GALLERY: Returning after more than 60 years, four 17th century Italian busts of Roman emperors back at Wimpole Hall
17:48 09 May 2014
They were the most powerful men of their day – some known for their strong leadership and military adventures, some for their cruelty and wild debauchery.
Now, after an absence of more than sixty years, four 17th Century Italian busts of Roman emperors have returned to the National Trust’s Wimpole Hall, south west of Cambridge.
The spectacular marble busts will be on show in a room they last graced in the time of Elsie Bambridge, Wimpole’s last private owner, who sold them. The four returning busts will re-join a fifth bust of a young Marcus Aurelius already at Wimpole.
The first two busts, those of Caracalla and a ‘Philosopher’ emperor, have been accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and permanently allocated to the National Trust through the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme, which is managed by the Arts Council. A grant from the Art Fund has enabled the National Trust to part fund the purchase of the second two marble busts of Trajan and another, as yet unidentified emperor.
Wendy Monkhouse, National Trust curator, said: “It is wonderful to repatriate the four 17th century Italian marble busts of Caesars to Wimpole where they will be reunited with that of Marcus Aurelius.
“Their redisplay in the Entrance Hall will transform its character, and help visitors to enjoy some of Wimpole’s original 18th century grandeur and glamour.
“We can trace the provenance of the busts with Wimpole’s collection to at least the 1770s but they may have been among the great collector Edward Harley’s possessions, who loved Roman coins and antiquities as well as enlarging his famous library.”
The plinths were custom made by the Cambridge firm of masons and joiners, Rattee and Kett. They have been used to display other items in the collection, but will now be returned to their original purpose.