The story of the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum, £8.99
Height: 94.000 cm (statue)
Gift of J S Gaskoin
GR 1836,10-8.2 (Sculpture 1544);GR 1955,2-18.1 (altar)
Room 1: Enlightenment
Statue of Demeter on an altar
Roman, 2nd century AD
From Athens, Greece
This small statue represents the Greek goddess Demeter, with a torch in her left hand. In antiquity, Demeter was closely associated with the religious mysteries at Eleusis near Athens.
eighteenth century relatively little marble sculpture entered
Britain from Greece, as it was still off the main route of the
The statue stands on an ornate Roman funerary altar found in a vineyard outside the Porta Appia in Rome, set up by a freedman of the imperial family in honour of his mother. The altar was known since the early sixteenth century and later entered the collection of the Duc de Blacas.
The method of displaying statues on ancient altars and similar monuments rather than custom-made plinths of a uniform design was first employed in the Papal Museo Pio-Clementino in Rome in the 1770s. In Britain, the renowned collector Charles Townley (1737-1805) was one of the first to adopt this fashion for the display of the sculptures in his London townhouse.
A.H Smith, A catalogue of sculpture in -2, vol. 3 (London, British Museum, 1904)