Over the last two years we have been preparing some of our collections of Roman sculpture for the exhibition, ‘Age of Reason’ at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.
The idea for the exhibition was born when we hosted the international ‘Mayas‘ exhibition in 2015. At the time we showed our colleagues from Mexico some of the Roman collections in store as well as 18th and 19th century British sculpture, drawings from the Walker Art Gallery and ancient Greek classical vases from the Lady Lever Art Gallery. We had therefore planted the seeds for creating a thematic exhibition from all these different areas of our collections.
Over the last two years we have exchanged information and hosted the research visit of the Mexican curator, Karina Romero Blanco, to further develop the idea for ‘Age of Reason’. The exhibition will explore the 18th century collecting practices of Roman sculpture, especially through the collections of Henry Blundell but also the importance of classical education for artists. The exhibition will also address the relevance of classical sculpture in the political context of 18th century Britain. It has presented us with the opportunity to combine our collections and for the first time, to show so many of Henry Blundell’s sculptural collections. The loan will also feature works from the collections at Castle Howard which were accepted in lieu of inheritance tax in 2003.
As is expected, organising such a vast exhibition abroad has only been possible through the efforts of different staff members and a lot of teamwork: from handlers and registrars to the photographer and the conservators. Over the years as the curator I have developed a strong connection with some of the sculpture. It has been particularly rewarding to see some of the statues, busts and reliefs from our store and from previous displays now looking their best thanks to our project sculpture conservator Marisa Prandelli and her volunteers. With many of the statues being over life sculpture, cleaning and restoration took several hours for each piece and a lot of attention and care.
We have a few more months over the summer to complete the conservation treatments before the crating and packaging of the works. It will surely be a fascinating show and an amazing opportunity to show our collections in such a popular museum in Mexico City.
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