The Artemis sculpture came into the collections of National Museums Liverpool in 1959 as a part of the Ince Blundell collection. In the last quarter of the 18th Century Henry Ince Blundell, a wealthy aristocrat, began to collect what would become one of the largest collections of classical sculpture in the United Kingdom. By the time of his death in 1810, Blundell’s collection had grown to over 400 pieces of marble and bronze classical sculpture. The pieces collected by Henry Ince Blundell were displayed at his home, Ince Blundell Hall, Lancashire from the late 1700s until 1959. He even built neo classical buildings in which to house his collection, a Garden Temple and a Pantheon, in the grounds of Ince Blundell Hall. In 1959 Colonel Weld, who had inherited the Hall, found that he could no longer afford its upkeep and decided to sell the property. Colonel Weld generously offered the collection to Liverpool City Council, which accepted it on behalf of Liverpool Museum, now called World Museum Liverpool, part of National Museums Liverpool.
We believe that Henry Blundell collected the sculpture of Artemis on a trip to Rome during which he is said to have visited the studio where Artemis was made. Henry Blundell went on the trip to Rome with Charles Townley (both Henry Blundell and Charles Townley were Northern Catholic land-owning collectors of art). The Townley collection is now in the British Museum.
Detail of the surface of the Artemis sculpture showing different pieces of marble.
This sculpture was made in the 18th century from older classical pieces of sculpture and sections that were newly carved. Art historians think that when the goddess fell out of favour the original statue was broken up and used for hard-core or building material. She was reassembled in the late 1700s using the remaining original classical pieces of the statue and sections from other classical sculpture that were modified to fit. Much of the ancient surfaces have been re-cut and the torso looks like it came form a bigger sculpture. Any areas that couldn't be made from classical pieces were made from new pieces of marble; they are the 'new' pieces (carved in the 18th century!). Artemis was made as a showcase for the restoration studio that made her from classical pieces of sculpture and new additions. The sculpture was designed to show that they could “make anything”. The studio that created her patinated the new additions to make them look ancient. They probably used tobacco water or buried the stone to cultivate a bacterial patina. In total the sculpture consists of 123 pieces.
Detail of the head of the Artemis sculpture showing different pieces of marble.
The goddess Artemis
Artemis was the daughter of Leto and Zeus and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the goddess of the wilderness, the hunt and wild animals. It was also common for her to be a goddes of fertility and childbirth. Artemis is often depicted with the crescent of the moon above her forehead and was sometimes identified with Selene, the goddess of the moon. She was one of the Olympians and a virgin goddess. She spent most of her time roaming mountains, forests and uncultivated land with her nymphs. In the wilderness she hunted lions, panthers, hinds and stags. She was armed with a bow and arrows which were made by Hephaestus and the Cyclopes.
Detail of the calf skin on the sculpture of Artemis. The goddess Artemis was often shown wearing a calfskin.
Detail of the hoof of the calf skin on the sculpture. The goddess Artemis was often shown wearing a calfskin.
Detail of a buskin (sandal) on the sculpture of Artemis. The goddess Artemis was often shown wearing buskins.
Detail of a buskin (sandal) on the sculpture of Artemis.
Iron pins were used to hold the 123 pieces of Artemis together. Iron cramps were used from the end of the 18th century for around 100 years in sculpture to hold sections together and to repair sculpture. If the iron pin is not sealed properly with lead the iron corrodes and expands, causing the sculpture to break, fracture and eventually disintegrate. An orange-brown stain on the marble can be a sign of an iron pin inside the sculpture that has started to corrode. Sculpture conservators now remove any cramps (or iron pins) that are causing active deterioration of a sculpture because they are not sealed properly, and replace them with stainless steel pins.
Artemis has been recently conserved here at the National Conservation Centre. The loose, friable fills were removed and the surface dirt cleaned. The lost fills were replaced with colour matched resin/alabaster fills mixed with pigment.
Artemis during conservation treatment
Sources of information
National Museums Liverpool website
Elsewhere on the web