The Townley Vase
- The Townley Vase
Marble vase decorated in high-relief with a Bacchic scene, featuring Pan and followers of the wine-god Bacchus dancing in revelry.
- 2ndC (probably)
- Excavated/Findspot: Villa of Antoninus Pius, 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'.
- (Europe,Italy,Lazio,Monte Cagnolo (Latium),Villa of Antoninus Pius)
- Height: 1.06 metres (about)
Restored in the 18th century.Cook 2011, nr. 135:
‘A Vase three feet high with upright massive handles. It is of an oval form, and ornamented with many Bacchanalian figures, amongst which the principal group is that of Bacchus and Ariadne, accompanied with various symbols, relating to the Eleusinian Mysteries. It was found with many other valuable marbles by Mr Gavin Hamilton in the spot now called Monte Cagnolo, which was a part of the Villa of Antoninus Pius at Lanuvium’ (TY 12/22/61/1, dining room 7, in Devay’s hand, copied verbatim by Dacosta, TY 12/6).
Probably found in 1773, since it can plausibly be identified as the fragmentary vase of high quality with a Bacchic subject mentioned by Hamilton in TY 7/561 (for the date, see 1805,0703.8). The vase is mentioned again in letters dated 21 March (TY 7/566) and 5 May 1774 (TY 7/567), when restoration was in progress. By 16 September restoration was complete, and Hamilton wrote enthusiastically ‘it is like nothing you have ever seen & first rate sculptour, and I wish you joy in the possession of an antique Unico in England’ (TY 7/571). By 13 October 1774 the vase, its pedestal, and a base were on their way to Leghorn in three separate cases (TY 7/572). On 24 January 1775 Hamilton admitted that the vase, like the bust of the Decemvir (1805,0703.109) had been smuggled out, with an extra payment to Bracci (TY 7/577). In another letter dated on the same day he apologised that the vase, together with the candelabrum (1805,0703.220), had been damaged in transit (TY 7/578), so the vase was already in London.
Bought from Gavin Hamilton for £250, including the pedestal and base (letters from Hamilton: TY 7/574, dated 22 November 1774, and TY 7/575, dated 23 December 1774; cf. Hamilton’s bill, TY 8/109, dated 27 January 1775. The price is confirmed in TY 10/5-7; TY 10/3, fo. 31; and ST 1, fo. 21r).
Early Imperial, after a neo-Attic model (Fuchs); Augustan (Dräger cites Grassinger), last quarter I BC (Grassinger); I AD (Arenhövel); May be II AD, but iconography goes back to Hellenistic period (Burn).
Parian (Smith); Pentelic (Grassinger).
* Townley drawing 2010,5006.225.
* Zoffany: B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury', The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 36-37, figs. 19-20, no. 23.
* Chambers: B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury', The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 42-43, figs. 24-25, no. 4.
- Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808) II.7.
- Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, I, pl. 7.
- A Guide to the Graeco-Roman Sculptures in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities (Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum) (2 vols., London 1874 [2nd ed. 1879] and 1876), II, no. 55.
- A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), 393-4, no. 2500.
- W. Fuchs, Die Vorbilder der neuattischen Reliefs (JdI. Ergänzungsheft 20, 1959), 85 (h 3), 111, 157#, pl. 23.
- Adams, William Howard, ed., The Eye of Thomas Jefferson (Exhibition Cat., - Charlottesville 1981).
- F. Coarelli, Dintorni di Roma (1981), 107.
- B. F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London 1985), 18-9, fig. 15.
- R. Neudecker, Die Skulpturenausstattung römischer Villen in Italien (Mainz am Rhein 1990), 162, no. 21.11.
- D. Grassinger, Römische Marmorkratere (Monumenti Artis Romanae XVIII, Mainz 1991), 169-72, no. 13, figs. 152-5.
- Olaf Dräger, Religionem significare. Studien zu reich verzierten
römischen Altären und Basen aus Marmor (RM Ergänzungsheft 33, Mainz 1994), 222, note 1077.
- Lori-Ann Touchette, ‘The Dancing Maenad Reliefs’, BICS Supplement 62 (London 1995), 81, no. 46 (bibl.), pl. 30c.
- Lucilla Burn, Hellenistic Art (London 2004), 175, fig. 100.
The restored vase was purchased by Townley for £250 in 1774.
Greek & Roman Antiquities
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Object reference number: GAA8997
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