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The Townley Caryatid

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Townley Caryatid
  • Description

    Pentelic marble caryatid: a woman dressed to take part in religious rites.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 140-160 (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 2.2 metres
  • Curator's comments

    In a style adapted from Athenian work of the 5th century BC. One of a group of five surviving caryatids found at the site, arranged to form a colonnade in a religious sanctuary, probably of Demeter. The sanctuary was built on land owned by Regilla, wife of the Greek magnate and philosopher Herodes Atticus. One fragmentary caryatid, now in the Villa Albani, Rome, is signed by the Athenian sculptors Kriton and Nikolaos.Cook 2013, nr. 264:

    Townley's description; ‘A Statue of Isis, six feet six inches high; upon the head is the calyx of the Lotus, the symbol of this deity; The rose, chaplets, and other emblems of production are placed on other parts of the head; It is draped in a similar manner to the statue of Libera [1805,0703.22 ], and was found two miles beyond the tomb of Cæcilia Metella near the Appian road during the pontificate of Sixtus the fifth, who placed it in his villa, inherited by the Negroni family, and from whence it was lately brought to England.’ (TY 12/3; Chambers, dining room 19; the last five words emended in the Towneley Hall version in Townley’s hand as ‘passed into this collection 1787’. The error in the date was perhaps derived from the date of payment for expenses incurred in shipping, 21 January 1787, TY 8/5/1).

    Perhaps from the Triopion of Herodes Atticus, as conjectured by Brunn.

    Although Townley at first accepted the common view that the statue is a caryatid (see below, TY 7/427/2), by 30 June 1786, he had become convinced that this description was wrong since the figure had no basket, preferring instead ‘Greek Isidis or female Bacchus’ (TY 7/437/1).

    When Jenkins announced his purchase of the Negroni collection, Townley replied by return with a list of desiderata, adding ‘the object I wish for most, if I could compas the purchase is the finest of the two Cariatides near the higher Pallace, the one on the right hand as you face the pallace. I beg to its price and to have the refusal of it, if it is not engaged’ (TY 7/427/2, 21 October 1785). Although Visconti objected to the export, Jenkins thought it could be arranged, and he offered the statues to Townley at £400 for one or £600 for the pair (TY 7/431, 7 January 1786). Townley opted for one (TY 7/432, 3 February 1786). By 26 April 1786, Jenkins had overcome the difficulties (TY 7/435); a drawing that he sent on 10 June (enclosed in TY 7/436) met with Townley’s approval (TY 7/437/1, 30 June), and the statue was shipped for London in July (TY 7/440). It seems to have arrived in London towards the end of 1786, since Jenkins knew by 10 January 1787 that it had arrived safely (TY 7/448/1).

    Jenkins wrote to Townley on 28 September 1785 that he had acquired ‘all the Antiquities in the Villa Negroni’ (TY 7/427/1), and over the course of the following year, Townley purchased five items (1805,0703.119; 1805,0703.44; 1805,0703.123; 1805,0703.88; and three pieces of the same sarcophagus 1805,0703.125; 1805,0703.126; 1805,0703.130). Four more (1805,0703.140; 1805,0703.120; 1805,0703.180; 1805,0703.182) were to follow in 1777-8.

    Vaughan conjectures restored by Albacini (G. Vaughan, ‘Albacini and his English Patrons’, Journal of the History of Collections 3/2 (1991), 183-197, 190).

    * Townley drawings: 2010,5006.35, by Riley (comment in Townley’s hand: ‘The character quite missed by Riley’); 2010,5006.40, attributed to Stephanoff (I. D. Jenkins); 2010,5006.67; 2010,5006.88, attributed to Dolcibene (I. D. Jenkins, see A. Wilton and I. Bignamini (eds.), Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century (Exhibition Catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1996), 228, no. 176); 2010,5006.111, 90; and 2010,5006.116;
    * Nollekens: B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury’, The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 45, figs. 26-27, no., 11;
    * Chambers: B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury’, The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 42-43, figs. 24-25, no. 16.

    - Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808), II.4;
    - Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, I, pl. 4;
    - A Guide to the Graeco-Roman Sculptures in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 2 vols. (London, 1874 [1892] and 1876), I, no. 126;
    - H. Brunn, Geschichte der griechischen Künstler (Stuttgart, 1889), 550;
    - A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), 99-102, no. 1746;
    - M. Bieber, Ancient Copies (New York, 1977), 106-7, pl. 79, figs. 477-80;
    - Kammerer-Grothaus, Roemische Mitteilungen 81 (1974), 141-2, pl. 89.1-2;
    - Schmidt, ‘Karyatiden’, Archaologische Anzeiger (1977), 264-5, figs. 12-16;
    - B. F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London, 1985), 38-9, fig. 36;
    - G. Vaughan, ‘Albacini and his English Patrons’, Journal of the History of Collections 3/2 (1991), 183-197, 190;
    - P. C. Bol (ed.), Forschungen zur Villa Albani: Katalog der antiken Bildwerke IV (Berlin, 1994), 149, with note 3 (bibl.);
    - A. Wilton and I. Bignamini (eds.), Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century (Exhibition Catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1996), 226, no. 174.


  • Bibliography

    • Sculpture 1746 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (South Stairs)

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number



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