About annareeve

Researcher at Leeds University, funded by the AHRC via the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH). Join me as I explore collections of ancient Cypriot art in the Yorkshire area, tracing their origins and collection histories.

Classical Cyprus in Graz

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of presenting at the Classical Cyprus conference (21-23rd September) organised by the University of Graz. I thoroughly enjoyed researching my paper over the summer, focusing on objects from the Kent Collection in Harrogate and tracing their itineraries, and pulling together a number of threads that I’ve been following for a while. My research led me to the Paul Mellon Centre, to the National Art Library at the V&A, and back to the Mercer Art Gallery to ascertain with an unbent paperclip that the miniature oenochoe on the jug below could function as a spout. I’ve had so much help from the professionals at all these institutions and more – one of the most rewarding things about my research is the generosity of others in helping me take it forward.

Jug

Jug with female figurine holding oeneochoe on the shoulder © Mercer Art Gallery

But onwards to Graz. I’ve never been before, but certainly would visit again, not least for the amazing Schlossberg with views out over the city. The eye-catching building in the middle-left is the Modern Art gallery, which sadly I didn’t get to see – but if its contents match its exterior, it must be well worth a visit.

View over Graz

View over Graz

The conference itself was held in the beautiful setting of the Meerscheinschlӧssl, a historic building belonging to the University, complete with allegorical ceiling paintings.

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Ceiling of the central hall, Meerscheinschlӧssl

We were also treated to a reception in the Institute for Archaeology’s gallery at the University to mark the launch of the new publication Antikes Zypern. Kulturen im Dialog.

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Gabriele Koiner introducing Antikes Zypern. Kulturen im Dialog

The conference papers were many and varied – it was an excellent, intensive programme, examining Classical Cyprus from a wide range of angles and approaches. Highlights for me included Pauline Maillard’s paper on reuniting the the corpus of figurines from ‘Le sanctuaire féminin des Salines de Kition’; Viola Lewandowski on ‘Attische Keramik aus Marion in Berlin’; Anja Ulbrich on ‘Adoption and adaptation of Greek iconography in Cypriot votive sculpture of the Classical period’; Olympia Bobou’s fascinating discussion of a ‘temple girl‘ from the Fitzwilliam Museum; and Stuart Dunn on the Heritage Gazetteer of Cyprus. All the papers were hugely interesting, and I look forward to revisiting them in more detail when the edited volume arising from the conference is published.

Group photo (c) Uni Graz slash Leljak

Conference participants on the first day. © Uni Graz/Leljak

I also managed to fit in a quick visit to the Archaeology Museum at Schloss Eggenberg, and was so glad that I did. It’s a very modern building, largely underground, in the setting of the formal gardens surrounding the 17th century palace of Schloss Eggenberg, creating a sharp juxtaposition of periods which is intensified by the ancient objects it displays. I was pleased to see in person the two limestone heads discussed in Gabriele Koiner’s conference paper.

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Limestone heads © Graz Archaeology Museum

I was also intrigued by this display of limestone votive figurines. Their arrangement in the case helps to bring out the way they might have been crowded together in a sanctuary, but also makes it more difficult to appreciate them as individual objects.

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Limestone votive figurines © Graz Archaeology Museum

The museum space is modern and austere, in complete contrast with the approach taken at the Vienna Kunsthistoriches Museum, for example. Questions implicitly posed by the objects on display are written large on the walls, including:

Hat Kult mehr mit der Liebe zu tun oder mit dem Tod?

Tragen wir Schmuck, um begehrt zu werden?

Seit wann essen wir nicht aus Hunger, sondern aus Genuss?

Brauchen wir Götter?

This was a really interesting way of bringing out these issues for the visitor, and allowing scope for a broad interpretation of the significance of the objects. As an example of the presentation of an ancient Cypriot collection, I found it striking and effective, and it gave me plenty to think about.

The best conferences send me back to my teaching and research refreshed, re-energised, and with many new questions to answer and avenues to explore, and this was certainly the case with Graz. I’m very grateful to the organisers for putting together such a fascinating and successful conference, and of course to WRoCAH for funding my attendance. My next step is to turn my paper into a finished product for publication, which will definitely keep me busy – I suspect the February deadline will come round surprisingly quickly!

 

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From the cellar to the museum… and beyond

Thanks to the Leeds City Museum, the University of Leeds’ ancient Cypriot collection is finally on display for a larger audience – something I’ve wanted to happen for a long time. Until around December, a selection of the objects are being displayed in a new case in the Ancient Worlds gallery at the Museum. It’s been so interesting and educational for me to help the Museum’s curators to put together the display, from deciding which objects should be included, to designing leaflets, writing the interpretative panel text and labels, and placing the objects in the case. It’s great to see my Masters research put to practical use!

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Display of University of Leeds’ ancient Cypriot collection at the Leeds City Museum

As long-term blog readers will know, this collection emerged from obscurity in the University’s cellars in 1913, shortly after the death of Sir Nathan Bodington, first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds. His widow, Lady Eliza Bodington, went to some trouble to ensure that the objects were assessed and appropriately placed, and the bulk of the collection has found a home in the Classics department ever since (a further portion was donated to the Leeds Girls’ High School, but its current whereabouts is unknown).

Thanks to the generosity of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, conservation work was carried out by the Leeds City Museum’s conservator a couple of years ago, revealing details unseen for a very long time, and stabilising the objects for the future. It’s great to see the collection now on display, so the results of this conservation can be seen by museum visitors, and something of the objects’ history – known and conjectured – can be explored. I’m planning to give a gallery talk on the collection and its background, and generally to make myself available for any questions – so if anyone wants to know more, do get in touch!

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Front page of leaflet accompanying display

The display is generously supported by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities, and as part of this it’s accompanied by a leaflet with background information for adults, and one with activities for children. I’ve really enjoyed exploring different ways of looking at the objects and thinking about them.

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First page of children’s trail

I’m hopeful that this is just the start of the collection’s public engagements. After its stay at the Museum, it is due to move to a new home on display in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies at the University of Leeds, where Classics is now located. This will offer further opportunities to explore the objects and their history, working with Classics undergraduate students.

I am reminded again of Eliza Bodington’s wishes in donating part of the collection to the Classics department in 1913, that ‘it might encourage a taste for archaeology in which my husband was so interested.’ I hope its current location among the archaeological collections in the Ancient Worlds gallery, and its future display at the University, will help to honour and fulfil this wish.

Ah, Vienna

In May I fulfilled a long-held ambition to see the ancient Cypriot collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, as the highlight of a whirlwind visit to the city. The building in which the Museum is housed is truly spectacular, and merits a visit on its own account.

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Interior of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

An outer room featuring large-scale limestone statuary leads into a gallery filled with ceramics and smaller terracottas; what first caught my eye were these wonderful Late Cypriot Base Ring figurines.

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Base Ring figurines © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

I particularly liked these askoi in the shape of a stag and a non-specific animal – the tail should give a clue, but I can’t quite place it.

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Askos in the shape of a stag © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

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Animal-shaped askos © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

There were also fantastic White Painted vessels such as this one, in amazingly good condition, with multiple tiny loop-holes, for string? It’s difficult to picture how it might have been used.

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White Painted string loop vessel © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

I was also very taken by this bird-shaped askos – it does have the appearance of a sitting bird protecting its nest (though there is definitely something pie-shaped about it as well – reminscent of RAMM’s ‘Devon pasty chicken’).

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Bird-shaped askos © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

There were plenty more birds on view – from a rather rotund example on a Bichrome pyxis to an elegantly striped long-legged waterfowl on a White Painted jug which itself resembles a bird.

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Bichrome painted bird © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Waterfowl

Bird on White Painted jug © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

This Proto-White Painted Ware askos is more conventionally duck-shaped, and is quacking with its body angled forward on webbed feet.

Bird askos

Bird-shaped askos © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Some of the terracotta groups were also enchanting, such as this Cypro-Archaic scene showing a baker’s dog taking a close interest in the baked goods.

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Terracotta group of baker and dog © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

This Cypro-Archaic figurine is very helpful in interpreting a fragmentary figurine from the Leeds City Museum collection. The object held by the LCM figurine is broken, but we can be fairly confident that it is a small animal like the one below, and not a hide, as has been suggested.

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Cypro-Archaic figurine holding a small animal

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Cypro-Archaic figurines from Leeds City Museum. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

I’ve been giving some thought lately to ancient Cypriot figurines and the most effective ways of displaying them. It was interesting to see this fragmentary figurine displayed with a modern reconstruction of the lower part of the body; I’m not sure how recent this reconstruction is. It does help to give a clearer idea of how the figurine would have appeared, but could it be perceived as misleading? There are several different approaches to displaying fragmentary figurines in this case – some unmounted, some on small wooden plinths, and the central figurine, with its large kalathos, having some of its original stature restored by a perspex mount.

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Display of terracotta figurines © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Overall, the gallery was very impressive; as befits a museum of art history, the objects are all beautiful as well as fascinating. The background lighting in the gallery is low, with individual objects brightly lit, and the colour scheme is red – the overall effect is quite dramatic, with the objects casting strong shadows, as can be seen above. I’m reminded of L.P. di Cesnola’s 1872 display of his collection at G.L. Feuardent’s on Great Russell Street in London: he wrote

‘The walls at my request have been painted dark red with pedestals and shelves of the same color and the statues make a grand and striking aspect indeed’.¹

The Kunsthistorisches Museum has a fantastic website with much better photos than these, and all kinds of additional information, which is well worth a virtual visit – see Room 1 of the Antikensammlung for the ancient Cypriot collection. Next on my list is the Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm, though it might take me a while to get there!

¹ Quoted by O. Masson (1992) ‘Diplomates et Amateurs d’Antiquités à Chypre vers 1866-1878’, Journal des savants pp.123-154 (p.147).

 

 

 

Bronze Age resources

While working on the Kent Collection catalogue, I noticed that various entries for bronze implements were accompanied by the cryptic phrase ‘Britt. Ass. Card Cat.’. Since I’m always looking for more information on the provenance of ancient Cypriot collections, I decided to try to track this reference down. This proved refreshingly straightforward, and led me down an interesting route with some familiar faces along the way.

Kent catalogue entry 171

Entry 171 from the Kent Collection catalogue ©Harrogate Museums and Arts, Harrogate Borough Council

The ‘Britt. Ass. Card Cat.’ turns out to be the British Association Bronze Implements Card Catalogue, a truly remarkable initiative begun in 1920 under the auspices of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The aim was to produce a card catalogue of “all the metal objects of the Bronze Age in the museums and collections in the British Isles”, in order to facilitate comparative research. One of the original movers in this enterprise was John Linton Myres, the ‘father of Cypriot archaeology’, excavator of Amathus in Cyprus and cataloguer of the Cesnola Collection at the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The work seems to have progressed on a voluntary basis, with museums, institutions, and private collectors providing basic information – and detailed drawings – of their Bronze Age implements, to be neatly recorded on index cards, filed, and made available for use.

Making information available is of course a different proposition these days, and I was hopeful that this Catalogue might have been digitised in a searchable format. It’s not quite there yet, but is well on the way to being so. In a fascinating project, part of the MicroPasts collaboration between the British Museum and UCL, the transcription of the cards is being crowd-sourced, with anyone with an interest invited to contribute to the task of translating the content of the cards into a digital format. As Neil Wilkin et al. point out in a very informative article on the project, this partnership with interested people from a variety of backgrounds fits well with the original compilation of the Catalogue, which relied on the contribution of time and knowledge from the owners of the objects, whoever they might be.

As far as I can tell, the fully functional, searchable database isn’t quite there yet, although the underpinning data is well on its way. However, vitally for my purposes, a key step of the project is to scan the original cards and make them available for transcription. This led me to Flickr and a wonderful treasure trove of original cards. These are arranged by the drawers in which the cards were stored; it didn’t take long to conclude that ‘Foreign Weapons’ might be a good place to look for a sword from Cyprus; and since the cards are ordered alphabetically by country, it was a mere matter of scrolling past Austria and China to arrive at Cyprus. It didn’t take long at all to find records relating to the Kent collection.

Kent 171 dagger

Index card for Kent Collection dagger

There are a number of helpful things about this record, beyond the satisfaction of having tracked it down. It’s not clear whether the object is still extant in the collection which survives today, but having a detailed technical drawing, as well as a written description, can only help to identify it. Most useful, from my perspective, is the information that it came from the collection of Cleanthes Pierides; as the entry above shows, this information is not recorded in the Kent catalogue, and so would have been irretrievably lost if not for this record. Cleanthes Pierides was a merchant and dealer in ancient Cypriot objects, and I’m trying to find out more about his activities and how objects made their way through his hands from ancient Cypriot tombs to collectors, including the Kents; this information provides a further piece of the jigsaw.

While looking through the other objects from Cyprus, I was pleased to come across a record relating to John Holmes, an influential collector and lecturer on Cypriot antiquity in Leeds from the 1860s onwards.

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Index card for Holmes Collection dagger

In this case, the card and the information we already have are mutually informative. Holmes complained bitterly that his collection was neglected after he sold it to Leeds City Council in 1882, so it’s interesting that someone at the Art Gallery was sufficiently concerned to log the bronze implements with the British Association. The catalogue number 235 allows us to link this spear to the following entry in Holmes’ catalogue:

Holmes cat 235

Holmes catalogue entry 235 © Leeds Museums and Galleries

This is not the most legible of entries, but the reference to ‘self’ makes it clear that Holmes himself obtained this spear on his visit to Cyprus in 1873, which potentially provides a lead about its area of origin.

Needless to say, I’m hugely impressed by the MicroPasts project and grateful for its contribution to my research. I’ll be watching with interest to see what forms the data takes in future; I will certainly be visiting again when it’s available in searchable format, to see whether I can track down more objects associated with the collections I’m exploring. However, there’s something about the original cards which has value over and above the data they contain; beyond the emotional charge of research artefacts from nearly a century ago, there’s also information such as the title of the Kent card pictured above. The original intention to describe the object as ‘Sword (short)’ has been changed to ‘Dagger’, and this reflects the hedging description in the Kent catalogue of ‘Short sword or dagger’. This tells us something about developing approaches to classifying Bronze Age objects, and I’m not sure how the cancelled information would be reflected in a transcribed card. In an ideal world, the images of the original cards would be available alongside the searchable transcribed information, and I hope this may be the case as the project progresses.

 

When is a whorl not a whorl?

I’ve written before about the spindle whorls in the Leeds City Museum collection, which come from the 1896 British Museum excavations at Enkomi. There are four disc-shaped whorls with a low conical profile, two made of stone and two of bone, as well as a further biconical stone whorl. The fact that they were included in tomb goods is intriguing; did they belong to someone buried there, or were they gifts for use in the afterlife? They would have been practical rather than prestigious objects.

Spindle whorls from Enkomi

Small objects from Enkomi shown on a lantern slide…

 

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…and the remaining objects today.

I’ve learned a lot from Lindy Crewe’s fascinating study of spindle whorls from prehistoric Bronze Age Cyprus. She explains that it can be hard to distinguish between a spindle whorl and a bead, pendant or toggle, which might be very similar in appearance. On arrival in Leeds in 1902, the four low conical spindle whorls from Enkomi were recorded by the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society as ‘disk-shaped ornaments’, suggesting some uncertainty about their function. I decided to revisit the whorls to see how the evidence stacked up.

Crewe sets out a number of criteria for determining whether an object is a spindle whorl. In order for a whorl to fit tightly onto a spindle, the hole through its centre must be straight in profile, or slightly conical. The hole  must also be central in the whorl, and its diameter should be no less than 4mm. The size and weight of the whorl are also factors; Crewe identifies a weight range of between 10g and 169g in the examined assemblage of Cypriot spindle whorls, and suggests that whorls would have a diameter of at least 20mm, most beads being smaller than this.

So how do the Leeds objects measure up to these criteria? All the holes are central, straight-sided or very slightly conical in profile, and between 5mm and 7mm in diameter – so far, so consistent with them being spindle whorls. The stone objects weigh between 12g and 16g, but the bone ones are around 9g, so a bit lighter than the suggested minimum; a whorl that was too light wouldn’t be able to act as a flywheel and help the spinning process. However, it’s possible that they may have lost density and weight as a result of the taphonomic processes they would have been subject to during their long burial in the tomb.

Identifiable usewear would have the potential to tell us something about the early history of these objects – were they used in ancient Cyprus for spinning, or were they destined to be funerary offerings from the point of manufacture? There are some small chips around the central hole and diameter of some of the whorls. These are hard to interpret – they could be the result of accidental damage at any point in the whorls’ history – but they seem consistent with the kind of usewear which would result from spinning.

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Possible usewear on the biconical spindle whorl…

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…and on one of the stone spindle whorls.

On balance, it seems fairly safe to identify these as spindle whorls, although there is a question mark over the bone objects due to their lightness. We can only conjecture about the identity of the people they were buried with; due to the lack of records from their 19th century excavation, we don’t even know if they all came from the same tomb. It’s conceivable that they might have been closely associated with the person or people buried with them – rather like burying a relative with the glasses they always wore – but we don’t have the evidence to go beyond speculation. It’s relatively rare for small, non-precious objects like these to be preserved from early excavations, so we are more than usually lucky to have them.

 

Archaeological Archives and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Last month I had the opportunity to attend a one-day conference organised by the Chartered Institute for Archaeology’s Archaeological Archives group, with the thought-provoking title ‘Are archaeological archives relevant?’. If the papers from the day are anything to go by, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’ – a fantastic range of research was presented, from studies of historic grain samples to human cremations. I gave a paper on the University of Leeds’ ancient Cypriot collection and how the British Museum’s archives relating to the 1893-94 excavations at Amathus give vital clues to its origins.

There were a number of recurring themes throughout the day, including the issue of storage for these archives and how to make them accessible to a wide range of researchers, but what struck me most was people using archives in ways which their original assemblers couldn’t have foreseen, and hence the need to take a long view in determining what’s relevant and valuable now and into the future. Kath Creed from the Museum of London made an excellent point, that the most exciting thing about archaeology is discovery, and you can make discoveries in an archive – which is a great part of what I spend my time doing. All in all, a fascinating and wide-ranging programme with plenty to think about.

The conference was ideally organised from my perspective, being held at the Birmingham Midland Institute (a very interesting institution in its own right), just a short walk away from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and with a long break for lunch. I’ve wanted to visit the BMAG’s ancient Cypriot collection for ages, but haven’t quite been able to justify the time and train fare, so to be able to combine it with the conference was perfect. The Museum certainly lived up to expectations; I would have loved to look round its extensive collections in more detail, but after a quick trip to the Edwardian Tearooms, which were as delightful as one would expect, I made my way straight to the gallery which houses the ancient Cypriot collection.

The gallery is fairly traditional in layout, with the objects ranged along the walls in glass cases. It includes a fantastic Bronze Age collection from tombs at Vounous, which came to the Museum via Sir Charles Hyde, the owner of the Birmingham Post, who part-funded the excavations. This mainly consists of stunning Red Polished ware vessels with incised decoration, some with animal heads and other objects added at the rim.

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   Red Polished vessels from Vounous.    © Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

There were many other highlights, including this Bichrome amphoriskos in characteristic Amathus style; an object which immediately proclaims its origins!

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Bichrome amphoriskos with Amathus style decoration. © Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

I really liked the approach of displaying objects by theme, such as these three exuberant horses and riders…

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Figurines of horses and riders. © Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

…and these three Bichrome vessels, which demonstrate the importance of birds in ancient Cypriot art.

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Three Bichrome vessels. © Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

I was intrigued by the amount of colour remaining on this votive figurine of a woman carrying a bird; there is a similar figurine in the Leeds City Museum collection, but much more worn, and it’s interesting to get an idea of what its decoration might have looked like.

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    Votive figurine.     © Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

So an extremely enjoyable trip, not least because of the blissfully lengthy train journey from Leeds to Birmingham, which provided a good opportunity to get some writing done. Next stop is Vienna, where my wonderful sister is taking me in May – I hear the Kunsthistorisches Museum has an excellent ancient Cypriot collection!

Six degrees of Cypriot separation

I had a wonderful time last Monday working with photographer Simon Miles to record the Kent ancient Cypriot collection at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate, for the Cyprus Institute’s digital archive project. This gave me the opportunity to delve into the collection and see objects I had previously only read about in Benjamin Kent’s handwritten register; it was fascinating to see the ‘cone-like projection’ and ‘horn-like scrolls’ in real life!

As well as incorporating diverse, beautiful and intriguing objects, this collection is particularly rich in hints and clues to the objects’ itineraries – their journeys through time and space that have ended (for the time being) in the Gallery. It’s not uncommon to find a label or a note tucked inside an object with tantalising information about its previous movements. This was my experience last week.

White Painted jug

White Painted jug © Mercer Art Gallery

A White Painted jug from the Cypro-Geometric period has a label reading ‘Amathus’, and also a label pasted inside its rim: ‘Painted Vase Early Phoenician [indistinct] From [?Gen.] Cesnola Collection [?obtained from] from excavations in Cyprus. From Park Hill.’ Benjamin Kent’s register also notes for this jug, ‘Lawrence/Cesnola; Sir Theo Fry’s collection’.

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Label on the White Painted jug © Mercer Art Gallery

These labels and records provide a rich source of information for the jug’s collection history. The Lawrence/Cesnola reference is fairly easy; Alessandro Palma di Cesnola, Major di Cesnola, the younger brother of the more notorious Luigi, carried out extensive digging and collecting activity in Cyprus, with financial support from his father-in-law, E.H. Lawrence (hence ‘the Lawrence/Cesnola collection’).  Many of the objects thus obtained were sold at Sotheby’s in four sales from 1883 to 1892.

Sir Theodore Fry (1836-1912) is also easy to identify; a very interesting collector in his own right, who deserves further discussion on another occasion, he collected Greek, Etruscan, and Cypriot pottery. We know from helpfully annotated auction catalogues, and from the collating work done by the ‘Rethinking Pitt-Rivers‘ project, that Fry bought from the 1883 and 1884 auctions of Lawrence-Cesnola collection. His own collection was sold at auction in 1905, and many objects from it are now found in the Kent collection in Harrogate.

However, this leaves ‘Park Hill’ to be explained. A little research revealed this to be the residence of John Wickham Flower (1807-73), a lawyer, archaeologist, antiquarian and collector. His widow donated a huge collection of 1,500 pieces, including ancient Cypriot material, to Oxford’s University Museum in 1882 after his death, and this was later transferred to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Flower also bought from Cesnola sales, but those of the elder brother Luigi, General di Cesnola, on 1-2 May and 3 July 1871. These included objects from ‘Amathonta’, i.e. Amathus, where this jug is said to be from.

It therefore seems most likely, given the dates, that this jug was bought by Flower from one of Luigi Cesnola’s sales, then acquired by Fry – whether through a personal connection or at a sale – before making its way to the Kent collection. This would tie in with the label shown above, which claims the jug comes from ‘General Cesnola’s excavations’ – the younger brother would be described as ‘Major Cesnola’. Kent would then have been mistaken in attributing this jug to the Lawrence/Cesnola collection, the source of most of the other objects acquired from Fry – although given the multiple sales of Cesnola objects over a long period, and the interplay between the two brothers’ collections, some degree of crossed wires is almost inevitable.

A further degree of entanglement becomes evident when we consider the link between John Wickham Flower and Thomas Backhouse Sandwith, who had a huge impact on the dissemination of ancient Cypriot art in the Yorkshire area, as discussed at length on this blog and elsewhere. Sandwith wrote an important paper on his observations and deductions about ancient Cypriot material culture, which was published in Archaeologia, the journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London, in 1877. However, long before this, the paper was delivered at a meeting of the Society, on 4th May 1871. As the Society’s minute book notes,

‘In connection with this paper the following Exhibitions were laid before the Society:

Col. Lane Fox V.P. – Cypriote Antiquities from the Cesnola collection

J.W. Flower Esq. – Antiquities from the same collection.’

It seems likely that both of these Exhibitions were of the newly acquired antiquities from the Cesnola sale which had taken place just a couple of days earlier on 1-2 May 1871 (Lane Fox, who is of course Pitt-Rivers, also bought from this sale). There is a certain irony in the choice of Cesnola’s objects to accompany Sandwith’s paper, given the latter’s rather austere comments in his paper on Cesnola’s ‘untenable theory’ concerning the structure of ancient Cypriot tombs. Sandwith sent several batches of objects to Sheffield to be sold, and part of his collection was shown at the Yorkshire Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures in 1875, where it sparked considerable interest in collecting ancient Cypriot objects; including among the Kents, whose collection also includes some of Sandwith’s objects from the 1875 Exhibition.

So, the itinerary of this object gives us some sense of the flows of Cypriot antiquities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the networks along which they travelled. Excavated by one of the Cesnolas in Amathus in Cyprus, the jug was sold in London, probably to Flowers, and joined the rest of his collection, where it may have formed part of the exhibition accompanying Sandwith’s significant paper on 4th May 1871. It then came to Fry, whether by purchase or gift, and eventually, after his sale, it joined the Kent collection, alongside many other objects originating from the Cesnola and Sandwith collections. We see how interlinked these routes are, and how through different generations of collectors objects came together and were disbanded. It’s also interesting to reflect on all the journeys which are lost, because the information wasn’t recorded (even in cryptic ‘Park Hill’ format) or because sale catalogue descriptions are too broad to be reliably mapped onto individual objects. Although it’s not in keeping with modern curatorial practices, it makes me thankful that earlier generations of collectors felt at liberty to inscribe objects with their routes via people and places, and that at least some of this information has survived.