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The Townley Vase


Height: 93.000 cm

Townley Collection

GR 1805.7-3.218 (Sculpture 2500)

    The Townley Vase

    Roman, 2nd century AD
    Found at a villa at Monte Cagnolo, near Rome

    Romantic inspiration

    What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
    What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
    What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

    John Keats, 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' (1819)

    This large marble vase, an adapted form of the Greek volute-krater, is decorated in high relief with a Bacchic scene, featuring the rustic deity Pan, and Bacchus' wild followers, both male (satyrs) and female (maenads).

    The vase gets its name from the famous collector Charles Townley (AD 1737-1805). Gavin Hamilton, Charles Townley's agent in Italy, describes finding it in numerous fragments together with other sculptures in a large villa at Monte Cagnolo, near Rome, having been '...thrown promiscuously into one room about ten feet under ground'. The vase as you see it today has been reconstructed '...with great attention, as the work deserves.' The restored vase was purchased by Townley for £250 in 1774.

    It was once believed that the vase was one of the main inspirations for the Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) when he wrote the famous 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' (1819), though it is now generally accepted that there were many different influences, not only the vase.

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

    A.H Smith, A catalogue of sculpture in -2, vol. 3 (London, British Museum, 1904)


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