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. For a much more detailed account of the history of the display of the Maussolleion sculptures, refer to Ian Jenkins, Archaeologists and Aesthetes in the Sculpture Galleries of the British Museum 1800-1939 (London 1992), pp. 97-101. Here’s a very rough translation of the passages that relate to Lange’s 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, have 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.

Join the conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *