Tuesday, 19 November 1872

The focus of this article was Luigi Palma di Cesnola's collections, much of which was sold to the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

The study of ancient art and classical or pre-classical monuments is not yet a popular one in England. Nay, that study, in spite of the splendid materials which we possess for it, has not yet penetrated far into the circle of our higher and specifically classical or antiquarian culture. Nevertheless, it does become by degrees more possible to touch the public mind with interest for the more brilliant acquisitions or discoveries that occur in this field. ... So we should like to say a few words on another unique collection of antiquities, as important and interesting in its way as either of those [given examples], which is at this moment in London, although unluckily not destined to remain there.

The island of Cyprus is one of those points which stand marked in the map of the world as an ancient focus or radiating point of civlization. The key to the history of the origins and early development of Greek civilization, Greek forms of worship and of art, is the history of the early movements and contacts of races along the coasts and in the eastward islands of the Eastern Mediterranean. The contact of Hellenic settlements with Semitic settlements along these coasts and in those islands, and the relations of the two with aboriginal populations--these constitute for the historical scholar a set of problems the most fascinating, the most important, and the most difficult. ... But there has been one thing always obvious--that for the study of the primitive intercommunication between Greek and Asiatic and Egyptian, Cyprus is the centre of the position. ... Cyprus, the great island lying not far south of the coast of Cilicia and not far west of the coast of Syria ... would be the main central meeting point of races. There the Phoenician traders from Sidon would early beach their galleys; there they would set out their wares for sale; there they would colonize ... Thither they would import their gods, their arts, their fashions, and presently those also of the other great sources and destinations of their commerce, the mainland empires of Egypt and Assyria.

... Get, if got they were to be, a sufficient number of ancient monuments from Cyprus, and therein you must have the best visible and tangible testimonies in aid of that obscure literary testimony which scholarship has so laboriously sought for, and sifted, and pored and conjectured over--you must have the best clue to the primitive modes and forms in which Semitic and Egyptian ideas and arts and types of worship as conveyed and modified through the Phoenician channels of communication, penetrated and impregnated the receptive faculties of the Greek.

Now such monuments, in any bulk, were long wanting. They are wanting no longer. Several minor finds of antiquities have in recent years been made in Cyprus of a kind to encourage further search. ... Some not unsuccessful excavations had in recent years been made at these and other sites, chiefly by Mr Lang, Count de Vogue and General de Cesnola ... and some few of their fruits have been acquired for Vienna, for the Louvre, for the British Museum, and for private collections. The characteristic yield of the diggings in Cyprus, besides glass vessels often in a beautiful state of oxydization and iridescence, has been a particular kind of fictile vase, different from the ordinary Greek or Etruscan, and carrying generally plain patterns of lines and circles, or else elementary birds and animals, in brown on a ground of light earth-colour; and next, statues and statuettes or fragments of them executed in a mixed style, not in marble, but in a calcareous stone common in the island. All previous discoveries of these things in Cyprus have now been thrown into the shade by the American excavator. Where others had found one fragment, he has found tons of fragments. He has ransacked the ancient necropolis of Idalium; he has struck upon a temple full of statues at Golgoa ... The result is an immense and surprising collection of statues and statuettes and heads and fragments of them, in the calcareous stone of which we have spoken, archaic vasese, oxydized vessels of glass, idols, and votive images and toys and ornaments and lamps in painted terra cotta, spear and javelin heads, funereal bandeaux in thin gold, cups and bowls in clay and bronze--every variety of object which the people of an ancient race were accustomed either to dedicate in their temples, or to bury with them in their tombs.

Immense and surprising, we say, in point of number; but the real importance of the collection is for the light which its study has to throw upon the most vexed problems, the problems most in need of just such illumination, in the history of ancient art and religion. ...

And where are these materials going to for their final lodgment? Where indeed? To New York, U.S. America. ... every serious archaeologist of Germany, France, or England, ... will henceforth have inevitably to cross the Atlantic, in pursuit of this collection, to fill up the gaps in his knowledge of the monuments upon which everything hinges.

These things ought not to be, says the reader. Nor ought they, and yet it is not so easy to see how they could have been otherwise. The way of it is this. These discoveries of General de Cesnola's have not been quite unknown to archaeologists while they have stood, for a couple of years or more, collected at his consulate in Cyprus. One or two of them have been published in archaeological journals, and one or two papers about them have been read before Italian scientific authorities; although their full importance had not been apprehended by many, even of the learned, until they were collected and unpacked a few weeks ago in the house of the well-known dealer in antiquities--M. Feuardent, of Great Russell-street. And as they stand there assembled, they constitute a collection from which all museums should be eager to take their choice, but of which few museums could be spirited enough to buy the whole. The number of the objects, as we have indicated, is enormous, and among them are very many having practically, if not literally, the character of duplicates. The proper destination of the whole would have been that three or four, or half a dozen, museums ... Besides, it seems that General de Cesnola is unwilling to part out his collection at all, and wishes to keep it intact and whole. ...

'Cyprus', Pall Mall Gazette 9 January 1878

The researches which General di Cesnola has undertaken in the island of Cyprus have always attracted considerable attention, which will now be increased when we have at last the conclusions of the author before us in a clear and distinct form. Doubt has been thrown on the manner in which his investigations have been carried on. Several distinguished scholars expressed their fears as to whether his excavations had been conducted in a systematic manner; whether the ruins had been left in a suitable condition for future study and investigation; and whether such a journal of the discoveries has been kept as would, from its details of how and where all the most important monuments had been found, prove of interest to science. The publication of the present work at the present time will be an answer to such fears. The author explains that for reasons of prudence he did not publish anything concerning his digging so long as he was residing in Turkish dominions. ... [there then follows a description of Cesnola's excavation methodology, or his explanation of it]

Transcribed by AP May 2012.

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