Lord Leverhulme became a serious collector of antiquities only after deciding to found the Lady Lever Art Gallery in 1913. He probably formed the collection partly for didactic reasons, as he believed in the educational value of classical art. He had placed photographs of classical sculpture in the Port Sunlight schools. However it seems likely that he was also concerned to show the sources for English neo-classical art and his collection of Wedgwood pottery.
Many of the pieces in this collection were acquired in 1917 from the sales of two major pre-existing collections. From the collection of Alexander Ionides (1840 – 1898) he bought twenty-seven vases and a few terracottas. From a collection that had been built by Thomas Hope (1769 – 1831) he bought thirty-five ancient vases and sculptures, as well as the ‘Cephalus and Aurora’ sculpture by John Flaxman.