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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.
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)