The Lansdowne Relief
How did it come to England?
The Relief was excavated from an area of the site known as The Pantanello in 1769 by Gavin Hamilton. Hamilton made his living by sourcing ancient Roman sculpture and selling it to wealthy, mainly British, collectors. He was engaged by the Marquis of Lansdowne to collect ancient sculpture to decorate his London house. The Pantanello was a stagnant lake or bog, approximately 300 m away from the so-called Greek Theatre of Hadrian's Villa. A number of high quality sculptures were found here; they appear to have been deposited rather haphazardly, suggesting work of early Christians or an attempt to hide them from looters during the instability of the Later Empire. Finding the Relief in such an unusual context adds to its mystery, although it does make the original context of the sculpture difficult to determine. The British Museum is currently re-investigating the area in the hope of discovering more about its original use.