Antiques: Take a Lesson from This Kind Emperor; Richard Edmonds Believes Downing Street Should Buy the Carved Marble Portrait Head of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius Which Is Coming Up at Auction in New York

The Birmingham Post (England), June 7, 2003 | Go to article overview

Antiques: Take a Lesson from This Kind Emperor; Richard Edmonds Believes Downing Street Should Buy the Carved Marble Portrait Head of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius Which Is Coming Up at Auction in New York


Byline: Richard Edmonds

Should you happen to be country house visiting this summer, you may well come across galleries filled with Greek and Roman statues - many of them marble.

There is an obvious historic connection here, linking us back to previous centuries when British collectors and connoisseurs assembled some of the finest collections of classic antiquities outside Rome at a time when collecting and displaying these things was very much the in thing.

The galleries created by a spendthrift nobility in their great houses (now mostly owned by the National Trust or English Heritage) contained spectacular collections of statuary, vases, bronzes, prints and drawings, carved gems and Roman mosaics.

Occasionally these wonderful things surface in the sale rooms in London and it is likely that nowadays they may well be rehoused in Australia or America since such is the way of today's whimsical, money-driven society where wealth is no longer the privilege of the few in Britain.

Sotheby's will be selling antiquities next week in New York, a city that is nowadays nearby on your local, friendly website and the selection of lots to be offered - 247 of them in all - is mouthwatering. They range from ancient Egyptian sarcophagi in which mummies once lay, to bronze figures of the Egyptian gods, granite sphinxes, stunningly lovely alabaster bowls with the dust of antiquity upon them, to Greek and Roman mosaics with lots of those turquoise-blue ushabtis - the tiny figures no bigger than your little finger which were once wrapped with the mummy to ensure the soul of the deceased had a safe passage to the next world.

The star of the show is the carved marble portrait head of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius, adopted son of the emperor Hadrian, a rather nice, slightly introverted, man according to ancient reports, steeped in Greek philosophy and culture more than the arts of war.

Marcus Aurelius, Antoninus's adopted son, loved his father and he spoke of him as a moral and philosophical example whose teachings he was proud to follow.

A philosopher himself, Marcus Aurelius in one of his meditations said of his father: 'He was always equal to an occasion and had an ever-watchful eye to the needs of the Empire, prudently conserving its resources and putting up with the criticism that resulted.

'Before his gods he was not superstitious, and before his fellow men he never stooped to bid for popularity or to woo the masses, but pursued his own calm and steady way.'

When you realise this just and compassionate man introduced new legal rulings to protect slaves against random cruelty and indecent abuse, you realise just what lies behind this wonderful marble portrait of Antoninus Pius which Sotheby's will offer on June 12 for pounds 200,000-pounds 300,000.

To my mind, it should be purchased by the British Government and placed in a prominent position in No 10 - surely as a reminder of how political dignity once meant something.

But once upon a time - in the 18th century to be exact, you might have found just such a marvellous Roman bust on offer in Rome, a city where the antiquarian trade has always thrived and in the 18th century swallowed up innocent young men there on the Grand Tour.

The Pleasures of Antiquity by Jonathan Scott (Yale: pounds 40) is a marvellous way of going on the Grant Tour without ever leaving your armchair.

The first great collectors, as Mr Scott tells us so expertly, came into focus in earlier centuries. One of them was Henry, Prince of Wales the son of that meddling old spendthrift, James lst. Henry died in very mysterious circumstances and some suggest that James engineered it. But by the time he was 16 Henry was already acquiring fine paintings, medals, gems and coins. Few 16-year-olds today could claim to know much more beyond the text message on their mobile phones.

But people of wealth at that time also collected cameos and carved gems and Lord Arendel, who features largely in Jonathan Scott's superb book, also imported antique marble statues from Italy in a big way for his house in London. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Antiques: Take a Lesson from This Kind Emperor; Richard Edmonds Believes Downing Street Should Buy the Carved Marble Portrait Head of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius Which Is Coming Up at Auction in New York
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.