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The Lansdowne Relief

What happened to the Relief after excavation?


The chimneypiece in Lansdowne House in
the 1920s (photo: the Lansdowne Estate).

The Marquis of Lansdowne was an avid collector of antiquities and from the late eighteenth century until most of it was sold and dispersed in 1930 he and his heirs owned a fine collection of classical sculpture. The Relief occupied a central position in the large gallery in Lansdowne House, where it was installed as the mantel-shelf of an elegant chimneypiece, flanked by Egyptianising statues. Photographs show the Relief installed in this manner in the 1920s, and the plans and designs for Lansdowne House show the Relief as a consistent architectural feature though the changing use of the room in which it was installed, from library to sculpture gallery and ballroom. In the 1930s part of Lansdowne House was demolished and most of the collection was sold. The Relief, however, remained unsold and was put into storage.


George Dance, Design for the Library at
Lansdowne House, c.1788-90
(photo: the Sir John Soane Museum)

When it was offered to the Fitzwilliam on loan in 2004 the Museum saw the potential to enhance its existing collection of Roman sculpture, which already contained other items from Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli. These include a fine marble bust of Hadrian's lover, Antinous, shown in the guise of the god Dionysos, which was also originally part of the Lansdowne collection. The Relief thus complements these and enlarges the story that can be told in the Fitzwilliam of the art of Tivoli, the Lansdowne collection and the history of collecting antiquities.