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!

Display s

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!

Leaflet front

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.

Children's leaflet cover

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.

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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!

What’s in the collection?

I’m really enjoying researching the University of Leeds ancient Cypriot collection, putting into practice the knowledge and experience I’ve gained from working with the Cypriot artefacts at the Leeds City Museum. At the moment, I’m focusing on identifying individual objects and trying to put them into context.

The collection consists of 24 objects: 18 ceramics, four glass and two bronze (no stone or precious metals). So far they appear to date from the later end of the Cypro-Geometric period, through the Cypro-Archaic and Cypro-Classical and down to the Hellenistic period, covering the span between 900 BC – 50 BC. This may prove to be interesting in terms of their provenance, if they are to be thought of as a group rather than a haphazard selection of objects (more on this another time). Many of them have suffered some damage on their travels, but are currently more or less complete pieces, thanks in part to some restoration work around a century ago.

The bronze objects are mirrors, and the glass comes under the heading of ‘unguentaria’, i.e. containers for perfumed oils. The ceramics consist of vessels in a range of forms, mainly jugs in a wide variety of shapes, ranging from 65mm to 200mm high. There are also a number of plates/dishes and bowls, and a pilgrim flask. The degree of decoration varies; some are decorated with paint in reds and browns (Bichrome ware), while others are plain. Several of the objects, including the pilgrim flask and the Black-on-Red ware juglet below, show Phoenician influence, which again may be significant in thinking about their provenance.

Black-on-Red juglet © University of Leeds

Black-on-Red juglet, late Cypro-Geometric – early Cypro-Archaic
© University of Leeds

I’m making some progress on finding comparators in other museum collections, and locating exemplars in the multi-volume Swedish Cyprus Expedition reports, which I’m extremely grateful to the Leeds University Library for purchasing many years ago.

Swedish Cyprus Expedition reports in the Leeds University Library

Swedish Cyprus Expedition reports in the Leeds University Library

Some, however, are a mystery at present, including this plain, elegant lekythos, which doesn’t look quite like anything I’ve seen before. I know its double is out there somewhere, it’s just a matter of tracking it down!

Lekythos © University of Leeds

Lekythos
© University of Leeds

So it’s a collection with some interesting consistencies: from a limited chronological period; with Phoenician elements; and mainly vessels, no figurines, sculpture or jewellery. The aim is to identify and properly describe each of the objects; then the next step is to look into how they came to Leeds, and the people behind their journey.

Aquila Dodgson and the Cypriot flask

The origins of the Leeds City Museum’s ancient Cypriot collection go back to 1870, but the most recent addition was accessioned in 2004, from a rather unexpected source.

Aquila Dodgson (1829-1919) was a Methodist minister who worked in connection with the Lancashire cotton spinning trade. He had a wide range of interests; he was President of the Leeds Astronomical Society in 1907-08, which published a portrait of him with its 1907 Journal ‘in appreciation of his great services’.

Aquila Dodgson

Aquila Dodgson

He was an antiquarian and numismatist, and a long-term supporter of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. He was elected honorary librarian to the Society in 1902, a position he retained until his death, and spent many of his later years compiling a catalogue of the Museum’s numismatics collection. The 101st Report of the LP&LS (1919-20) states:

For five years, day after day, members on entering the Curator’s Room would enjoy a short conversation with their courteous old friend and colleague whom they always found absorbed over his scholarly task.

However, Aquila Dodgson is best known as a keen amateur Egyptologist. He amassed a considerable collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts, though his interests also extended into more general ethnographic material. As his obituary in the Yorkshire Evening Post notes, ‘Mr. Dodgson was a great collector’. He corresponded with Sir Flinders Petrie and Amelia Edwards, founder of the Egypt Exploration Fund, of which he was an early member, and obtained objects from them, some of which are now in the Leeds City Museum. He also visited Australia, and Petrie’s excavations at El-Amarna in Egypt. He donated Egyptian artefacts to the Museum in his lifetime, and more of his collection came by bequest in 1927, including ethnographic objects from the Loyalty Islands and Solomon Islands, as well as shabtis from Egypt and Assyrian cuneiform tablets.

Part of his collection was given to E. Raymond Hepper, a chartered surveyor from Leeds, by the Dodgson family in 1951. According to his son, F. Nigel Hepper, Raymond Hepper had been fascinated by the Egyptian artefacts as a small child. Nigel Hepper states that the benefactress was Sarah Dodgson, Aquila’s wife, but census records indicate that Aquila was married to Jane Dodgson who predeceased him in 1907, and the 1911 census records him as a widower at the age of 81; it seems unlikely that he married again. However the gift came about, in 2003-04 Nigel Hepper sold two items from this collection to the British Museum, and over a hundred objects to the Leeds City Museum, which had financial support from the LP&LS and the Heritage Lottery Fund (for more information on this acquisition, see Bryan Sitch’s recent post on the ‘Ancient Worlds at Manchester Museum’ blog). As well as this significant collection of Egyptian objects, including ceramics, shabtis, amulets, necklaces, and figurines, the acquisition includes just one ancient Cypriot flask.

Aquila Dodgson's Cypriot flask © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Aquila Dodgson’s Cypriot flask
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

The flask is of ‘Black-on-Red’ ware, probably from the Cypro-Geometric or Cypro-Archaic period (900-600 BC). It is of a Phoenician shape, standing 120mm high with a flat base, globular body, and two small handles from the shoulder to the characteristic ridge halfway up the neck, which flares sharply at the rim. It has polished orange-red slip decorated with bands of black around the neck and down the handles, and small sets of concentric circles on the shoulder between the handles on each side.

Unfortunately we don’t know exactly where this flask is from, or how it came into Aquila Dodgson’s possession. His brother James travelled extensively in the Middle East in 1882, including a visit to Cyprus, and visited his family in Yorkshire on his return, so it is possible that James obtained the flask and gave it to his brother. James assembled his own Egyptian collection, now at the University of Melbourne, and Christine Elias has written a fascinating thesis on its background, including Aquila Dodgson’s activities.

It’s fair to say that this Cypriot flask is a minor item in Dodgson’s collection, and probably didn’t attract a great deal of his attention; ancient Egypt and its material culture was his true passion. However, it’s good that it has found its way back to Leeds, to the museum whose collections benefited from his hard work and expertise in the later stages of his life.

The beginnings of the Leeds Cypriot collection

The earliest Cypriot donations I have traced to date were given to the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society in 1870, by two influential members.

Cypriot amphora donated by William Aldam
 Leeds Museums and Galleries

This large amphora, 65cm tall, was donated by William Aldam (1813-1890). It comes with a provenance, though rather a shaky one: the 51st Annual Report of the LP&LS, for 1870-1, describes it as a

“Very fine Graeco-Phoenician Vase, 2 feet 2½ inches high, found among tombs in Laimia, Cyprus”.

A note with it gives the provenance as ‘Laimia Island, Cyprus’. Unfortunately ‘Laimia’ is untraceable, as far as I can make out; it’s possibly a mistake for ‘Lania‘, though this seems unlikely. The amphora, of Bichrome ware, dates from the Cypro-Archaic I period (750-600 BC). It is currently on display in the Ancient Worlds gallery at the Leeds City Museum, and seems to have been a focal point of the Cypriot displays for some time, as this photograph, apparently from mid 20th century, shows. In 1979 it was featured as ‘Object of the Month’ at the Leeds City Museum.

Cyprus display
 Leeds Museums and Galleries

William Aldam was one of those 19th century figures who seem to have crammed in more than one lifetime’s worth of experience, punctuated by several reinventions. He read mathematics at the London University, and studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, but as a Quaker he was not allowed to matriculate or graduate. In 1839 he was called to the Bar, although he never practised. He changed his religion from Quaker to Anglican, and was MP for Leeds in 1841-47. Having married in 1844, he began a new phase as a member of the landed gentry at Frickley Hall near Doncaster, taking a particular interest in local canals and railways. He took a full part in local affairs, working as a JP from 1842 and serving on county committees. In 1889, shortly before his death, he became a County Alderman. He was evidently popular; the Leeds Mercury report of his funeral (1st August 1890) commented

“It was beautifully fitting that he who had cast so much gladness on all around should be borne to his last resting-place under kindly sunshine.”

Aldam inherited his father’s proprietary share in the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, and remained a member until his death in 1890, subscribing generously to appeals for the improvement of its premises. It’s not clear how the amphora came into his possession. He was an enthusiastic traveller, keeping diaries of extensive journeys through Europe, and is known to have travelled to North America, Italy and Albania, though there is no indication that he ever went to Cyprus. Besides this amphora, his donations included specimins of lead ore from a mine at Castleton; glass apparatus for chemical experiments; and zoological specimins, including Echinoderms, Magpie, Jay, Sparrow Hawk, Honey Buzzard, and the Great Kangaroo (it appears he provided the means to purchase this last, rather than sourcing it personally).

The other donation in 1870 forms quite a contrast – this bowl, plainer and rather damaged, donated by Joshua Ingham Ikin (1844-1887).  It has a small, low foot and is decorated inside with further bands of brown/black on white slip. The remains of two handles are visible.

Cypriot bowl donated by Joshua Ingham Ikin
 Leeds Museums and Galleries

Ikin was similarly a prominent figure in Yorkshire society. A Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, he studied at Leeds, Edinburgh, London and Paris before establishing his practice in Leeds. He was a key promoter of the new Women and Children’s Hospital at Leeds, and during his term of office as Surgeon to the 4th West Yorks Regiment of Militia, he was responsible for assessing the fitness of around 13,000 military recruits. He played a more active part in the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society than Aldam, being a member from 1837, and giving lectures on a wide range of subjects, including ‘On the Geological Features of the Swiss Alps’, ‘On the Voice’, ‘Physiology and Phrenology Contrasted’, and ‘On Man’s Favourites, The Dog; The Cat; The Horse’. Again, nothing is known of how Ikin came by this bowl. His other donations were mainly zoological, including fossilised fish and specimins of Dotteril.

J.I. Ikin served as President in 1875-6. During this period he was responsible for raising the sum of £100 as the ‘President’s Special Fund’, which funded the purchase of the Cypriot items from the Sandwith collection. Unusually, Ikin’s two Addresses to the Society as President were circulated in pamphlet form, from which we learn that the cost of the Sandwith acquisition was £14. He also published prolifically, mainly on medical matters, including subjects as diverse as infant mortality, the branding of deserters and the translation from French of a biography of Baron Guillaume Dupuytren, physician to Napoleon Bonaparte.

Both Aldam and Ikin are good examples of the early supporters of the LP&LS, described by E. Kitson Clark as

“…men who had leisure to demand culture and had the means to promote it, men who while they were engaged with the problems of a vigorous practical life, had also the capacity to devote earnest attention to the furtherance of science and letters.”

(E. Kitson Clark, History of 100 Years of Life of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society (1924), p.2)

It’s thanks to their wide-ranging, eclectic interests that these Cypriot artefacts survive in the collection today.

The Yorkshire Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures, 1875

The early collections of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society are very much a reflection of their times, representative of Victorian interests which ranged widely over subjects which today would be considered separate, specialised academic disciplines. This eclectic approach can be seen in the Yorkshire Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures, held in 1875, to which some of the pieces still in the Leeds City Museum’s collection can be traced.

The Yorkshire Exhibition was a huge event running from May to September 1875, involving the whole city. It was undertaken in support of the Leeds Mechanics’ Institution, which taught every branch of science and art, as well as maintaining an extensive library. This Institution found itself burdened by debt as a result of building new premises in 1865:

Leeds Mechanics’ Institution, 1875

“one of the ornaments of Leeds… certainly the handsomest and best-appointed Mechanics’ Institution in the kingdom” (Yorkshire Exhibition Official Catalogue, p.25)

Since 2008 this building has been the home of the Leeds City Museum, so we are still benefiting from its purchase today.

Leeds City Museum, © Leeds Daily Photo

The Yorkshire Exhibition covered almost every conceivable aspect of art, science and manufacture. This picture from the Illustrated London News gives some idea of the scale:

The Duke of Edinburgh opening Yorkshire Exhibition, Illustrated London News

Of the Fine Art department, the Official Catalogue says:

“Where we find so much that is good, it would be invidious to single out examples. Suffice it that Her Majesty and the nobility and gentry of the land, and last, but not least, the wealthy manufacturers of Yorkshire, are all contributors.’

This department included quite extensive exhibits of antiquities, including a case of Cypriot material, mainly from Thomas Backhouse Sandwith and John Holmes, a major Leeds collector and antiquarian. Among Sandwith’s exhibits were this beautiful jug of Red Polished ware, and this vessel described in the Catalogue as a ‘Child’s Feeding-Bottle’. Interestingly, no description seems to match the triple juglet.

Jug of Red Polished ware, © Leeds Museums and Galleries

‘Child’s Feeding-Bottle’, © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Members of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society took the opportunity to secure some of Sandwith’s collection for their museum, ‘by a grant from the President’s Special Fund’ (Report of Council of LP&LS, 1876). It’s great to think that these Victorian benefactors had the breadth of vision to ensure that the Society’s collections were comprehensive and thoroughly representative of the arts as well as the sciences, which were in fact the primary focus of interest for many of the key members.

We are also lucky to have, via the Leeds University Library Special Collections, a selection of original Guide Books which really make the Exhibition come to life. The Official Catalogue is serious in tone, giving full weight to the dignity of the occasion and its Royal patronage. It gives a detailed account of every part of the Exhibition and every item on display, and it would certainly have taken more than a single visit to do it justice and give full attention to the densely printed information.

Yorkshire Exhibition Official Catalogue

The Yorkshire Exhibition Guide and Visitors’ Descriptive Handbook, published by the Daily Express, is an altogether jollier affair.

Yorkshire Exhibition Guide

Priced competitively at twopence and crammed with advertisements, it sets itself in opposition to the Official Catalogue by cheekily beginning its Preface as follows:

“In this busy age few people have either the time or the inclination to crawl inch by inch through an Exhibition with no aid but the lifeless pages of a Catalogue. With what avidity would the dazed sightseer, bewildered by the multifarious objects around him, place himself under the guidance of a well-informed friend who would conduct him through the several departments by the easiest route, and discourse agreeably upon the most interesting objects along the way. To supply the place of such a friend is the object of the present little work.”

The author has an interesting take on Sandwith’s motivation for assembling his Cypriot collection:

“They were exhumed from the old Phoenecian graves in 1871-2. A famine had taken place in the island at that time, and Mr Sandwith, knowing that there were ancient graves in various parts of the island, set the people to excavate them… The sale of many of these articles relieved the starving people, while Mr Sandwith was enabled to preserve the admirable collection we see here.” (p.10).

I’ll return to this subject another time; it seems sensible, however, to take information in the Handbook with a pinch of salt. The author appears to have prioritised a lively tone over conscientious fact-checking, as evidenced by this dry comment in Nature on his description of one of the scientific exhibits:

Nature, May 27th 1875

This called forth a pained response from the Exhibition’s organisers:

Nature, June 3rd 1875

Interesting to see these concerns over competence, authority and control of information, long before the internet age!

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!