- Museum number
- Object: The Chatsworth Head
Head and upper neck from a slightly larger than lifesize hollow-cast bronze statue of a young man, possibly a representation of the Greek god Apollo or else of a votary; the features recalls the Severe Style of early Classical Greek art, and the statue was certainly made under the influence of someone familiar with this style; the head, larger than lifesize, faces forward with an impassive look; the eye sockets are open and would have been filled with another material, perhaps ivory, to show the colour of the eyes.
- Production date
- 470BC-460BC (circa)
Height: 31.75 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- The statue was found complete by peasants in 1836 in the bed of the Pediaeos river north of the village of Politiko (ancient Tamassos) in central Cyprus. Excavations at the findspot later in the 19th century revealed evidence for a sanctuary identified as one dedicated at one stage to Apollo (Ohnefalsch-Richter 1893, 10 no. 6; also Buncchol and Untiedt 1996, 46-7 and pls 61-63). According to the account of the discovery preserved in Ludwig Ross's account of his visit to Cyprus in 1845, the statue was naked, with the exception of a wide belt, with the left foot extending forward (Ross 1910). The arms, legs and head broke off as the statue was dragged away from the site, suggesting they were cast separately from the body. The existence of the belt suggests a more archaic form for the body than the head, whose closest parallels lie in the Severe Style of Greek sculpture in the second quarter of the 5th century BC.
The staue was broken up and sold for scrap bronze for a very low price, with the exception of the head which came into the possession of the English collector and dealer Henry Borrell (then living in Smyrna) who later sold it on to the Duke of Devonshire. It remained at the latter's country residence at Chatsworth, Derbyshire until acquired by the British Museum in 1958 (though it had been on exhibition there at several points in the 20th century). Recent research on a large bronze leg in the Louvre has revealed that it also belong to this statue, confirming that the original figure was larger than life size (Bouquillon et al. 2006, with full refs).
Cornelius Vermeule suggests the statue was a cult image similar to that from the temple of Apollo at Miletus and suggests that the intact statue held arrows or a phiale in one hand and a bow in the other (Vermeule 1976, 15-16 and pl. I, 1). This is not at all certain as there is no evidence from Ross's account for these features. Moreover cult statues of this kind are very rare on Cyprus, though some actual images of Apollo have been identified as early as the fifth century BC. The original statue may simply have been a monumental image of a votary, analagous to the many stone and terracotta examples known from Cypriot sanctuaries of CA and CC date, including those believed to have been influence by the Chatsworth head itself found at Tamassos, Idalion and elsewhere.
The cultural origin of the head is debated, and both Greek and Cypriot artists have been suggested, especially given the influence it seems to have exercised on the local production of limestone statuary, though other Greek imports or Cypriot-made works could also have served as a model (Vermeule 1976, 15-16; Hermary in Bouquillon et al. 2003, esp. 257-61). Despite the Severe Style parallels, a local Cypriot imitation may be later in date to the Aegean prototype, though probably no later than the mid-fifth century BC.
Bouquillon S. et al. 2006, 'Une nouvelle étude de l'Apollon Chatsworth', Révue Archéologique 42 (2006/2), 227-61.
Buchholz H.-G. and Untiedt K. 1996, Tamassos. Ein antikes Königsreich auf Zypern. SIMA Pocket-book 136 (Jonsered: P. Åström).
Ohnefalsch-Richter O. 1893, Kypros, the Bible and Homer. Oriental civilization, art and religion in ancient times (London: Asher).
Ross L. 1851/1910 (trans. C. Cobham), A journey to Cyprus (February and March 1845) (Nicosia).
Vermeule C. 1976, Greek and Roman Cyprus: Art from Classical through Late Antique times (Boston).
- On display (G72/dc19)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Previously in the possession of the Dukes of Devonshire at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire who acquired it in 1838 from Smyrna-based merchant and collector H.P. Borrell..
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number