Roman sculpture (Rooms 83-84)

The Wolfson Galleries
1st century BC  2nd century AD

Closed until further notice

Sculpture played an important role in both domestic and civic life in the ancient Roman empire. Statues, sarcophagi and reliefs were placed in private homes, gardens and public buildings in cities such as Sardis, Ephesos, Alexandria and Cyrene.

Among the objects on display in Room 83 are a large, elaborately carved marble vase from the second century AD, popularly known as the Townley Vase, and sculptures from Cyrenaica. A fragment of a colossal marble foot is also on display. It was found in Alexandria and dates to the second century AD.

The eighteenth-century collector and connoisseur Charles Townley (1737-1805) made the 'Grand Tour' to Italy no less than three times. Both during his travels and by postal order from his home in London he purchased large amounts of ancient sculpture. His extensive collection included Roman statues, busts and sepulchral chests, sarcophagi, many of which are on display in Room 84.

A cast of the famous marble bust known as ‘Clytie’, dating from around AD 40-50, is also on display. The original can be seen in the Enlightenment Gallery (Room 1) and was said to be Townley’s favourite sculpture. It later featured prominently in the painter Johann Zoffany’s portrait of the collector, which is reproduced in Room 84.