Collection Highlights: Antiquities
Marble statuette of an Amazon
Roman, preserved height 104 cm. A good Roman version of a Greek original of the 5th century BC. ANMichaelis.24.
The elder Pliny, the Roman encyclopaedist, tells the story of a competition in ancient Greece for a statue of the Amazon for the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. The artists involved (who included Phidias, Polyclitus, and Cresilas) had to choose the winner, and this proved to be the Amazon ‘which each artist had placed second to his own', namely the one made by Polyclitus. The Ashmolean's Amazon may well relate to such a project. It is but one of the dozens of pieces of antique sculpture and inscriptions from the Arundel collection, formed in the early 17th century by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1585–1646), the pioneer collector in England of works of art from classical antiquity. They were kept at Arundel House, just south of the Strand, but long since demolished. A first group came thence to Oxford at the instigation of John Evelyn (the diarist) in 1667; a further large group was given by Louisa, Dowager Countess of Pomfret, in 1757 (including this Amazon); a few other items followed at different times. Arundel's collection was assembled for him by agents active in Italy, Greece and the eastern Aegean. The nucleus preserved in Oxford, though very variable in quality, has considerable importance for the history of collecting in England and of taste.
Randolph Sculpture Gallery (21), Ground Floor