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The Townley Greyhounds

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Townley Greyhounds
  • Description

    Marble statue of a pair of greyhounds playing together.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1stC-2ndC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 59.69 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Restored in the 18th century.Cook 2013, nr. 132:
    Townley's description; ‘A group of a Dog and a Bitch about two feet high, found 1774 at Monte Cagniolo, along with another group nearly similar to this, which is placed in the Vatican Museum’ (TY 12/3: Library 4). Although Townley usually described the animals simply as ‘dogs’, they were (wrongly) characterised as ‘greyhounds’, once by Townley himself (The First Townley Inventory): Statues 33), by Hamilton (TY 7/351) and later by Ellis, Newton, and Smith. They have more recently been identified as salukis by Sir Terence Clark.
    Acquired from Hamilton in 1774. They seem to have been mentioned first in a fragmentary and undated note from Hamilton to Townley (TY 7/561): of the two pairs that had been found one would be required for the Pope but Townley would probably be able to have the other if he wanted it. This note is likely to have been written before the end of 1773 since by 7 January 1774 Hamilton made Townley a firm offer of ‘a group of two grayhounds’ for £50, along with other items that Townley declined (TY 7/563/2). On 15 February Hamilton acknowledged Townley’s acceptance: he was glad that Townley wanted the grayhounds ‘which I imagine you will look upon as one of your valuable pieces of sculptour tho at so low a price as fifty pounds’ (TY 7/565). Then on 21 March Hamilton had to break the news that Visconti had insisted first on seeing both pairs of hounds, and then on keeping for the Vatican the pair originally destined for Townley, to whom Jenkins would send the other pair (TY 7/566). The price of £50 was confirmed in a letter dated 5 August (TY 7/570). Townley actually offered £70, which Hamilton acknowledged with gratitude but declined to accept (TY 7/571, 16 September 1774). Nonetheless Townley recorded the purchase at this figure in TY 10/3 (fo. 31) and in ST 1 (fo. 21r), and even at £75 in TY 10/5 and TY 12/1. Hamilton’s figure of £50 appears in TY 10/6. Townley appears to have misremembered the detail.

    * Townley drawings 2010,5006.7, attributed to Brown [as identified by I. D. Jenkins], and 2010,5006.8.
    * For a drawing of the Vatican dogs (2010,5006.72), commissioned from Vincenzo Pacetti and now in the British Museum, see Andrew Wilton and Ilaria Bignamini, eds., Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century (Exhibition Catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1996), 251, no. 206.

    - Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808), VI.68.
    - Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, X, vignette.
    - 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. 54.
    - A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), 218 no. 2131.
    - B. F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London 1985), 20 fig. 17.
    - G. C. Boon, ‘A Roman Sculpture Rehabilitated: The Pagans Hill Dog’, Britannia 20 (1989), 201-217, pl. X A.
    - R. Neudecker, Die Skulpturenausstattung römischer Villen in Italien (Mainz am Rhein 1990), 162, no. 21.2, pl. 14, 2.
    - Astrid Dostert, Die Funde vom Monte Cagnolo – Sammlungsgeschichte und Bedeutung im Villenkontext (Magisterarbeit am Fachbereit 14 der Freien Universität Berlin 1991), 108-10, no. 17 (bibl.), pl. 31b.
    - T. J. Clarke, ‘Reinterpreting History—The “Townley” Greyhounds’, The Windhound (Fall 1992), 21.
    - Andrew Wilton and Ilaria Bignamini, eds., Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century (Exhibition Catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1996), 250-1, no. 205.


  • Bibliography

    • Sculpture 2131 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited: 1977, London, BM, Animals in Art 1991, 8 Jan-24 Mar, Birmingham Museum and City Art Gallery, Man’s Best Friend 2007, Mar-Jun, Beijing, Palace Museum, Britain meets the World 2009-2010, 11Dec-10May, Madrid, Canal de Isabel II, Treasures of the World's Cultures 2012, 26Mar-17Jul, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Manarat Al Saadiyat, 'Treasures of the British Museum' 2012-2013, Nov-Apr, Bonn, Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'.

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number


COMPASS Image Caption: Roman, possibly 2nd century AD: found near   Civita Lavinia, Lazio, Italy


COMPASS Image Caption: Roman, possibly 2nd century AD: found near Civita Lavinia, Lazio, Italy

Image description



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