallel for a Mycenaean vessel with this appearance. It’s likely that it came to Leeds from the British Museum’s excavations at Enkomi.

Running this photo through retroReveal’s processes resulted in many different views, one of which was really impressive in clarifying the image:

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Sherd of Mycenaean krater © Leeds Museums and Galleries

It’s plain to see that we have a scene with a chariot and a figure following it. It’s not clear what’s going on in the chariot itself, probably due to damage to the sherd; this alternative image really brings out the weathered surface.

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Sherd of Mycenaean krater © Leeds Museums and Galleries

The clearer image makes it possible to explore its place in the typology of chariot scenes on Mycenaean kraters.

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Arne Furumark, The Mycenaean Pottery: Analysis and Classification, Figs. 39 and 40

The chariot box and wing perch on top of the wheel, with no attempt to show them through the gaps between the spokes; in this respect, perhaps it is most similar to no. 20 in Furumark’s typology, especially given the neatly hatched double edging, though the wheel itself seems to be less detailed. As Furumark demonstrates, a range of filling decorations can be found, but this elaborate scheme of dots within circles, almost like leopard-print, seems rather unusual.

Scene typology

Arne Furumark, The Mycenaean Pottery: Analysis and Classification, Fig. 74

There isn’t enough of the scene to indicate what kind of chariot procession is shown, but the presence of a figure who is following and facing the chariot narrows it down to type e, f, g, or i.

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Arne Furumark, The Mycenaean Pottery: Analysis and Classification, Fig. 25

The shape of the following figure is also quite hard to make out – it looks like it could possibly be a IIIB unclad figure, given the shape of the torso (25 or 26 in Furumark’s typology above).

The British Museum has other Mycenaean kraters with chariot scenes from Enkomi, including this example with a magnificent horse; nothing that looks quite like this sherd though!

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Late Helladic IIIA2 krater found at Enkomi © The British Museum

There may be more sherds out there from the British Museum’s excavations at Enkomi with this distinctive appearance, and it’s possible that one day we’ll be able to see more of the scene, with or without the assistance of technology!