Viscount Strangford

Antiquities collector and international diplomat

Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe, sixth Viscount Strangford (1780-1855), pursued diplomatic roles across the globe. Most notably, he was ambassador in Constantinople, now Istanbul, while Greece was occupied by Turkey. He discovered and collected Greek and Roman antiquities, giving some to Canterbury thanks to his son, a local MP.

Biography

Early years

Sir John Smith (or Smythe) of Ostenhanger, near Folkestone, Kent, was an ancestor of Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe, sixth Viscount Strangford (1780-1855). The Strangford peerage, created for Sir John’s son in 1628, was Irish. Percy studied at Trinity College Dublin and took a ‘Grand Tour’ to Europe. He entered diplomatic service and worked in Portugal before appointment as ambassador to Sweden (1817-20) then Constantinople, now Istanbul (1820-24), when Greece was occupied by Turkey. A predecessor in that position, Lord Elgin, had acquired the British Museum’s famous Parthenon marbles. The Greek war of independence from the Ottoman Empire lasted until 1830, when Athens became the capital of Greece.

In 1825 Strangford was made Baron Penshurst of Penshurst and sent as ambassador to St Petersburg, Russia. After a special mission to Brazil he retired but remained active in the House of Lords. He was also a director of the Society of Arts and one of its Vice-Presidents.

Strangford was very interested in literature, history and the arts. Lord Byron was a regular visitor when in Athens. Strangford wrote many articles and several books. He also arranged excavations. The collection of antiquities he amassed while based in Constantinople included the ancient Greek ‘Strangford Apollo’ and ‘Strangford Shield’ given by him, with over 100 other antiquities, to the British Museum. He collected mostly small items as he did not have a large estate to house them. Canterbury Museum received in 1844 the antiquities exhibited here thanks to Strangford’s son, George Augustus Frederick Percy Sydney ([dates]), who was Member of Parliament for Canterbury 1841-52.

Byron described Strangford as

“Hibernian Strangford, with thine eyes of blue,

And boasted locks of red or auburn hue”

Lord Byron, British Bards and Scotch Reviewers ([date])

Other quotations reflecting Strangford’s character:

“Congratulations upon a result obtained by your rare abilities, firmness and perseverance.”

Duke of Wellington (1824)

“Lord Strangford, whose judgement and feeling in every thing that relates to the fine arts are well known, exerted his influence…on this critical occasion, and procured a firman, directed to the Turkish commanders, that they should permit no violence to be offered to these temples, but carefully preserve them from injury…and it is not too much to say, that as the arts have been indebted to one of our Ambassadors at Constantinople [Lord Elgin] for the preservation of part of them at home, so they have to another for what remains of them abroad.”

Robert Walsh, Strangford’s chaplain (1836)

Items on display

Oil lamp with image from the Odyssey

Oil lamp with image from the Odyssey

Late 2nd century AD Roman, by a central Italian maker.

Earthenware.

An oil lamp of unusual square shape, made by Caius Innius Bitus, who stamped his initials, CIVNBIT, on the back.

The image shows a scene from the Odyssey, the Greek epic poem by Homer. Odysseus (whom Romans called Ulysses) is sailing through dangerous waters off the coast of Ithaca, where Sirens lure mariners to their deaths on the rocks. He has put wax in the ears of his crew, so they don’t hear the Sirens, and has tied himself to the ship’s mast, to prevent the Sirens’ call from making him throw himself into the sea.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 994.

Fragment of a sculptured frieze

Fragment of a sculptured frieze

Unknown date and source.

Stone.

Probably formed part of architectural decoration. The drilled holes create lines of shadow.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4250.

Oil lamp with four burners

Oil lamp with four burners

2nd century AD Roman, by a central Italian maker.

Earthenware.

By the same maker as the Odysseus lamp (both stamped CIVNBIT). The helmeted head surrounded by stars may represent Night.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 993.

Small vessels

Small vessels

4th to 2nd century BC Greek & 1st to 2nd century AD Roman.

Earthenware.

Small flasks and jugs used for toilet oil, perfume and condiments. The colours were achieved by covering parts of the clay pots with slip (diluted clay solution). The iron oxide naturally present in the clay turned from red to black, or back to red, depending on firing conditions. Further pigments could be added to the slip.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Small vase

Small vase

1st to 4th century Greek.

Earthenware.

With heads and birds on the bowl, and the faces of a man and woman across a swan.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4162.

Small vase with honeysuckle design

Small vase with honeysuckle design

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4166.

Vase with honeysuckle design

Vase with honeysuckle design

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4115.

Vase with honeysuckle design

Vase with honeysuckle design

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4224.

Vase with honeysuckle design

Vase with honeysuckle design

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4117.

Vase with honeysuckle design

Vase with honeysuckle design

From Megara.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4110.

Small vase with horizontal grooves

Small vase with horizontal grooves

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4169.

Small red and black globular vase

Small red and black globular vase

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4168.

Vase with longitudinal furrows

Vase with longitudinal furrows

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4232.

Body of vase with band of Greek key pattern

Body of vase with band of Greek key pattern

From Megara, 1821.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4094.

Urn with two female heads facing one another

Urn with two female heads facing one another

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4165.

Black two-handled vase of unusual shape

Black two-handled vase of unusual shape

Found 1821.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4090.

Vase

Vase

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4238.

Lamp

Lamp

4th to 2nd century BC Greek & 1st to 2nd century AD Roman.

Earthenware.

The round oil lamps were mass-produced in moulds with a variety of decoration. Oil was poured in through a central hole and wicks for light placed in the corner spouts.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 993.

'Lekythos' Vase

Lekythos Vase with Electra and Orestes on display at the Beaney Art Museum and Library

5th century BC; found at Athens in 1811 (mouth found separately in 1821).

Earthenware.

The Lekythos is a type of tall vase particular to ancient Athens. It contained oil for funerary offerings. 

The image shows a crucial moment in the story of mythological hero Agamemnon. He had returned from years of war in Troy to find his wife, Clytemnestra, was having an affair with his cousin Aigisthus. The adulterous pair murdered Agamemnon and neglected to observe correct funeral rites. Agamemnon’s daughter, Electra, sent her younger brother, Orestes, to safety. Years later he returned, and the two met and recognised one another at their father’s tomb (represented by the column). They planned how to avenge his death.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4105.

'Lekythos' and other vessels

5th to 2nd century BC; found in Greece and Turkey.

Earthenware.

Ancient Greek pottery is predominantly red and black. The colours were achieved by covering parts of the clay pots with slip (diluted clay solution) and firing at different temperatures. Early decoration was black-on-red, succeeded from about 500 BC by red-on-black. Several pots are made in the tall, slim Lekythos shape particular to Athens.

The decoration includes images of a charioteer driving quadriga (four-horse chariot) and a Nike (winged victory) pouring a libation (liquid offering) at an altar. The small black spouted vessel may be a child’s feeding pot. 

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Vase

Vase

With four figures, the two central ones fighting.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4119.

Lekythos

Lekythos vase

Black figure with a four-horse chariot with a draped female figure.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4153.

Lekythos

lekythos vase

Red figure with Nike pouring at an altar [bits missing].

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4152.

Lekythos

Lekythos vase

Design very worn.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4114.

Lekythos

Lekythos vase

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4108.

Lekythos

Lekythos vase

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4107.

Globular vase with arabesque pattern

Globular vase with arabesque pattern

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4116.

Vase with diamond pattern

Vase with diamond pattern

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4230.

Small vase

small vase

Foliated pattern in red and black.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4107.

Vase

Vase

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4111.

Small vase

small vase

Gladiator holding a shield.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4103.

Lekythos

Charioteer driving a four-horse chariot.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4154.

Small black vase

small black vase

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4091.

Small black vase

small black vase

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4227.

Small vase

Small vase

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4170.

Spouted black vessel

Spouted black vessel

May be a child’s feeding pot.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4093.

Two-handled vase

Two-handled vase

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4089.

Gravestone

Gravestone

Unknown date; probably from Turkey.

Stone.

A tall gravestone inscribed ‘Farewell having received these delights, Pollothemis’. The deceased is shown sitting beside her husband, with servants, laid table, and oxen pulling a plough.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4270.

Marble Relief

Marble relief

Unknown date; found at Brusa (now Bursa), Turkey.

Stone.

This square marble relief shows one of the labours of Hercules, who was tasked with stealing apples from the Garden of the Hesperides, guarded by a serpent. Hercules tricked Atlas into doing the task. The latter’s cloak is shown flowing behind to suggest speed.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4267.

Fragmentary relief

Fragmentary relief

Unknown date; found at Buyukdere, Istanbul, Turkey.

Stone.

This fragment probably relates to the labours of Hercules.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4266.

Cosmetics container

Cosmetics container

Unknown date and source.

Earthenware.

The small round dishes inside this container had red iron oxide or ochre clays and charcoal mixed with olive oil for lip, cheek and eyebrow make-up. 

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 1005.

Carved foot

Carved foot

Unknown date, probably Roman.

Marble.

Found at Agrigentum, Sicily, in 1825 and bought by Strangford in St Petersburg.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4265.

Headless statue of a male

Headless statue of a male

Unknow date, probably Roman.

Stone.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4261.

Terracotta sculptures & stone fragments

 3rd to 1st century BC; found in Greece and Turkey

Earthenware and Stone.

Figures sculpted in baked clay – terracotta – were very popular. Some may have been used for funerary or religious ritual, others for decoration or amusement. The seated figure of Dionysus (Bacchus) is a wine pitcher, his headdress the spout. Other terracottas include a wolf’s head, a pomegranate, and a pig and bird, probably toys. The round terracotta tablet, of unknown purpose, is inscribed ‘Augustus and Caesar’, with the maker’s initials ‘SR’.

The partial foot of a marble sculpture, with sandal thongs imitating creepers, was found at Athens, the hand with scroll at Adrianople (modern Edirne), Turkey.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47

Seated figure with headdress

Seated figure with headdress

Terracotta.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 960.

Foot with sandal strap

Foot with sandal strap

Found in Athens

Partial foot of a marble sculpture, with sandal thongs imitating creepers.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4215.

Seated male

Seated male

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4199.

Seated figure

seated figure

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4174.

Lamp shaft in the form of a female holding her robe

Lamp shaft in the form of a female holding her robe

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4193.

Round tablet with inscription

Round tablet with inscription

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4189.

Head of a woman with a garland

Head of a woman with a garland

Marble

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4208.

Female head

female head

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4184.

Black and red glazed lamp

Black and red glazed lamp

Earthenware

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4233.

Draped female figure holding round instrument in left hand

Draped female figure holding round instrument in left hand

Delos, 1823

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4183.

Pedestal with a relief of a boy leaning against a tree

Pedestal with a relief of a boy leaning against a tree

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4187.

Hand with a scroll

Hand with a scroll

Found at Adrianople (modern Edirne), Turkey

Marble

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4197.

Relief of a woman

Relief of a woman

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4190.

Seated figure

seated figure

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4181.

Female figure with flowing robe

Female figure with flowing robe

From Delos

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4178.

Ivy-crowned head of Bacchus

Ivy-crowned head of Bacchus

Marble

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4194.

Seated Bacchus

Seated Bacchus

Naxos, 1822

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4194.

Wolf's head

Wolf's head

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4223.

Pig or other animal

Pig or other animal

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 1007.

Bird or seal

bird or seal

Terracotta

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4196.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate

Terracotta

Cut to show the interior.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4182.

Black two-handled pottery

5th to 1st century BC; found in Greece and Turkey

Earthenware.

Cups for drinking wine or water, of a type called a skyphos.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Shallow black and red bowl

Shallow black and red bowl

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4157.

Shallow black bowl

Shallow black bowl

Pattern inside of circular radiations including the branches of a palm or yew.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4161.

Black bowl

Black bowl

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4160.

Portion of terracotta cornice

Portion of a terracotta cornice

4th to 1st century BC; found in Rhodes 

Earthenware.

Building decoration fragment with Grecian honeysuckle and a face.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 959.

'Lekythos' vase

 5th to 2nd century BC; found in Greece or Turkey

Earthenware.

The Lekythos is a type of tall vase particular to ancient Athens. It contained oil for funerary offerings. The colours were achieved by covering parts of the clay pots with slip (diluted clay solution). Iron oxide naturally present in the clay turned from red to black, or back to red, depending on firing conditions. Further pigments could be added to the slip. This example has leaf patterns.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries references 4106.

'Lekythos' vase

'Lekythos' vase

5th to 2nd century BC; found in Greece or Turkey

Earthenware.

The Lekythos is a type of tall vase particular to ancient Athens. It contained oil for funerary offerings. The colours were achieved by covering parts of the clay pots with slip (diluted clay solution). Iron oxide naturally present in the clay turned from red to black, or back to red, depending on firing conditions. Further pigments could be added to the slip. 

Black-on-red decoration was favoured initially, like this example with charioteer driving a quadriga (four-horse chariot).

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries references 4151.

'Lekythos' vase

5th to 2nd century BC; found in Greece or Turkey

Earthenware.

The Lekythos is a type of tall vase particular to ancient Athens. It contained oil for funerary offerings. The colours were achieved by covering parts of the clay pots with slip (diluted clay solution). Iron oxide naturally present in the clay turned from red to black, or back to red, depending on firing conditions. Further pigments could be added to the slip.

Black-on-red decoration was favoured initially. From about 500 BC red-on-black predominated like this example depicting a woman holding a mirror.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries references 4149.

Funerary monument

Funerary monument

 Unknown date; found at Brusa (now Bursa) turkey, 1823

Stone.

The marble with a woman holding a lyre or harp is inscribed ‘Farewell to grieve no more, loved young and worthy Zosime’, a Greek female name.

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4269.

Funerary monument

Funerary monument

Unknown date; probably found in Turkey

Stone.

The fragment of votive stone with horse and rider is unidentified. 

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4219.

Funerary monument

Funerary monument

Unknown date; found at Adrianople (modern Edirne), Turkey

Stone.

The family scene shows a seated man and woman with attendants or family, including children, and a horse visible through a window. 

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4192.

Funerary monument

Funerary monument

Unknown date; probably found in Turkey

Stone.

The gravestone with two figures reclining, a tripod table and servant in front of them, is inscribed ‘Farewell, worthy Nicotyche’. 

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4268.

Terracotta reclining male figure

Terracotta reclining male figure

3rd to 1st century BC; found in Athens in 1821 

Earthenware.

There are traces of red paint on the terracotta. 

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4175.

Fragment of a votive dedication

Fragment of a votive dedication

3rd to 1st century BC; from a shrine in Mysia, northwest Turkey

Marble

Inscribed with a Greek dedication to local god Zeus Olbios. 

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4218.

Sculptural fragment with hands holding a disc

Sculptural fragment with hands holding a disc

Perhaps 5th to 4th century BC; source unknown

Marble.

Finely carved and probably from a discus-thrower sculpture. 

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4264.

Profile head crowned with laurel

Profile head crowned with laurel

Perhaps 5th to 4th century BC; found in Rhodes, 1824

Marble.

Laurel leaves are symbolic of victory. 

Presented by Viscount Strangford to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum, 1844, and acquired through purchase of the museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4191.