We have already talked in other previous posts about the great journey, the Grand Tour, which British, French or German aristocrats, among others, made to Italian lands to see First hand Antiquity and the art that was at the base of Western culture. Some trips that for many of those aristocrats could be the origin of important artistic collections, since they took the opportunity to buy works of the time and artists of the moment, as was the case of the famous and coveted vedutte that sold Canaletto. And also, in turn for other artists, whether they were painters, sculptors or writers, that great journey could be most inspiring and decisive, as happened with the case of the German poet Goethe.
Charles Townley in his sculpture gallery
However, other noble travelers preferred to buy antiques and thus take them back to their home country. That is the origin of many private collections that possess or possessed authentic treasures of Antiquity, which could come from the archaeological sites of southern Europe, sometimes legally, and others as looted items.
An example of these characters who accumulated a large number of old works was the Englishman Charles Townley, whose collection achieved an enormous reputation in London at the time. And he even had himself photographed with part of her in this painting made between1781 and 1783 by Johann Zoffany.
He introduces us to the collector in the library he had in the London mansion he owned inWestminster, where he regularly invited other friends of his, who were also true fans of ancient art. It was not the only aristocratic mansion in England that possessed these sculptural treasures, but it was one of the most famous, so much so that its address has survived to this day, when it was known that the house with such a collection was located on Park Street.
And the truth is that it is not surprising for the quantity and quality of works that we can see reflected in this canvas. If we look closely, several of these works can be identified, and especially one: The Discus Thrower by Greek sculptor Myron. However, it must be said that this figure was a later addition. Townley himself had it painted in the painting once that marble was found in the Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli in the year 1791. And he was the owner of this famous copy of Greek sculpture and which is currently exhibited at the British Museum in London. Like all theTownley marbles, since at his death, his heirs should not have felt so much passion for the art of Antiquity and decided to sell them entirely at British Museumof the English capital