Letter to Charles Townley from Thomas Jenkins concerning the Discobolos

Rome, Italy, 22 November 1792

The Pope gives his permission for the export of the sculpture

Thomas Jenkins (1722-98) was born in Rome. He studied painting in London and returned to Rome in 1753 where he acted as a banker and made his fortune as a dealer in paintings and antiquities. The Townley Archive contains a thirty-year correspondence with Jenkins , during which time he acted as Charles Townley's agent, securing many antiquities for his collection, including the Discobolos, the famous sculpture of a discus thrower.

In this letter Jenkins informs Townley that he has at last obtained the Pope's permission to export the statue.

'What initiated the Pope's permission, was, that they are now engaged in an immense expense to put themselves in a state of defence against the French from whom they fear a hostile visit. They look up to England as the only power that can check the extension of French principles and conquest … in this instance there is scarce anything he would not do to prove a desire to oblige the English.'

Fears of a French invasion were realized when the French army occupied Rome in 1798. Jenkins lost all his property except for his collection of gems and medals which he managed to bring back to England. He died there soon after his return.

Find in the collection online

More information


B.F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

A. Wilton and I. Bignamini (eds.), Grand Tour: the lure of Italy (London, Tate Gallery Publishing, 1996)


Height: 240.000 mm
Width: 180.000 mm

Museum number

Archives TY 7/523


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore