The Death of Laocoon and of his two sons

WAG 5086


The ancient Greek sculptural group of Laocoon and his sons struggling with a giant sea-serpent, aroused immediate artistic interest, including Michelangelo, when it was dug up in Rome in 1506. By the 18th century it was considered one of the finest surviving pieces of antique sculpture and was admired by artist and tourist alike. Campiglia made a lucrative living out of drawing antique and contemporary sculpture, sometimes for reproduction as engravings in illustrated guide-books to important collections, but more often for sale as souvenirs to visitors to Rome on the Grand Tour. The finely polished technique of this drawing suggests that it was marketed at wealthy tourists, whom Campiglia also cultivated by offering them drawing lessons. This drawing was one of over 100 drawings by the artist acquired by the distinguished English collector of antique sculpture, William Lock (1732-1810), some of which were purchased by David Pennant (1763-1841). This is one of the artworks presented by the Liverpool Royal Institution. Liverpool’s economic development grew directly from Britain’s involvement with transatlantic slavery: the kidnapping, enslavement and forced migration of people from West Africa to the Americas and many to the Caribbean. Many members of the Royal Institution made their fortunes directly through the trade or indirectly through the wider economy. This wealth was largely how they were able to bring rare art and treasures, such as this, to the city.