Egyptian and Classical Antiquities
The antiquities range from the sarcophagus of Seti I, one of the finest Egyptian pieces outside Egypt, to a small group of high quality Roman bronzes thought to have come from Pompeii and two small ushabti figures collected in Egypt by Napoleon’s Egyptologist Dominique-Vivant Denon. The collection also includes an important group of Roman decorative fragments collected in Italy by the architect Charles Heathcote Tatham for Henry Holland in the 1790s. Tatham’s letters to Holland, with drawings, descriptions and locations of his finds are also in the Soane. Soane acquired his collection in England, usually through the salerooms, and many items came from distinguished earlier collections - for example those of Lord Bessborough, Lord Mendip, Lord Berwick, Robert Adam and Piranesi.
Soane’s collection of Greek and Roman vases is an example of a surviving early 19th century private collection, inspired by Sir William Hamilton’s celebrated collection, published in his Vasi and includes a fine group of 4th century BC Apulian and South Italian vases. Amongst these is a campanian bell crater by an artist now known as the Soane Painter, of whose work there is another example in the Ashmolean. The Cawdor Vase was already celebrated for its size and exceptionally good state of preservation when Soane bought it at the sale of Lord Cawdor’s effects in 1800 and the Englefield Vase, acquired in 1823, is of unusual shape and decoration as well as from a famous collection. The catalogue of the collection is available on-line.
The most important antiquities include:
The Sarcophagus of Seti I c.1370BC with fragments of its lid Canopic vase from the tomb of Seti I
Two Egyptian stelae, 12th-17th Dynasty.
The Ephesian Diana: a 2nd Century Roman version of the celebrated cult statue of Diana at Ephesus. The Soane statue was probably excavated in Rome in the early 1500s and, with another in the Capitoline Museum, provided the image of the Ephesian Diana which appears in Raphael’s decorations in the Vatican Loggia (1518-19). The Antiquarian Ulisse Aldrovandi mentions it as in the collection of Cardinal Pio da Carpi in 1550 - one of the most important 16th century Roman collections - and it was later in the famous collection of Pope Julius III in the Vigna Giulia, Rome. It was engraved by Montfaucon in L’Antiquité Expliquée 1719 and bought by Soane at the Bessborough Sale, 1804.
Wooden mummy case, from the Duke of Richmond’s collection at Whitehall: said to be one of the first unwrapped in England and to be shown in Rowlandson’s caricature The Antiquary.
Fragment from the frieze on the north portico of the Erechtheion, the Acropolis, Athens: only major piece of the frieze outside Greece.
Bust of a Roman lady (M779) c.60AD closely related to that of Clytie in the British Museum
Roman bust, one of an important group of Roman copies of the so-called ‘Westmacott Athlete’ (British Museum) type, after a Greek bronze by Polycleitos.
67 Roman marbles collected by Tatham for Henry Holland in Rome in the 1790s
The Cawdor Vase, South Italian, 4th century BC