Thomas Backhouse Sandwith and the triple juglet

(A version of this post previously appeared on the Leeds Museums and Galleries ‘Secret Lives of Objects’ blog – well worth a visit.)

Much of the collection of Cypriot antiquities which now belongs to the Leeds City Museum was formed under the auspices of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, established in 1819 and still going strong. The 19th century activities of the ‘Leeds Phil and Lit’, its members and the curators of its museum are hugely impressive, and help explain how Leeds came to have such an impressive City Museum.

The Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society’s museum was enriched in 1876 by the purchase of Cypriot ceramics collected by Thomas Backhouse Sandwith. Sandwith was the British Vice-Consul in Cyprus from 1865, and during his time on the island he developed a deep interest in its history and culture. He amassed a considerable collection of artefacts, some of which he brought to England. Unusually for the time, as well as collecting he also studied the ceramics in some depth, and eventually published an article in Archaeologia (the journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London), ‘On the different styles of Pottery found in Ancient Tombs in the Island of Cyprus’ (1877).

This article includes beautifully detailed hand-drawn illustrations of some of Sandwith’s finds, by one of the Society of Antiquaries’ skilled draughtsmen.

Plate IX of Sandwith’s ‘Archaeologia’ article

In fact, it appears we owe these illustrations to Sandwith’s decision to participate in  the Leeds Exhibition in 1875: a note on p.142 of his article remarks:

‘The delay in publishing this memoir has arisen from the small size of the sketches that accompanied it, which rendered them unsuitable for engraving. Advantage has, however, been taken of the author’s having sent a portion of his collection to the Leeds Exhibition, 1875, to obtain larger drawings from selected examples.’

The article is accompanied by only 26 illustrations of ceramics, and, unsurprisingly, the three vessels in the Leeds collection known to have been purchased from Sandwith are not along them. However, the triple vessel illustrated in the lower left-hand corner of plate IX (above) looked rather familiar:

Triple juglet, © Leeds Museums and Galleries

They are both examples of the intriguing composite ‘juglets’ which take the form of two or three small individual vessels joined together at the neck. The Leeds Museum juglet is made of blackened buff ware, consisting of three cone-shaped vessels joined in a single neck, with a central panel of punched decoration and one handle. This fits closely with the illustration to Sandwith’s article.

It seems at least possible that the Leeds Museum juglet is the same one collected by Sandwith and illustrated in his Archaeologia article. There are few additional ‘biographical’ details available; it could have come into the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society’s collection as part of the recorded acquisition, or perhaps could have been bought by someone in Leeds, and subsequently donated to the Museum.

The case for identity is strengthened by an article by R.S. Merrillees, ‘T.B. Sandwith and the beginnings of Cypriote archaeology’. Working from the illustrations to Sandwith’s article, he describes the juglet in question as:

‘…a unique Tell el Yahudiya acorn vase of a type not represented in [the standard] corpus… obviously an import and can be dated to M.C. III or L.C. I between the seventeenth and the sixteenth centuries BC.’ (Merrillees, p.224).

If the type of the juglet is rare, it seems the less likely that there would be two very similar examples. I like to think it’s the same one, and that my researches will eventually turn up the missing link in its history; we shall see!


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