Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Marble figure of Endymion sleeping on Mount Latmos.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 2ndC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 1.29 metres
  • Curator's comments

    The figure was restored and the upper surface reworked in the 18th century.

    For the Villa of Sette Bassi and Gavin Hamilton's excavation there, see:

    R. Neudecker, Die Skulpturenausstattung roemischer Villen in Italien (Mainz 1988), 207-209 cat no. 50.3.

    I. Bignamini and C. Hornsby, Digging and Dealing in Eighteenth-Century Rome (London 2010), 134-140 [this sculpture p. 137 no. 3].

    Five other marbles from this site are in the British Museum collection.Jones 1990
    Statue of Endymion sleeping on Mount Latmos
    Charles Townley's acquisition of this statue, which was variously described at the time as Mercury or Adonis, involved considerable disagreement on the question of quality and restoration. It had been excavated by Gavin Hamilton in the summer of 1774 at a site called Roma Vecchia on the Via Latina near Rome. He informed Townley about it, but advised against acquisition on the grounds of its mediocrity. Some time thereafter it was acquired by Thomas Jenkins, who offered it to Townley in February 1775, describing it in glowing terms as a work of remarkable interest and quality. Jenkins despatched it to London without waiting for Townley's reply. Puzzled by this divergence of opinion on the part of his two principal dealers and presuming that one or the other was improperly imposing upon him, Townley played each off against the other, undermining both and so alarming Jenkins that the asking price was dropped from £500 to £300, which Townley promptly accepted. In fact, he was perfectly happy to acquire the statue (the subject of which interested him) despite the fact that the surface had been extensively rubbed down to give an impression of all-over smoothness and textural and coloristic unity.
    This deliberate tampering with its original condition - the statue can be presumed to have been extensively chipped and stained when excavated by Hamilton - is characteristic of late-eighteenth-century taste, which increasingly admired in marble a sense of perfection and white smoothness. Several contemporaries, including Piranesi and Gavin Hamilton, accused Jenkins of unacceptable interference with antique statues for reasons of visual homogeneity. The restorer, who provided the statue with a new right arm, feet, tip of nose and parts of the left hand, is unrecorded but was almost certainly Carlo Albacini.

    Literature: A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities. British Museum in, London 1904, p. 24; C. Pietrangeli, Scavie Scoperte a Roma sotto il Pontificio di Pio Sesto, Rome 1958, pp. 91-2.Cook 2013, nr. 166:
    Townley's description; ‘A Statue of Adonis in the form of an effeminate youth, lying upon his back, asleep upon a rock; on the head is the Petasus, tied with a string under the chin; a chlamys is fastened with a fibula on the shoulder, covering part of the body, and on the feet are sandals, which are tied with bandages reaching half way [up] the leg. it was found 1774 at Roma Vecchia’ (TY 12/3; Chambers, dining room 36). The identity of this figure has been much disputed. Hamilton at first described it as ‘a young man asleep somewhat like a Mercury but without wings or caduceus’ (TY 7/569, 28 July 1774), and Jenkins referred to it simply as Mercury in letters written between April and August 1775 (TY 7/344-347) and in a bill dated 24 February 1776 (TY 8/74/15). About 1778, d’Hancarville preferred Atys (TY 16/27; Catalogue by D'Hancerville), and this interpretation seems to have been conveyed to Jenkins, who refers to Mercury or Atys in a letter dated 16 January 1779 (TY 7/385). Townley himself had begun to use the name Adonis by about 1781 (TY 12/1), and retained this name in successive versions of the parlour catalogue until the end of his life. Combe followed Townley’s interpretation in his receipt (TY 18/6), but preferred ‘Mercury sleeping upon a rock’ in the 1808 edition of the Synopsis. Endymion has been preferred by later scholars, including Newton, Smith, Neudecker, and Gabelmann (LEXICON ICONOGRAPHICUM MYTHOLOGIAE CLASSICAE).
    Found by Hamilton in 1774 in a ‘small cava’ three miles from the Lateran Gate, later known as `Roma Vecchia', together with a relief now in Malibu, thought by Hamilton to represent Aesculapius, but now seen as funerary (TY 7/569, letter dated 28 July 1774; for the relief, rejected by Townley and later sold to Lord Shelburne, see J. Burnett Grossman, Catalogue of the Collections at the Getty Villa: Greek Funerary Sculpture (2001), 132-134, and the review in Minerva 13/5 (September/October 2002), 64-5). Hamilton decided not to send it to Townley (letter of 13 October 1774, TY 7/572) and instead sold it to Jenkins, who sent Townley a drawing on 18 February 1775 (TY 7/343/1). Townley acknowledged it on 10 March, but disputed Jenkins’s valuation of £500 (TY 7/343/2). He later assured Jenkins that his sole reason for declining the purchase was that the price was out of reach of his financial resources that year (TY 7/344/2). On 6 June, Jenkins, claiming that he had sent the statue out of regard for Townley’s collection, apologized for his mistake in the price and offered it at £300, to be paid when convenient (TY 7/346). It had already been dispatched to London in order, claimed Jenkins, to convince Townley of his regard for the collection. Jenkins had perhaps forgotten that he had admitted on 4 March (TY 7/345) that he was anxious to get it out of Rome to avoid its possible confiscation. It eventually appeared at £300 on a bill dated 24 February 1776 (TY 8/74/15) and in Townley’s records (TY 10/5-6; TY 12/1; TY 10/3, fo. 16; 'Union Catalogue', fo. 60v).

    Restoration attributed to Albacini (Vaughan, both references).

    * Townley drawings 2010,5006.27 (mounted with a copy of a painting from Herculaneum, Pitt. di Ercolano IV, pl. 21), sent by Jenkins on 11 February 1775 (TY 7/343/1) and therefore attributed to Anders by I. D. Jenkins, and 2010,5006.39 (signed ‘Hen. Singleton del 1803’);
    * Nollekens : B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury’, The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 46, figs. 28-29, no. 3;
    * Chambers: B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury’, The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 42-43, figs. 24-25, no. 32.

    - Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808), X.78;
    - Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, XI, pl. 43;
    - A Guide to the Graeco-Roman Sculptures in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 2 vols. (London, 1874 [1892] and 1876), I, no. 148;
    - A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), 24, no. 1567;
    - M. Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age (New York, 1955; 19612), 145, fig. 622;
    - C. Pietrangeli, Scavi e scoperte di antichità sotto il Pontificio di Pio Sesto (Rome, 1958), 91-2;
    - R. Neudecker, Die Skulpturenausstattung römischer Villen in Italien (Mainz am Rhein, 1990), 208, no. 50.3;
    - M. Jones (ed.), Fake? The Art of Deception (Exhibition Catalogue, London, 1990), 142, no.145 (Vaughan);
    - G. Vaughan, ‘Albacini and his English Patrons’, Journal of the History of Collections 3/2 (1991), 183-197, 189, fig. 7;
    - P. Zanker, Klassizistische Statuen (Mainz, 1974) (1974), 113, note 144;


  • Bibliography

    • Sculpture 1567 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2015 11 Mar-24 Jul, Rome, Galleria Borghese

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number



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