‘Smelling the flowers just quietly’: a Mycenaean krater

I’m learning a lot while exploring the Leeds City Museum’s collection of artefacts donated in 1902 from the British Museum’s excavations at Enkomi and Klavdhia in Cyprus. My favourite at the moment is this Mycenaean krater, a large mixing bowl for wine, decorated on either side with a bull sniffing leaves, which dates to around 1275-1200 BC. It’s been in fragments for some time, but is now newly restored by the Museum’s conservator, Emma Bowron, allowing it to be fully appreciated.

Klavdhia krater fragments s

Krater from Klavdhia, Cyprus, in fragments… © Leeds City Museum

Klavdhia krater restored s

…and restored. © Leeds City Museum

The krater comes from Klavdhia in south-east Cyprus, as noted on its side by the then curator of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society’s Museum, Henry Crowther. I’m not really a fan of writing the provenance of an object prominently on its surface, but there’s no denying that it helps with identification.

Klavdhia krater label s

Label on Klavdhia krater. © Leeds City Museum

This bears a close relationship to a similar krater from Klavdhia, retained by the British Museum. The authors of Mycenaean Pictorial Vase Painting, Emily Vermeule and Vassos Karageorghis, identify a group of five vases which closely resemble each other stylistically and argue that they are by the same painter; there can be little doubt that the Leeds krater represents a sixth.

BM Klavdhia krater

Krater from Klavdhia in the British Museum (1899,1229.129). © British Museum

The painting is in the ‘Pastoral’ style, which represents something of a deterioration from earlier Mycenaean pictorial painting; the bull is rather impressionistic, with little attempt to be accurate about the anatomical details. Opinion differs on the extent to which Mycenaean pottery was produced on Cyprus or imported, though it seems likely that ‘Pastoral ‘ style pottery such as this was a local production. It’s clear in any case that by the Late Bronze Age, Cypriots were eager consumers of Mycenaean wares, which have been found in high concentrations at coastal sites.

I am irresistibly reminded of Ferdinand, the eponymous bull in Munro Leaf’s story for children, illustrated by Robert Lawson.


The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. © Grossett & Dunlap

Ferdinand refuses to take part in the bullfight, but instead ‘liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers’ – just as our bull is captured in a quiet moment. In common with much Mycenaean pictorial vase painting, the image on this krater doesn’t suggest narrative development or movement, but has a static, timeless quality which travels well over the intervening centuries, all the way from Bronze Age Cyprus to Leeds.

Latest discoveries

Last week I decided to do some more rummaging through the archives and collections at the Leeds Museums Discovery Centre, in the hope of finding out more about the ancient Cypriot acquisitions made by Henry Crowther, curator of the Museum from the 1890s until the 1920s. I’ve previously blogged about his glass lantern slides which include objects donated by the British Museum from their excavations at Enkomi and Klavdia, and had a feeling that there might be more to be discovered.

I had underestimated quite what an avid collector of lantern slides Henry Crowther was – there must be hundreds, if not thousands. However, I was lucky enough to come across a couple which shed some further light on the Enkomi donation.

Small Enkomi objects s

Lantern slide showing small objects from Enkomi (c) Leeds Museums and Galleries

This slide is labelled ‘Crete’ in Crowther’s writing, which is an unusual slip, as the objects it shows are definitely from Cyprus (an identification helped by the fact that one of them has ‘Enkomi, Cyprus’ written across it). It shows seven objects, including the four spindle whorls from Enkomi still in the collection. But it’s the two objects in the centre and bottom left that interest me.

The list made by the British Museum detailing their donation includes hand-drawn sketches of the objects, as well as descriptions – a practice which is invaluable for helping identification and which I make use of myself, despite my negligible drawing skills. This list includes ‘2 stone beads’, one of which, the biconical example in the centre of the bottom row on the slide, still exists. It’s possible that the object at the bottom left is the other bead, although neither the photo nor the drawing are really clear enough to be sure.

2 stone beads

‘2 stone beads’, from the British Museum list

What is easier to identify is the object in the centre. The list mentions a ‘Bone ornament in the shape of pomegranate’ which doesn’t seem to have survived in the collection (at least, I haven’t found it yet…). But there can be little doubt that it’s the object shown on Henry Crowther’s lantern slide.


Image of pomegranate-shaped ornament (c) Leeds Museums and Galleries


‘Bone ornament in shape of pomegranate’, from the British Museum list

It’s good to know that it did come to Leeds, and to have an image of all the small stone and bone objects from the British Museum’s Enkomi donation together.

In an unrelated discovery, I also came across a manuscript letter from Henry Sandwith, brother of Thomas Sandwith, who managed sales from the latter’s ancient Cypriot collection, displayed at the 1875 Yorkshire Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures, to help relieve famine in Cyprus. It relates to a purchase made by a Mr Robertson, and reads:

Todwick Rectory


Oct 12.

My dear Sir,

Mr Robertson, whose letter I enclose, has suggest a safer means of transport for his pottery. Will you therefore kindly see that the basket, packed as previously suggested, is delivered to the Guard of the Liverpool train for Lime Street Station on Friday next, the 14th, at the time mentioned by him, viz 11am. I have written to him (Mr R) to fix Friday instead of Monday, which will give you more time.

Faithfully yours,

Henry Sandwith

We already know from other correspondence that Mr G. Sinclair Robertson was minded to buy ‘the £5 vase’ from the Sandwith collection, and that he donated ‘a large early Greek pottery vase’ to the Liverpool Museum in 1876, though it’s not now identifiable in the Museum’s collection, and was possibly lost to WWII bombing damage. So this letter doesn’t really give any new information, but does paint a picture of the way in which sales from Sandwith’s collection were managed – a very different world, in which one could arrange for the delivery of baskets of ancient Cypriot pottery via a local train guard.

I have a strong suspicion that there’s more to be found in the archives, and am looking forward to finding out!


I’ve been researching an ancient Cypriot lamp from the Kent Collection in Harrogate – a fascinating collection, on which much more another time. The lamp was previously owned by William Cudworth (1830-1906), a journalist with the Bradford Observer and a keen local historian and antiquarian, being a founding member of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society. He is best known for his many works on Bradford and the surrounding area, including Worstedopolis: A sketch history of the town and trade of Bradford. He also seems to have tried his hand at translating part of Homer’s Odyssey into English; a man after my own heart.

Portrait of William Cudworth

Portrait of William Cudworth

I was very pleased to discover that William Cudworth had published a monograph on ancient lamps (1893), based on his own collection, and even more pleased to find a second-hand copy. This turned out to be very helpful on the lamp from the Kent Collection, but also helped solve the mystery of another unidentified lamp, an unexpected bonus.


‘Antique Terracotta Lamps’ by William Cudworth

I like the way the publisher has created a generalised air of ‘antiquity’ with the illuminated capital A, and the rather affected ‘Publiʃh’d’. However, I was more struck by the engraved picture of a lamp, with three wicks, a looped handle and two ivy-leaf-shaped projections at the rear. It looked very similar to the lamp in one of the lantern slides made by Henry Crowther, Curator of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society’s Museum, in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Lamp from the cover of 'Antique Terracotta Lamps'

Lamp from the cover of ‘Antique Terracotta Lamps’

Lamp with triple wick. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Lamp with triple wick.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

Cudworth’s volume includes a photograph of his lamp, and a description:

Etruscan Lamp from Cudworth's volume, p.8

Etruscan lamp from Cudworth’s volume, p.8

“The large Etruscan specimen in my collection… possesses three projecting nozzles for wicks, which, judging from the openings, must have been of large size and of considerable illuminating power. The lamp is of the solid black paste characteristic of the real Etruscan ware, and is enriched with Bacchic ornamentation in the shape of vine leaves and grapes, with the face of a bacchante, of noble profile. The numerals LVI are inscribed at the base of the lamp. It is a unique specimen, measuring 10 by 10 1/2 inches, and was found in a deposit at Rome. Dr Birch says that this ware exhibits the highest degree of art attained in Italian potteries.”

[Dr Birch = Dr Samuel Birch (1813-1885), Keeper of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum.]

Since it is ‘a unique specimen’, I think we can say with some confidence that Henry Crowther’s lantern slide shows the same lamp. It’s worth noting that the colour was added by hand by Mr Crowther’s daughter Violet, and is not necessarily the exact shade of the original lamp. The fact that it is Etruscan does at least explain why I haven’t been able to find any Cypriot parallels! It must have been included in the sequence of Cypriot slides by mistake, whether by Mr Crowther or at a later date.

The question is how this lamp, from the Cudworth collection, came to be photographed by Mr Crowther; but it’s fairly straightforward to conjecture that after Mr Cudworth’s death in 1906 his collection was broken up by bequests and/or sales, and that the Museum of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society took the opportunity to acquire this lamp. The current location of the lamp is unknown, but there is still hope that it may be found again at some point. It’s great to have shed some light on this mysterious image entirely by accident; and to have a further demonstration of how closely interconnected were the circles of antiquarians, curators and collectors of ancient Cyprus.

Gone but not forgotten

Lately I’ve been thinking about Henry Crowther’s magic lantern slides of ancient Cypriot ceramics, and regretting those which no longer survive in the Leeds City Museum’s collection. These images are the shadows which remain of objects which have been lost, deaccessioned or destroyed.

For example, this lentoid flask with a single strap handle is marked ‘Enkomi, Cyprus’.

Lentoid flask from Enkomi, Cyprus. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Lentoid flask from Enkomi, Cyprus.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

This means it’s almost certainly the one sent to the Museum of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society by the British Museum in 1902, described by A.S. Murray, Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities, as a ‘flat-bellied flask of plain red ware.’

BM list

Extract from A.S. Murray’s note. © British Museum

There are two tankards, one with two bands of incised decoration and a thumb-grip, the other with a raised band below the lip and a simple loop handle. The colours are rather deceptive as they were added by hand by Miss Violet Crowther, Henry Crowther’s daughter, but suggest that both of these were of red ware.

Tankard with thumb grip and incised decoration. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Tankard with thumb grip and incised decoration.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

Tankard with looped handle. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Tankard with looped handle.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

There’s a dish with a small loop handle and painted decoration, which looks quite heavily restored, judging by the cracks and the gap in the pattern. The decoration looks like stylised Bronze Age helmets, though I’m not entirely sure…

Dish with painted decoration. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Dish with painted decoration.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

There are also some lamps, including this three-wicked example; I particularly like the leaf-shaped projections near the handle. The vine-and-grape decoration, with a long-haired head in relief, presumably indicates Dionysus and perhaps suggests it was for use in a banqueting setting.

Lamp with triple wick. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Lamp with triple wick.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

I’m intrigued by the decoration on this smaller lamp, which seems to show an eagle holding an ear of wheat in its beak. I’m not very clear on the symbolism, but this may be associated with the god Baal; I haven’t seen anything quite like it before.

Lamp with ?eagle and ear of wheat. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Lamp with ?eagle and ear of wheat.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

Most of these probably perished in the Second World War bomb, but it’s just possible that some may turn up one day; we know that there are quite a few objects currently with Artemis, the School Loans Service. I’ll certainly be looking out for them!

Nathan Bodington, the British Museum and Cyprus

The links between the Leeds City Museum and the University of Leeds go back a long way; both organisations grew out of the social and cultural development of Leeds in the nineteenth century. The first Vice-Chancellor of the University, Sir Nathan Bodington, was also an active member of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, and contributed to the intellectual life of Leeds in many ways. He had a direct connection with the current Museum’s Cypriot collections, having been instrumental in gaining donations of ancient Cypriot artefacts from the British Museum for the benefit of the students of the Yorkshire College, a forerunner of the University. He also visited Cyprus and made a small collection of his own, which is now in the Museum.

Portrait of Nathan Bodington, from the memoir by W.H. Draper

Portrait of Nathan Bodington, from the memoir by W.H. Draper

Nathan Bodington was born in Birmingham in 1848, and studied Classics at Oxford, teaching at a number of institutions before being appointed Professor of Greek and Principal of the Yorkshire College in 1882. Here his talents as a leader and administrator came into their own, as he steered the College through membership of the Victoria University federation of colleges, and its development into the free-standing University of Leeds in 1904, when he became its first Vice-Chancellor. He was knighted in 1908 in recognition of his services to education. Bodington’s wide-ranging responsibilities at the College and University left him little free time, yet he still managed to participate in the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society (serving as President from 1898-1900), write literary reviews for the Manchester Guardian, take up photography, and travel extensively overseas, including to Cyprus.

His first recorded involvement with the Leeds Cypriot collections came in 1895, when he wrote on behalf of the Yorkshire College to A.S. Murray, Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum, thanking him for the offer of ‘a selection of antiquities from recent excavations in Cyprus’.What happened to these artefacts is something of a mystery, to which I will return another time. However, this contact seems to have been the beginning of a friendship between Bodington and Murray; the British Museum archives record several letters from Bodington in subsequent years, mainly dealing with the traces of Roman roads in the Leeds area, a long-standing interest of his. In 1902 a further donation of Cypriot artefacts was made by the British Museum to the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, arranged by Murray following a request from Bodington.

26 items were dispatched to Leeds, mainly from Enkomi and Klaudia, including this Mycenaean stirrup jar, and some beautifully decorated spindle whorls.

Mycenaean stirrup jar Leeds Museums and Galleries

Mycenaean stirrup jar
 Leeds Museums and Galleries

Spindle whorl Leeds Museums and Galleries

Spindle whorl
 Leeds Museums and Galleries

Spindle whorl Leeds Museums and Galleries

Spindle whorl
 Leeds Museums and Galleries

Most of the artefacts, helpfully documented by Murray, are still in the collection today; some tantalisingly appear in Henry Crowther’s slides, but have since vanished, including this bowl and juglet.

Extract from Murray's list of items sent to Leeds

Extract from Murray’s list of items sent to Leeds

Bowl and juglet, photographed by H. Crowther.   Leeds Museums and Galleries

Bowl and juglet, photographed by H. Crowther.
 Leeds Museums and Galleries

Tracing these artefacts back to the British Museum’s excavations, and understanding the links between them and those remaining in the British Museum, are some of the most fascinating aspects of my work with the Leeds Museum collection.

In 1907 Bodington married Eliza Barran, daughter of Sir John Barran, sometime Leeds M.P., J.P. and Mayor, who was also active in the establishment of the University. Bodington was 59 at the time, and their marriage was to be short-lived, as he died just four years later. Six years after his death, Eliza Bodington donated several objects collected by him in Cyprus to the Museum of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. It is a small but varied collection, including this well-preserved Archaic amphora, a bronze mirror, and a knucklebone, presumed to have been used as a gaming-piece. Bodington’s interest in ancient Cypriot artefacts is not surprising, given his life-long passion for classics and the ancient world.

Archaic amphora  Leeds Museums and Galleries

Archaic amphora
 Leeds Museums and Galleries

Bronze mirror  Leeds Museums and Galleries

Bronze mirror
 Leeds Museums and Galleries

Knucklebone  Leeds Museums and Galleries

 Leeds Museums and Galleries

Nathan Bodington was a wise and generous man, phenomenally hard-working, who did a huge amount to establish the University to which I am proud to belong today. It’s therefore particularly pleasing that he has a personal connection to items in the Museum’s ancient Cypriot collection, which gain interest through their association with him.

Dedication of W.H. Draper's memoir of Nathan Bodington

Dedication of W.H. Draper’s memoir of Nathan Bodington

Henry Crowther’s lantern slides

For some time I’ve been trying to track down a collection of glass lantern slides of the Museum’s Cypriot pottery, taken at some point between 1893 and 1928 by Henry Crowther, then Curator of the Museum. Eleven have now come to light, and they provide a fascinating window on the earlier history of the collection.

Crowther image of Cypriot ceramics
 Leeds Museums and Galleries

Most of the Cypriot artefacts shown are still in the collection today, and it’s great to be able to witness this earlier stage of their history. These images were of course taken before the 1941 bombing, and some of them show artefacts which were later damaged. One of the most interesting is this bull askos, which has the figure of a small dog with long ears and perky tail perched on its handle.

Crowther image of bull askos  Leeds Museums and Galleries

I’m not sure, but I think it’s the same one as this askos currently on display in the gallery; still an appealing and intriguing piece, but much of the humour and liveliness has been lost along with the dog.

Bull askos  Leeds Museums and Galleries

One of the most striking things about these slides is that almost all of the images are coloured. The slides were taken in black and white, with each pot (and the background) carefully coloured in appropriate shades by hand. This is more successful at some times than others; the opiate juglet has a slightly strange marbled appearance, which is rather misleading.

Crowther image of opiate juglet  Leeds Museums and Galleries

This black-and-white slide, showing a bowl and a white shaved juglet which appear to be missing from the current collection, is more in keeping with modern aesthetics of ancient art, although, as we are constantly reminded, ancient Greek temples and statues would have been brightly coloured. The hand-coloured slides bring out the vividness of the Cypriot pots, which is a large part of their identity and appeal. It’s interesting that this colour was felt to be important for Mr Crowther’s late 19th/early 20th century audiences.

Crowther black and white image.  Leeds Museums and Galleries

Over at the blog for the Leeds University Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Mark Steadman has written about the evocative quality of the magic lantern slides in that Museum’s collection. These images of the Cypriot collection help to put the age of the ceramics in context; the slides seem antiquated in the light of current technology, but in relative terms the images were taken only recently.

Henry Crowther, who took these images, was a hugely significant figure in the development of the Leeds City Museum.

1923 portrait of Henry Crowther.  http://www.leodis.net

He began work at the Museum of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society in 1875, had a stint away at the Royal Institution of Cornwall from 1881 to 1893, then returned and stayed until his eventual retirement in 1928 at the age of eighty. He was hugely enthusiastic and hard-working, constantly seeking and implementing new ways of improving the museum. Most significantly from the point of view of the Cypriot collection, he took the opportunity of buying for the Museum a collection of ancient Cypriot pottery after the close of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley.

The innovation for which, above all others, he will be remembered is the development and delivery of Schools Talks and Christmas Lectures on the Museum collections. The figures involved are amazing – over forty years he delivered lectures on a huge range of subjects to hundreds of thousands of children and teachers. His ability to make his subjects come alive was warmly praised:

“The reports from the Supervisors invariably speak in the highest praise of the Lecture, the beautiful slides and the large and varied collection of objects gathered by Mr. Crowther to illustrate the subject.” (Report of Council of LP&LS, 1915).

The Council of the LP&LS ensured that he was remunerated for his efforts, voting that he should receive half, then all of the profits accruing from the Schools Lectures. He himself was proud of their success, as evidenced by his letter of 1902 to Dr Murray at the British Museum, expressing thanks for a donation of Cypriot antiquities:

“We are always thankful for these recognitions by the British Museum and we, I may fearlessly say, do our best to teach the people their value. For eight years I have given Christmas Museum lectures, our average attendance being 250; last year I gave 20 lectures to 7,000 children and 250 teachers; we are to begin in October with another series to 10,000 school children; your kind gift is, therefore, an appreciable one to us.”

The fame of his lectures evidently spread, and he was in some demand as an itinerant lecturer, as this ‘Syllabus of Lectures’ shows.

Henry Crowther lecture syllabus

From this we learn that the colorist of the lantern slides was Miss Violet Crowther, Henry Crowther’s daughter, who was the first Curator of Abbey House Museum and its collection of ‘bygones’. It’s not clear which lecture the Cypriot slides belonged to; possibly the Christmas lecture for 1897, on ‘Pots and Pottery’. In any case, it’s good to know that around the turn of the century the Cypriot ceramics were reaching large audiences in and beyond Leeds, and inspirational to think of the opportunities technology affords to put them before even larger and more widely spread audiences today.

National Art Library and Wembley exhibition

Getting excited about my first visit to the National Art Library at the V&A in the next few days. The Leeds University Library is brilliant and spectacular – and has surprisingly extensive holdings on Cypriot archaeology – but no one library can do everything, so I’m going to London to fill some of the gaps. I’ll be looking at Sotheby’s catalogues from the 1880s (more on that another time), and also reading about the British Empire Exhibition held at Wembley in 1924/5.

We know that some of the Cypriot ceramics in the Leeds City Museum were purchased by the then Curator, Mr Henry Crowther, following the Exhibition at Wembley.

Henry Crowther Wembley purchase

This raises several questions: what was in the Cyprus exhibit at Wembley, and who arranged it? Who did the ceramics belong to, where were they from, and how were they selected? How was the sale organised, and who benefited? Hopefully after some more reading I’ll be getting closer to some answers.