Julius Lange at the British Museum in 1867

“Artemisia” and “Maussollos” from Halikarnassos in the British Museum (photo: BM).

The art historian Julius Lange (1838-96) is likely to be among the first Danes to have seen the sculptures from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos. The sculptures, most famously the two colossal portraits usually identified as Maussollos and Artemisia II, had been recovered by the British vice-consul Charles T. Newton in 1857 and then transported by war-ship to London.

In a letter, written in Paris on 7 July 1867 and addressed to J.L. Ussing, professor of classical philology and archaeology at the University of Copenhagen, Lange describes spending seven weeks in London, a considerable portion of which he roamed the British Museum that at the time housed both archaeological and natural wonders (clearly of much less interest to Lange).

The letter gives a wonderful glimpse into the world of archaeological research and academic tourism before the wide availability of photographs and other forms of visual documentation that began to take off with the “big digs” after 1875. Lange also briefly mentions the Blacas collection that the BM had just acquired in 1866.

The Mausoleum Room on a 1912 postcard (source: TuckDB Postcards).

The full letter is published in Breve fra Julius Lange, udgivne af P. Købke, Copenhagen 1902, pp. 15-21. Here’s a very rough translation of the passages that relate to his time in the BM (pp. 16-18), with some light editing for clarity.

You will almost be able to deduct what I have seen from the itinerary and you will know that I, when it regards art, has led a true gentleman’s life [“et sandt Herreliv”]….In London I limited myself pretty much to the antiques. With the help of Gosch…I got a student’s ticket for the sculpture collection and the reading room. This wonderful access to the museum has been of great and lasting value to me. You know that I see slowly [“jeg ser langsomt”, a wonderful phrase], but I strive to see thoroughly, and I also hope that this stay in London has defined the character of the different architectural sculptures from Greece – the Athenian, the Phigalian, the Halikarnassian, etc. – in mind and eyes, so that I will not forget them.

I am also very happy to have seen thoroughly the Egyptian and especially the Assyrian things. I truly felt everyday in a thousand ways that my dissertation [“Konferens-Afhandling”] about the relief would have looked very different if it had been written after rather than before my visit to the British Museum. But I also felt that both dissertation and my authorship of the catalogue of the Academy casts helped me to set new thoughts in motion and to focus my impressions. When one has written about one thing – in whatever incomplete way – one feels very much more interested in a getting it right.

At any rate, my interest was also in this regard unequally spread, even if I saw everything pretty well. The Parthenon things, especially the east pediment and the frieze, I had to go back to again and again. I saw the extraordinary things on the second floor: bronzes, terracottas, vases, paintings, etc. – some things with careful attention, but of much I only got a small impression of the exceptional wealth. I paid a very attentive visit to the little secret cabinet with riches (the Portland vase, magnificent stones from the Blacas collection). The stuffed animals I completely left alone. Of coins, I did not see any; Professor Müller told me, before I left, that the cabinet in Copenhagen had everything of interest, either as original or cast. I look forward to seeing them, but I am also pleased that I did not immerse myself in them in London; there was enough to do regardless.

Gosch introduced me to Dr. Birch who was very forthcoming and indulgent with me every time I met him in the museum. We did not touch upon politics that are (after what you told me) a dangerous topic when one speaks with him, but I blush to confess that I mostly spoke German with him. That is unfortunately the only foreign language that I speak with security and freedom. He introduced me to Mr. Newton, the excavator of the Mausoleum and now “keeper” of the museum’s archaeological department. That did not lead to much further; Mr. Newton is a beautiful man and far from impolite, but not indulgent in any way.

The One That Got Away: The Via Labicana Augustus

Via Labicana Augustus
The “Via Labicana” Augustus in Palazzo Massimo, photo: TMK, April 2011.

Frederik Poulsen wasn’t always successful in getting the pieces he wanted for the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. In the second volume of his memoirs, I det gæstfrie Europa (1947), he discusses some of his experiences working under the direction of Carl Jacobsen as well as his occasional failures in acquiring a number of different sculptures, including the so-called “Via Labicana” Augustus that was found in 1910 (Arachne). It was first in the main Museo delle Terme and now in Palazzo Massimo (inv. 56230).

Prior to this, the NCG had had considerable success in acquiring sculpture from recent excavations in Rome (see, for example, the assemblages from the Horti Sallustiani and the “Licinian Tomb” that count among the Glyptotek’s most prized possessions).

Here’s a rough translation of the relevant passage (from p. 264). I have no idea whether there is any truth to FP’s accusations of dirty dealings on behalf of the Italian state. It could well be the case that he was eager to accept pretty much anything in order to explain away his failure and the disappointment of Jacobsen.

In 1911 I had a similar accident in Rome. It was the newly discovered, wonderful statue of Augustus from Via Labicana that was the goal, and I had been permitted to bid up to 120.000 Lire. Once again I had scouted out that the Italian state would offer 40.000 Lire for the statue and that the seller had to give up a fourth of the sum if it was sold to a buyer abroad and a permesso was required for its export. Professor Helbig, Jacobsen’s representative in Rome, and I agreed to bid 80.000 Lire to secure the purchase. Italy was victorious anyway. The owner was an engineer, and by offering him the sole rights to a harbour facility in Bari, the government succeeded in acquiring the statue for the Museo delle Terme.

Bodrum in “Who is Europe”

As part of the broader work of the CoHERE project that our recent paper on the Maussolleion in Bodrum was one small part of, documentary filmmaker Ian McDonald produced a film, “Who is Europe? A Film in Six Acts” that has been shown at a several film festivals across the world. Act 4 is Bodrum (about 29mins in) and illustrates many of the issues that we discuss in the JSA paper. This act was produced by the stellar team of Gönül Bozoglu and Cem Hakverdi.

Who is Europe? A Film in Six Acts by Ian McDonald

“Possibly the world’s finest Greek portrait”: Demosthenes – from Knole to Copenhagen

The Copenhagen Demosthenes (WikiMedia Commons).

Among the most famous sculptures in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is the portrait statue of Demosthenes (inv. 2782; Arachne entry with some further bibliography). The statue is reported to have been found in Campania, where it was once part of the collection of a palazzo in central Naples. In 1770, it then made its way to the country house of Knole in Kent (now owned by National Trust).

Frederik Poulsen, who was director of NCG from 1926 to 1943, was a prolific writer and gives an interesting account of the acquisition of the Demosthenes for the Copenhagen collection in the third volume of his memoirs, Foraar i Spanien, Sommer i England [Spring in Spain, Summer in England] (1950).

I provide a rough translation of the passage below (p. 121). The companionship that he mentions in the beginning here refers to Helge Jacobsen (1882-1946), the son of Carl Jacobsen, who at the time served as chairman of the Glyptotek’s board (see now “The Enigmatic Collector“). Sadly, I have been unable to locate the pub in which FP sealed the deal.

An aura of summer air and good companionship rests over the acquisition of the famous Demosthenes statue from Knole Park in Kent (southern England) in 1929. The offer came from the noble owner through the art dealer company Spink and Son in London and when the statue in its time had been characterised by the German Adolph Michaëlis as technically and artistically poorer than the even more famous Demosthenes statue in the Vatican, we first sent Elo to get this assessment confirmed or refuted. He came home filled with praise, and now Helge Jacobsen, accompanied by wife and daughter, and I departed. From London we drove south in the Spinks’ car, accompanied by a gracious representative from the company, to the hop gardens of Kent. When we saw the statue, we could almost not hide our enthusiasm, so powerful was its effect, much stronger than the Vatican’s statue, which I proved in a later publication. It was a good thing that the Spink representative did not understand Danish. After a cosy lunch in the pub “Seven Oaks”, I had a tense negotiation with this gracious gentleman in the beer garden, and I succeeded in getting the price down from 16.000 to 12.000 pounds. The statue, possibly the world’s finest Greek portrait sculpture, is honestly worth that.

Knole, photo: Nigel Turner (on Flickr).

Being Karian: On “Classical” Heritage in Bodrum

Gönül Bozoglu, Vinnie Nørskov and I have a new paper on “The Phantom Mausoleum: Contemporary Local Heritages of a Wonder of the Ancient World in Bodrum, Turkey” out in the Journal of Social Archaeology.

The paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Bodrum that we’ve done over a number of years and especially a series of interviews with local residents on the contemporary perception of archaeology and heritage. As the title suggests, the Maussolleion is very often perceived as a “phantom” in the cityscape. We discuss some reasons why this may be, including the curious place of “classical heritage” in the broader Turkish archaeological landscape and the consequences of “musealising” heritage within a living community. We also touch on the influence of Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı (aka “The Fisherman of Halikarnassos”) on the understanding of Bodrum’s archaeological landscape.

Halikarnassos Maussolleion
The Maussolleion, Bodrum, photo: TMK, April 2018.

As the title our paper indicates, one of the striking things about the Mausolleion (or Mausoleum) is the absence of the kind of monumentality that is associated with the status of a “wonder of the ancient world” and that inspires a wide array of re-imaginations of its place and role in both ancient and modern culture. For example, we discuss notions of a locally specific “Karian” identity in this region of Turkey. Over the coming years, it will be very interesting to follow the impact of the Milas “Hekatomneion” on this framing of local archaeology in the broader Bodrum region.

Herodotus, Artemisia, Maussollos
(Modern) statues of Herodotus, Artemisia and Maussollos outside the entrance to Bodrum Castle. Photo: TMK, April 2018.

Robin Osborne on Phaleron and Rewriting Early Athenian History

Following up from yesterday’s post on the extraordinary finds from Phaleron, here’s an online lecture from Robin Osborne placing the mass graves (containing c.3% of the contemporary male population in Athens!) into the much larger context of archaic Greek political history and interpreting them as an expression of Athenian state power: “Archaeology and the Rewriting of Early Athenian History” (British School at Athens, 9 February 2021).

Violence and the Archaeology of Internal War

A recurring theme in my work on ancient iconoclasm is the social meaning of violence and especially “mirror effects” in the treatment of stone and flesh-and-blood bodies, a topic that I am once again pursuing as part of the DFG network on internal war.

For this reason, I was very much intrigued by the discovery in 2016 of two mass graves with the remains of 79 individuals (some shackled) dating to the seventh century BC at the site of the Stavros Niarchos Park in Kallithea and widely reported by various media at the time. The mass grave is in fact just a small part of a much larger cemetery with close to 1,800 burials, interred between the eighth and fourth centuries BC. The osteoarchaeological evidence has now been published with admirable speed and efficiency by Anna Ingvardsson, Ylva Bäckström and their collaborators in a laudable open access format in Opuscula, the journal of the Swedish institutes in Athens and Rome.

From Ingvardsson & Bäckström 2019, 13 (here).

Referencing Kylon’s attempted (mythical?) coup in 632 BC, Ingvardsson & Bäckström conclude (p. 79):

The scenario surrounding the depositions of the individuals in the mass graves at Phaleron is largely obscure and cannot be elucidated through the osteological field observation. However, it seems likely that the individuals died within a short period of time, some of them more or less simultaneously. Why and where the individuals were killed is a matter of conjecture; the observations from the field documentation neither validate, nor disprove the hypothesis that these individuals were the captives and victims of the so-called “Cylonian conspiracy”.

A hypothetical scenario is that a majority of the captives, probably in poor physical condition, e.g. starved, dehydrated,and beaten but otherwise in good general health, were brought to Phaleron in shackles, some of them plausibly tied to a frame with ropes, as suggested by their positions. The individuals may have been pushed to the ground, some of them perhaps kneeling, before fatal blows/punches to the head of the individuals not already dead were inflicted before the bodies were covered.

Making and Breaking the Emperors at Eretria

Some photos from a wet day visiting the excavations of ancient Eretria and its temple of the imperial cult with an interesting assemblage of seven heavily fragmented sculptures, possibly the outcome of late antique Christian response (see JRA 2001). We are eagerly awaiting Valentina di Napoli’s full publication of the finds.

Eretria Augusteum
The Eretria Augusteum. Photo: TMK, Oct 2020.
Eretria Augusteum
The Eretria Augusteum. Photo: TMK, Oct 2020.
Fragments of statues from the Eretria Augusteum (from JRA 2001, 124).

The Death of Spolia? Roman Re-Use Cultures

Scholarship on reuse in the Roman (and late antique) world is growing at great speed. I have recently reviewed this large volume on “La sculpture et sesames reemplois”, edited by Vassiliki Gaggadis-Robin and Nicholas de Larquier (forthcoming in Latomus, 79.4):

The volume compiles plenty of interesting new material, especially from the western Mediterranean, both in terms of recently excavated contexts of architectural and sculptural reuse and from the storerooms of local museums and collections. It is a rich hoard indeed…..

Yet there are also some obvious missed opportunities in the general presentation of this material. There are very few cross-references, and conversations between individual papers are generally not flagged or pointed out. Some chapters omit important new scholarship (such as Hendrik Dey on spolia in late antique fortifications, or Axel Gering’s extensive documentation of different practices of reuse in Ostia). Others are short and matter-of-factual without much discussion of the wider phenomenon of reuse and its aesthetic, social, religious and political implications. Overall, however, scholars interested in the rich life histories of Roman sculpture will find plenty of interest in this volume. 

This volume follows several other collections on Roman re-use cultures that have appeared in recent years, including “Reuse and Renovation in Roman Material Culture” (2018), edited by Diana Y. Ng and Molly Swetnam-Burland, (see my review of this for JRA), and, on a less art historical note, “Recycling and Reuse in the Roman Economy” (2020), edited by Chloë N. Duckworth and Andrew Wilson.

Work by many other scholars, such as Simon Barker, Jon Frey, Ine Jacobs, Anna Leone, Yuri Marano, Beth Munro, Panayotis Panayides, and Anna Sitz is also very relevant for revealing the many dimensions of Roman and late antique reuse culture. For more general approaches, there is the very useful Discard Studies website. Perhaps then we can finally lay the old ghost of “spolia” to rest?