Our international collections: Liverpool, Cleveland and Southport!

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Antiquities blog

Here's  our curator of classical antiquities, Chrissy Partheni, to tell us about where some of our 'travelling' collections will be on show:

"At National Museums Liverpool we always strive to increase access to our collections in different ways. We display our collections at our various venues as a way of facilitating public access and interpretation, but we also share our collections with other institutions ( museums, galleries, heritage and other public venues ). Recently the Cleveland Museum of Art, USA and the Atkinson Art Gallery in Southport have borrowed significant pieces from our Ince Blundell collection. 

The Ince Blundell sculptures were collected over a period of 30 years ( 1776-1810 ) by Henry Blundell and displayed in various rooms at Ince Blundell Hall, including the Pantheon and the Garden Temple. They are one of the most significant collections in this country that has remained intact, therefore providing a unique resource for understanding the 18th century fashion for the antique and studying the rich network of artists, restorers and collectors of antiquities operating at the time.

The international scholar Elizabeth Bartman is currently working on a new catalogue for these significant collections of National Museums Liverpool.

Henry Blundell (1724-1810) was introduced to classical sculpture by the important collector Charles Townley, (Townley’s collections are in the British Museum) from Townley Hall near Burnley. The two of them visited Rome as young English gentlemen on the Grand Tour and used the same network of excavators and restorers and dealers to collect. Henry placed many of the sculptures he collected round his house and heated greenhouses at the Ince Hall. In 1803 and 1810 he published an account and set of engravings for the collection. The sculptures remained at Ince Hall until 1959 when the majority of the collection was given to the 'Liverpool Museum' (now World Museum) and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

Examples from this significant collection are on display in the entrance to the World Museum, where you can see the famous Ince Athena and the bust of Zeus, as part of the Ancient World display on the first floor of the museum and in the sculpture gallery at the Walker.

Recently the Atkinson Art Gallery in Southport approached us to identify potential loans from the classical antiquities collections for their exhibition 'Eye of the Beholder'. The idea of using classical collections to explore how our ideas and pre-conceptions of beauty are formed is really interesting! I often wonder about popular imagery such as the one utilised in TV adverts and the associations made with classical representations of the body and beauty, and the politics of such representations. Is there an ideal beauty or is it constructed by our society? What meaning should we be making of classical ideals of beauty and what is their relevance today?

The Statue of Apollo Sauroktonos (Lizard-killer) was about to come back from the exhibition Focus on Apollo at the Cleveland Museum of Art in the USA ( The Cleveland Museum own a bronze statue of Apollo that is currently been examined to prove the claims that it is the original bronze by Praxiteles ). This seemed like perfect timing for arranging the loan to the Atkinson. Once again, the synchronised work of the people behind the scenes, our registrar, and our conservator has made this loan possible.

Installing our collection at the Eye of the Beholder exhibition in Southport Installing Apollo with Sauroktonos at the Eye of the Beholder exhibition in Southport

Our Apollo is one of the best copies of a bronze by Praxiteles, the original dating to c.350 BC. The other two copies are in the Vatican and the Louvre collections. This type of copy became very fashionable among Romans and a suitable type for the decoration of Roman villas.

Together with Apollo the Sauroktonos, the Atkinson have also borrowed from us a bust of Aphrodite and one of Apollo from the Ince Blundell collections. Two of the classical pots from the Lady Lever Art Gallery’s collections illustrating scenes of Dionysian revellers and Eros himself are also on loan for the same exhibition. I will be giving a talk about the displays at the Atkinson Gallery in Southport on 25 March at 1pm."