Fingerprints Episode 6
The country’s first major art and antiquities collection now sits in the Ashmolean Museum. It reveals untold stories from the ancient world including shipwrecks, competitively collecting, underhand dealings and how classical art was used by aristocrats at the royal court to boost their status and standing. Join lecturer Alison Pollard, as she takes you on a journey which spans over 2000 years. Find a transcript of this episode here
Speakers in this episode:
About the Fingerprints podcast
Every object in the Ashmolean has passed from hand to hand to reach the Museum. In a new podcast, we uncover the invisible fingerprints left behind by makers, looters, archaeologists, soldiers, rulers, curators, and many more. These stories of touch reveal the ways in which the forces of conflict and colonialism have shaped Britain’s oldest Museum. Join the Ashmolean’s curators alongside artists, experts, and community members, for our new podcast: Fingerprints.
Fingerprints will be released on the Ashmolean’s website, on Spotify, Apple, and wherever you get your podcasts, weekly from 21 January 2022 until 25 February 2022.
Fingerprints is produced and hosted by Lucie Dawkins. Guests include Bénédicte Savoy, co-author of the Report on African Cultural Heritage, commissioned by Emmanuel Macron; Professor Dan Hicks, of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum; and Simukai Chigudu, one of the founding members of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign.
I was in one very dark storeroom and spotted right in the far back right hand corner. I kind of crumpled up piece of carpet. So I went walking over, peered under this very by now dusty piece of carpet, and there was the colossal god head. But this thing - I mean go and have a look at it, its enormous, it's about a metre by a metre that had been under this carpet this blanket for it must have been decades. But only once we got it out and we got it on display did we really unlock the key to the story of the shipwreck.
This is Fingerprints, a podcast from the Ashmolean Museum. Invisible fingerprints cover every object in the museum belonging to artists, looters, rulers, archaeologists, soldiers, curators, collectors and many more. These fingerprints reveal the complex and often uneasy history behind the making of a museum. I'm your host, Lucie Dawkins and today I'm joining Allison Pollard, Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at Oxford University. So Alison, here we are standing in one of the Ashmolean's most impressive spaces, the long sculpture gallery, which stretches away on your left as you enter the museum. It's called the Randolph Sculpture Gallery, and it's crammed with bits of Greek and Roman sculpture. So Allison, can you tell us a bit more about what we're looking at?
Today, we're going to look at the Arundel collection, which should be much more famous than it currently is, because it's actually the first significant art collection to be brought together in England at a really early time in the history of collecting. An by art collection, it encompasses lots and lots of different types of things. But for our purposes, we're going to be looking at the Arundel Marbles, which means the sculpture, the Greek and Roman and other bits of ancient sculpture that was brought together by Thomas Howard, the Earl of Arundel, in the early 1600s. I love how eclectic it is. I mean, I love ancient sculpture anyway, that's what I spend my time studying. But in this one collection, you have heads, you have bursts, you have bodies, you have sarcophagi, which are big stone coffins, you have reliefs which are dedications to Gods from all throughout Greek and Roman history.
And can you tell us a bit more about the man who put this collection together? Who was Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel?
Well, you may not have heard of Thomas Howard, I bet you've heard of some of his more famous relatives. So he was part of the very famous Howard family whose most notorious members include Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard to have the unfortunate wives of Henry VIII. And that's because the Howard family were incredibly prominent at the Tudor and Jacobean and Stewart courts. And, as we find out with Arundel, their fortunes really, really waxed and waned over the years. So we've got the great years when they're in power, we've got the years where they're not doing that well, because two of their members have just been beheaded. And by the time Thomas Howard, our Earl of Arundel is born, his family are effectively in disgrace. And Arundel is born into relative poverty at the time, and his family titles have been completely stripped from him.
And so what was it that made a disgraced aristocrat decide to put together the country's first major art collection?
Well, we know that he's a very proud guy. He's very proud of his family past. And he seems to gloss over the more unfortunate parts. But we think that one of the reasons why he began collecting was to get a sense of the ancient, because he was very concerned with his very old family name. And it seems that he's very interested in this from a really early age, even when he's a student at Cambridge. And he starts putting this collection together, which he feels lends him an air of nobility, which will get him back to court and indeed, by his early 20s, he is making inroads back at court in the court of James I. So on some level, it is working for him. We call it the first significant art collection. Collectors in England they had little bits before. I mean, there was a history of the Romans in Britain, so you know, people can see around them bits of Roman inscriptions. But what Thomas Howard did, which is really exceptional at the time, was dedicate almost his every waking hour to this collection. And although we won't be talking about them much today, the Arundel collection also included incredible paintings and sketches and drawings, it had coins in it and gems. So it's the sheer breadth, and also the kind of geographical breadth, which makes the Arundel collection really fascinating.
So as the Earl of Arundel collected together all of these pieces of art, what he was up to was something much more than a hobby. It was all about rehabilitating his family name. And in the early 17th century, collecting art was a political activity, part of an intricate bartering of power and influence at the royal court. And here's Professor Jas Elsner, from Oxford University's Classics Department to tell us more about collecting culture at the time.
So if we think at the moment of Arundel, already in the 15th century, and through the whole 16th century, there has been the growth of a very rich phenomenon of curiosity, interest, it's a vast array of adventures, looking into the new world, looking into what will end up being the colonisation of India and so on as well on the other side. Now, in Arundel's moment, so this is the Stewart monarchy, and to moment with competition between Catholic and Protestant states, it's a moment of really the growth, the big growth of the competition of the European states. And so, the drivers are about internal expansion and questions of trade and money are now significant, and also competition with other countries. So these aspects, they led to the growth of a collecting culture. And very interestingly, a competitive collecting culture within the British aristocracy. So after all, Arundel is hardly the only collector of his moment, and indeed, the king is a greater collector. That's a strange kind of competition. It's a very, if you like, refined erudite and aesthetic space in which the monarchy and its supreme acolytes compete with interests that go that are very wide in terms of their span, the most contemporary of painting and art, antiquities, and that's, of course, where Arundel was, was extraordinary and supreme, and, of course, all kinds of exotica of one kind or another.
So Arundel wanted to assemble an art collection to beat all collections. And this meant finding a niche which would set his personal museum apart. And Greek and Roman antiquities were a clever choice. Here's Professor Peter Stewart to tell us why.
There just weren't antiquity collections on anything like this scale in Britain at that time in the early 17th century. They existed on the continent, in the great aristocratic collections of Renaissance Italy, especially. But Britain had been relatively excluded from access to classical antiquities, certainly from large scale sculpture collecting like this. Another exception in that period, and the 1620s and 1630s was the king's collection, King Charles I's collection, but this was very largely acquired from existing collections in Western Europe, which was the norm. In contrast to that, Arundels' collection was much more eclectic and varied. And crucially, it included a lot of archaeological material, which had been acquired in the eastern Mediterranean. That region was part of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Empire at the time. It wasn't very accessible for political reasons, and also because of the inherent difficulties of travel. And that remained the situation right up to Greek Independence in the 1830s. So it wasn't normal for most collectors to be acquiring material from that part of the world. Arundel's activities, therefore my very striking departure from the norm. He had ancient Greek sculptures, and he had ancient Greek inscriptions in stone, and this made the collection very rare. It meant it was a real treasure trove.
So Alison, let's talk more about Arundel's fingerprints on these sculptures. How did he go about getting hold of the kinds of Greek and Roman art that no one else in England had?
Well, we know that while he was a student at Cambridge, Arundel went on a kind of prototype Grand Tour, which is really early in the history of young rich men schooled in the classics and Greek and Roman literature, would go and see these ancient lands for themselves. So very early on in his teens, Arundel goes and does this. So that kind of sets in motion this love affair with Europe. And he would travel to Italy at a time when it was actually very difficult for English people to travel to Rome, because of all the difficulties that have been with the church in Rome, in the perios of Henry VIII and Elizabeth. So James I, the king at the time, gave her another kind of sneaky permission to go to Italy and to do this collecting. He goes to Rome in about 1613, 1614. And he goes and he's just a tourist. So We have accounts of him going to visit the Pantheon and various temples, like we would do if we went to visit Rome today. But what's very interesting is that he undertakes some, what are known as 'excavations' in Rome. So the Papal authorities allow him to visit, he finds these kind of bashed up bodies of Roman senators, of lots of women, of goddesses. And there's a very strong suggestion that these have been planted for him by the Papal authority so that he can kind of not cause too much trouble, but he can go away happy. So as well as all these kind of archaeological activities that he's undertaken on his own, he's also having to balance this in later years, with going on diplomatic envoys on behalf of the King, on behalf of the Queen. So we hear about when he's, you know, sent to a court that while he's there, he goes and has a look at the nearest palazzo, and he goes and checks out their sculpture collection, and if possible, he tries to buy things. So this is a time when Europe is opening up, with some difficulties to some countries, and the Rome problem wouldn't be resolved for quite a while. But he's really taken advantage of the fact that you can get the continent and not only that, you can ship things back to England for display in your own house. So he's actually rarely in England, he has a house on the strand called Arundel House, which he builds from scratch. But even that is built kind of in the manner of an Italian palazzo. He's greatly influenced by the Italian paper families and their collections. So his mission is about bringing that back to kind of smoggy, dirty London at the time.
Right. So it sounds like one of the reasons that he could put together a collection like this was that he was born into this tipping point in history in which the explosion of trade routes and shipping technology had opened up the world around England. And this sounds like our under was pretty ambitious and exploiting this moment of international travel as he went about putting the Howard family back in power.
Yeah. Arundel is around at court at a time when we have people like Sir Walter Raleihjt. We have the great explorers and we know actually the animals I'm pretty friendly terms with Walter Raleigh. So Arndell being a prominent man at court is greatly involved in the colonial activities at the time. So we have documentation for a few occasions when he's eager to set up colonies abroad. So in 1620, which was around the time of the Mayflower as well, he's part of a commission that wants to set up a colony in New Englan. It sort of fizzles out, but then later in his life, he gets set on this bizarre scheme to colonise Madagascar. He has a portrait commissioned, called the Madagascar Portrait, where he and his wife, Alatheia Talbot, who's actually a really interesting figure in her own right. She's also a collector, she's interested in these colonial activities. The two of them are sat in front of a globe, pointing to Madagascar. And he even writes a statement of intent to colonise Madagascar, which exists. We even have letters about Arundel writing to the East India Trading Company, asking for their advice about what you need to do in this colonisation enterprise. But it sort of fizzles out again, and he becomes embroiled with other matters, because of course we've got a civil war brewing at this point as well. And how did
And how did Arundel make the most of this brand new globe-trotting era as he put his collection together?
So beyond Arundel's own travels, he also employed agents, and this is where the Arundel collection is remarkable for its time - Arundel employed agents to go to Greece, to go to Turkey, which was known in the ancient world as Asia Minor, to go to the islands of the Aegean and to collect enormous amounts of sculptures and ship them back to London. So it was the sheer breadth of it.
So this sounds like the next fingerprints, we should look out on these sculptures. Who were these agents? The person we really need to be talking about here is William Pettry. He's a man about whom we actually know remarkably little, but we know that he was a chaplin at Arundel house, and he's kind of trained up in the schools of Greek and Roman archaeology, in acquiring antiquities, and he's sent all around Europe to find to scour, to buy, there's a little bit of stealing goes on, some quite underhand tactics, to find the best antiquities for Arundel - and in various stages, send them back for display an Arundel House. Now one of the great things about studying the Arundel collection is we have all of Arundel's letters that survived to various people, including to William Petty. But absolutely infuriatingly, we haven't got Petty's letters back to Arundel. Now when you study the sculpture in the way that I do, you want to know the details. You want to know where things were found. You want to know how Petty acquired all these incredible antiquities, but that there is unfortunately missing. So you've got to do a kind of detective story yourself in finding out things from the glimpses of fragments that you can get. So we have William Pettry on the one hand, and we also have this incredible character Thomas Roe. He is this absolutely beleaguered ambassador, who at the time is stationed in Constantinople, you know, in Turkey. And as soon as Thomas Roe gets his position in Turkey, Arundel is delighted because it needs a means for him to kind of get through all the paperwork, get Petty permission to go and just scour the entire Greek world for these antiquities, and Thomas Roe, he's like a puppet really in Arundel and Petty's game, and he's the one who secures permissions for things, but he's very much used and abused while he is out there. It's worth noting that actually, we have some women involved in this as well. So Alatheia, Arundel's wife, also has scouts out looking for antiquities for her. So does the Queen of England at the time. Butt Arundel's big juicy rivalry is with George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. He really wants to get a collection going in the way that Arundel did. So we have these letters from Thomas Roe writing to Arundel saying, would you mind if while William Petty is out doing his collecting, we then kind of dish the goods, we share them out between you and George Villiers. But the problem is, is that the Duke of Buckingham is Arundel's kind of arch enemy at court. They absolutely hate each other. So we have these very firm letters back from Arundel to Thomas Roe saying absolutely not, this is never gonna happen. And then George Villiers sends out his own agents, and what we find is that they're acting in competition with William Petty. So they're kind of sneaking around at night to try and get things, so that the other one can't see, when one deal falls through to the other one sneaks in and grabs it. So this rivalry goes on for years and years, really, until the Duke Buckingham's assassination. And in the kind of ultimate irony Arundel ends up with quite a lot of Buckingham's collection from the sale of his collection after Buckinham was assassinated. But you mentioned that Roe and Petty got up to some underhand tactics in order to get their hands on the best antiquities for Arundel. So what sort of thing were they getting up to?
Well, I mean, there's acquisition of their own collection is full of underhand tactics. So there are there's this triumphal arch of very late Roman Emperor called Theodosius, and it's built into the city walls in Constantinople. And it has carvings on it of Theodosius, and his military exploits and his triumphs. So, Thomas Roe, William Petty decide they'd really liked to take these off, and they'd really like to transport them back to London for Arundel. The problem is that they mean quite a lot to the city. So Thomas Roe suggests, perhaps they might like to bribe a local Ottoman official or suggest bribing a local Imam to say that the sculptures are against the tenets of Islam. So they try this, but none of the officials take the bribe. So they try other methods - and what if we sneak up at night and try to prise them off. But what happens in the end is because the local people see these as a talisman for the luck of the city, they absolutely refuse to let anyone remove them from the triumphal arch, and there's a riot. And so that's where they remain, actually, to this day.
OK, so once Petty got his hands on these marbles, what was it like to haul them all the way back across Europe to London?
Well, there's an incredible story about a shipwreck, which we only hear about from kind of snippets and letters, which is Thomas Roe by writing back to the Earl of Arundel. What happened, apparently, is that William Petty, he's been in western Turkey, so he's been to Ephesus, he's been to Smyrna, really great ancient centres of the Greek and Roman world. And he's collected all these incredible antiquities, and he loads them onto a ship to send them back to London, but at a really dangerous time of year for shipping, when the Etesian winds are very strong. But for some reason, he's in a real rush to get back to London with them, which might be to do with the competition with George Villiers. So, what we hear is that the ship set sail and is shipwrecked, and the boat and the sculptures sink to the bottom of the Aegean, with Petty along with them. But somehow he manages to drag himself onto the shore, but when he gets there, he's arrested because he's lost all these papers. So he's thrown into a Turkish prison has to write Thomas Roe to ask for identity papers to release him. He then employs sponge divers from the island of Chios to go and swim to the bottom of the sea and drag these enormous marble sculptures back to land to him. And it always seems to me completely unbelievable. But then we started spotting some really interesting things on the sculptures. There are some of the largest statues, which are really strange tide marks on them. And they have quite deep pockmarks into the marble up to a certain level, and then it stops. And then, a couple of years ago, we were carrying out some investigation into the sculpture using new technologies. And one person involved with this is a marine archaeologist. And what he spotted under this colossal head was a balanus barnacle, so there's an actual barnacle attached to the head of this enormous Greek god, which means it's got to have been in seawater at some point, which proves that the shipwreck story actually happened.
So once the sculptures have survived the high seas and arrived with Arundel, how did he display them?
When they were brought back to London, the interest was not in them as archaeological objects per se, the way that I would be interested in looking at them now as footprints of the ancient world. They were wanted as objects which you could display in a sculpture gallery. So they were given new heads, new arms, new feet new noses, because one of the really interesting things about the Arundel collection is that these are not the best pieces to survive from the ancient world. Those types of statues were snatched up much earlier by the Italian Papal families, the Borgheses the Farneses, and you can go and see those collections. But by the time Arundel was collecting, he's a little bit late to the party. So his sculptures tend not to have heads or arms or limbs sometimes, but when they're brought back to London, sculptors are employed to restore them. And you don't want any old anonymous Roman citizen. So they're restored as goddesses, they're restored as famous figures from Roman history. But what's interesting is that over the next couple of 100 years while the Arundel collection is passed around, actually, the heads get removed, amd new heads come on, which suit the current owner at the time. So one of the great puzzles of the Arundel collection, is trying to find out which restorations were applied at which time. And because people weren't really interested in documenting that kind of thing, the only way we can do that is through detective work. So we have to look at paintings from the time, we look at sketches, and that allows us to develop a kind of chronology of the Arundel. collection, and what restorations were on at which particular time.
And so here's another set of fingerprints, those of the restorers who are employed to renovate all these fragments, so the sculptures looked complete. And I understand that there's one of them who left some particularly dodgy marks on these sculptures. Who was that?
That was a man called Guelfi. Now Guelfi was a sculptor from the city of Rome, and he was brought to England in 1714 by the Pomfrets, who were later owners of the collection. And at the time throughout the 1700s, 1800s, to this day, Guelfi's restored heads, his arms are universally derided. A scholar called James Dalloway in 1800 said of Guelfi, 'he misconceived the character and attitude of almost every statue he attempted to make perfect, and ruined the greatest number of those he was permitted to touch'. And there's another quote by a German classical archaeologist who's travelling around Britain looking at all the sculpture collections, he's called Adolf Michaelis, and in 1888, he writes this about Guelfi: 'great has been the blundering perpetrated in all quarters in the shape of so-called restoration, yet hardly ever have any antiques been so shamefully tampered with as in the tasteless additions made by this shallow botcher.' And one of the niches in the Randolph Sculpture Gallery in the Ashmolean is dedicated to Guelfi's terrible restorations. And if you're standing in there, you'll notice that some of the statues have heads, some don't have heads, but in the wealthy niche, all the original Guelfi heads and arms and botched restorations are all intact so that people can appreciate the full glory of them.
OK, so as you've mentioned, the collection passed through the hands of several owners before it reached Oxford. So what was the story after Arundel died?
Well, our Arundel dies in Padua in 1646, and he stipulates in his well that the collection must be kept together. But only 10 years later, after the death of Alatheia his wife, there's litigation in the family and sons and grandsons arguing who owns what in the Arundel collection. But Arundel's grandson Henry Howard With Arundel House, which has most of the sculptures in it. But by the 1660s, there's quite a lot of alarm at the state of the collection now, and there's a scholar called John Selden, who goes to visit Arundel House and he is absolutely dismayed at the state of the inscriptions in particular, because out of the original 250 inscriptions brought back from the Greek and Roman worlds, at least half a completely damaged beyond repair. So in alarm, John Selden suggests that perhaps Henry Howard might like to donate the remaining ones to the University of Oxford, where they can be properly appreciated. So this happens in 1667. And Henry Howard is commemorated and thanked with an inscription, which is sliced off the back of one of the ancient inscriptions, probably sliced off the back of a tombstone of a Greek kithara player. So kithara is kind of harp player and this was a an award winning musician. So this great thanks to Henry Howard is carved on the back of one of these ancient inscriptions. And the inscriptions themselves are erected on walls surrounding what's now the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford. But even then, they're not safe. And we hear about another scholar called John Evelyn, who's horrified to see that the cheeky students are scratching the inscriptions themselves, going up to them and damaging them. So he suggests, that why don't the university authorities plant holly bushes at the base to stop the students getting close enough to damage them. So that's the inscriptions, that's one part of the collection. And the rest of the more figural aspects of the collection - so the statues and the busts and the heads and the coffins and the relief carvings - ended up getting sold for a really measly £300 to a man called Sir William Fermor. And just to give you context about how scrappy that amount is, Arundel had bought what's called a gem cabinet, which contained ancient gemstones and coins and all sorts of things for £10,000 about 50 years before that. So £300 pounds is really stingy. But William Fermor, buys most of the rest of the collection, and takes it back to his house, Eastern Neston in Northamptonshire where it's displayed all around the gardens and the interior of this very nice country house. And then in 1755, that part of the collection is given as a gift to the University of Oxford by Henrietta Louisa, who's a Countess of Pomfret at the time, and it ends up in the Bodleian Library. And there is an incredible painting by a man called William Westall, which shows all the sculptures. There's a woman at the end of it showing a little girl around the collection and this is from 1813. So that is a really incredible document to have showing the state of the collection and the people who would go into visit it.
So by now we've traced these sculptures as far as Oxford University. But how did they eventually end up here at the Ashmolean Museum?
Well, after their little journey in the what's now the Bodleian, they were brought in 1845 to the University Galleries, which is the current Ashmolean Museum. Actually, Charles Cockrell, the architect, had designed this sculpture gallery with classical sculpture in mind. And it's full of these huge niches in which you can really set off and display large scale classical sculpture, and the Arundel sculpture was kind of spread out during the gallery, which is where largely it's been since.
So, this collection of sculptures has taken a strange path to reach this gallery. Ithas been through periods of terrible neglect and damage. It's been exposed to the elements in the Pomfrets' gardens, it's been defaced by Oxford University's rowdy 17th century undergraduates, it's been split up and reunited again, and it arrived here under layers of often bungled restorations applied over the top of sculptures which were already broken and fragmentary. And all of this does give the group of sculptures a distinctly beaten up aura. It is to be frank, not the most glamorous looking collections of antiquities. And all this makes it easy to overlook the profound impact that this collection has had on museums and collecting culture in this country. Here's Peter Stewart again.
Nothing like the Arundel collection was achieved again for several generations. But it did set a prestigious precedent for private collecting of antiquities in Britain. We do see other aristocratic collections on a smaller scale through the 1600s. And interestingly, by the end of that century, there's increasing evidence of what we might call middle class collections, including even sometimes a collection of Greek inscriptions, by educated and erudite British gentlemen, who were building their personal cabinets or or museums, as they sometimes called them. A century after our Arundel's formation of his collection when the Earl of Pembroke was forming his own massive sculpture collection at Wilton hice, by 1720, it's interesting that the name of Arundel was still very, very resonant at that point. And there's a lovely quotation by the Earl of Pembroke's friend, the antiquarian William Stukeley. He is writing to the Earl of Pembroke and he says, 'you my Lord by treading in the steps of grid Arundel have brought old arts, Greece and Rome, nay Apollo and all his muses, to Great Britain.' It's a very eloquent statement about the authority that was invested in Arundelas the father of collecting in Britain.
In short, Arundel was a real trendsetter. He started a fad for filling your home with Greek and Roman art, which would have consequences for centuries to come. Arundel had played a major part in embedding classical art into British culture.
The British aristocracy in the 18th and 19th centuries, often portrayed themselves in art and in sculpture as Roman aristocrats. We often have politicians, statesmen, poets, conquerors, styling themselves as Roman in togas, holding scrolls, in this Roman guise.
His Phiroze Vasunia of University College London. He studies the intersections between classics and colonialism. He told me more about the ripple effect of this British fascination with the Greeks and Romans, ripples that we can still sense today.
They're also their models for being outward looking. Britain's travelling overseas looking to expand the British nation, the model for all that was also Roman. So the spread of British culture and the British Empire to the colonies is styled in a kind of Roman fashion. The Roman Empire was appealing to the British during the 19th century, and especially the second half of the 19th century, because it resembled the British Empire in some important respects. It was a multiethnic, multinational, very large empire, and the British Empire too was a multinational and multiethnic overseas empire. So they looked to Rome to try to understand how it was that the Romans maintained this vast empire, how they ran it, what kind of bureaucracy there was, what their laws were, and so on and so forth. So there was a there was a vast interest in trying to understand how one not only holds on to an empire, but how one runs it and administers it just even at the nuts and bolts level of the bureaucracy. The Britons certainly thought the Romans were civilising force in the nations and the peoples that they occupied. This is an argument that is of course familiar in terms of the history of empires, conquerors, colonialists, colonisers often present themselves as bringing culture to the colonised. So Britons claim they were bringing many benefits to people in India or in Africa. They were bringing the railways, they were bringing English language, bringing educational institutions and all sorts of benefits. During the initial years of the British presence in India, many of the buildings that was set up by the British in India followed classicizing models. So some of the early buildings in Calcutta, in Madras, were neoclassical monuments to the British Empire. They were effectively conveying the message to Indians that here was a European power in South Asia, that they were bringing with them a another culture, European culture, but also in the eyes of many of the Britons, our higher kind of culture. What's interesting about the buildings of New Delhi is that when these are set up, and designed by Lutyens and Baker in the early years of the 20th century, the model there is often classical Roman buildings, the Secretariat buildings in New Delhi, the Viceroy's house and other bungalows and so forth in New Delhi. And these have important classicizing dimensions and features to them. The column in front of the Viceroy's house is modelled on Trajan's column in Rome. And that's really remarkable considering that Viceroy's house is now the official residence of the President of India. So effectively, there's a legacy of Trajan's column that we can now detect in the official residence of the President of India.
Say, when you walk into the Randolph Sculpture Gallery today, you will find a room full of hidden histories: of power brokering and adventurism; of intrigue and shipwrecks; of negligent grandsons and inept restorers. It's a room which helps tell the story of how classical art became part of brand Britain. And I asked Allison, what we can still learn from these sculptures today.
One of the brilliant things about the Arundel collection is the way that it tells stories from the ancient world that you absolutely won't read about the history books. The people who wrote the histories of the Greek and Roman worlds at the time were only really concerned with their own circle. So these are elite, very wealthy politicians, very educated people. So you never ever hear about the women, the enslaved people, the people who've been freed from slavery, but actually, the Arundel collection is a goldmine for hearing the actual spoken voices of these underrepresented groups. So we have, for example, a really, really evocative tombstone for a mother called Rhodope, who put up this really, really sad urn for the ashes of her son, a boy Lucius Marcus Peccatus, who died when he was 15. And the thing that we can tell about Rodope from her name, is that she was a formerly enslaved person. And she says, 'to the absolute sweetest son from effectively a devastated mother'. And all around it, it's called with the exploits of Hercules with the labours of Hercules. So the Arundel collection is fantastic for these incredible stories of unheard-of people. But you can actually hear their own voices in the remains. And those aspects aren't always fully appreciated. People can be a little bit snobby about the collection, because it is quite bashed up. And it is, you know, missing arms and legs and heads sometimes. But it's got everything. It's got its own brilliant story in the story of the collection, and it's got these incredible pieces, reflecting an entire ancient society. So I would urge people really to go and look at it and admire the pieces for what they are.
Thank you for listening to this, the final episode in this series of fingerprints. If you want to take a look at some of the sculptures in Arundel's vast collection that we discussed today, you can find links in the podcast notes. And there you can also find more information about all of our speakers today. Allison Pollard, Jas Elsner, Peter Stewart and Phiroze Vasunia. If you enjoy today's episode, you can find many more on the Ashmolean's websites, on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.