Leeds Museums and Galleries regain their marbles after completion of Italian job

By Culture24 Staff | 11 October 2010
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A photo of sculptures of horses and soldiers
Museum leaders in Leeds have got their marbles back
When General Lucullus took the typically vainglorious step of creating a set of five lifesize sculptures in celebration of his Roman army's victory in battle in 88BC, he might have imagined they'd remain in Italy forever.

Known as the Lanuvium Marbles, the stone cavalrymen and horses were probably destined for his birthplace, a city to the south of Rome they were named after.

Fortunately for Leeds, Lucullus reckoned without the adventures of Sir John Savile Lumley, the British Ambassador to Rome who had the marbles shifted to his Yorkshire estate almost 2,000 years later before donating them to the Leeds Philosophical Society.

They were given prominent standing at the venue entrance when the Leeds City Museum opened in September 2008 - not to mention a place in the hallowed Ancient Worlds gallery - but earlier this year they were loaned back to Rome for six months at the request of one of Italy's leading museums.

"It was a real honour to be asked by the Musei Capitolini to loan them the Lanuvium Marbles," says Ceinwen Paynton, the Principal Keeper at the Museum who agreed to provide them for the Capitolini's L'eta Della Conquista (The Age of Conquest) display.

"They are the pinnacle of ancient Roman sculpture and we were proud to be part of such a major exhibition in Rome."

Running from March until September, the show reunited the stones with three other Lanuvium Marbles on loan from the British Museum, although Paynton is relieved to see them back alongside 750 fellow items Leeds Museums and Galleries hold from Lanuvium.

"We are delighted the marbles have been returned to us," she reassures their admirers.

"They will now be back on display in Leeds City Museum for everyone to see."
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