William Alexander, Installing the Bust of Ramesses II in the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery, a drawing

The British Museum, London, England, May 1834

The colossal stone bust of the Egyptian king Ramesses II weighs 16 tons and dates from about 1270 BC. It was sent to England in 1816 by Henry Salt, the British Consul-General in Egypt. At the start of its journey it was tied to wooden rollers, on which it was pulled by ropes to the banks of the River Nile by hundreds of workmen. It was then floated down the river and taken to England by ship.

The Trustees of The British Museum purchased the sculpture from Henry Salt in 1822. For several years it was displayed in the old Townley Galleries (now demolished). By 1834 the present Egyptian Sculpture Gallery had been built. Because of the enormous weight of some of these sculptures, the Museum had to call on the help of the Army to move them into the new gallery.

Alexander made this sketch while he was watching the head being lifted into place. It shows soldiers of the Royal Engineers using heavy ropes and lifting equipment under the command of Major Charles Cornwallis Dansey (the figure sitting towards the front of the scene). Dansey had fought at the Battle of Waterloo nearly twenty years earlier, and had received a wound which had left him lame. For this reason he was allowed to sit while directing his men.

The stone bust of Ramesses II is still on display in the Museum's Egyptian Sculpture Gallery (Room 4).

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Height: 325.000 mm
Width: 255.000 mm

Museum number

Archives CE115/1/205


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