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The 'Lost' Nicholson Sculptures

The archives of the Classical Art Research Centre in Oxford include a folder of photographs, formerly in the care of the Ashmolean Museum, which document ten antiquities from the lost Nicholson Collection. The sculptures were acquired by George McLeahy some time before 1877, apparently in on near Smyrna, where he had a house, and other sites in the eastern Mediterranean. Later, while McLeahy was living in India, he deposited the sculptures on loan at the South Kensington Museum (the forerunner of the Victoria and Albert Museum). Adolf Michaelis examined them there for his account of the collection in Ancient Marbles in Great Britain (Cambridge, 1882), pp. 481-484, nos. 1-17. The sculptures were subsequently given to McLeahy's friend, Sir Charles Nicholson, the renowned former Chancellor of Sydney University, who kept them at his Hertfordshire home, The Grange, Totteridge. There they were studied and published by Charles Waldstein (Journal of Hellenic Studies 7 [1886], pp. 240-250), with five photographs. The Oxford photographs, apparently sent by Sir Charles Nicholson around this time illustrate eight sculptures not included in Waldstein's plates. These images appear to be entirely unpublished.

In 1899 The Grange burned down and all but one of the sculptures were apparently destroyed (Sydney Morning Herald, 2nd November, 1935, p. 11). The single survivor, a statue identified as Hermes, was given by Nicholson's sons to the University of Sydney in 1934, where it remains in the Nicholson Museum.

UPDATE After these photographs were originally put on the CARC website in 2016, they were spotted by Councillor Bernard Arscott, a member of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council in England, who was familiar with the 'lost' sculptures. They had survived (albeit fire-blackened) within the Nicholson family and were eventually given to the town of Southend. They now resided in Porters Civic House, the official residence of the Mayor of Southend. They are expected to be included in the future publication of the Nicholson collection in Sydney University.

CARC photographs:

  1. Draped female statue (Michaelis no. 1).
  2. Head of Zeus(?) (Michaelis no. 5, this and the other heads 'from Smyrna, Rhodes, etc.').
  3. Head of Herakles (Michaelis no. 6).
  4. Head of a man (Michaelis no. 8/9/10/11/12).
  5. Relief of man with whip and tiger(?) (Michaelis no. 17, 'from the amphitheatre at Pergamon').
  6. Funerary relief of youthful athlete and boy (Michaelis no. 16 'from Smyrna'). The photograph is marked as 'terracotta', but this seems inaccurate.
  7. Funerary relief for Sandioklos (Michaelis no. 15).
  8. Double herm (perhaps post for a fence).
  9. Statue of a woman (head does not belong), holding fruit(?) in fold of her mantle (not in Michaelis).
  10. Garland sarcophagus with gorgoneia and bulls' heads.
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