Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  A 'Patina' found in a cavern on the island of Tenerife
top left corner
top right corner
bottom left corner
bottom right corner
image M1097

A 'Patina' found in a cavern on the island of Tenerife



Museum number: M1097

Curatorial note

Soane provides an account of this object in his 1835 Description as follows:

Another record of sepulture deposited in the Crypt reminds us of the monuments in the mountanis of Telmissus. It is a Patina, presented to me by Dr. Moore, which was discovered, while searching for some strayed goats, in a cave situate [sic] in the Cañadas del Chasma, at the Peak of Teneriffe. In the cave were thirteen mummies of the Guanches, aborigines of the island (twelve males and one female), arranged in a row on a kind of bier composed of stones, at one side of which was placed the above-mentioned Patina, which cannot be less then five hundred years old, and is probably much more ancient'.

Interestingly, in his earlier published Description, issued in 1830 and then again with unchanged text in 1832, Soane provides an even more detailed account:
In the Library is another record of sepulture, which, although less important than the Belzoni sarcophagus, is nevertheless extremely interesting: it relates to the Guanches, aborigines of the island of Teneriffe [sic]. / This Patina, presented to me by Dr. Moore, was discovered under the following circumstances: - / In the year 1827, a Gentleman, who had resided for the benefit of his health in the Convent of Augustine Friars, at the Villa of Oratava, ascended to the summit of the Peak of Teneriffe. On descending, he and his party encountered a goatherd in search of some strayed goats. They proceeded together, and after some time the head of one of the animals was seen issuing from a crevice in a rock near them. After procuring a ladder, &c. and entering this crevice, it was found to be the entrance to a cave, situate [sic] in the Cãnadas del Chasma (a cavity formed apparently by heated air distending the softened lava). In this case were thirteen mummies, twelve males and one female, of the Guanches, arranged in a row on a kind of bier composed of stones, at one side of which was placed the above-mentioned Patina. / The flesh of some of the mummies, as well as the skins in which they had been enveloped, was destroyed by the goats. / This vessel cannot be less than five hundred years old; and in al probability is much more ancient. / The cave in which it was found is situate on the side of the mountain, not far below the glacier line, and is warm and dry. Many of these caves are almost inaccessible. / Near Guimar, or Guimea (pronounced Weema), is one which is said by the country-people to be full of bodies; and at Granadilla is another, situate in a ravine, from the opposite side of which, by means of a telescope, piles of mummies may be seen. / Dr. Sprat says (speaking of the Guanches), that “when any of their princes died, they washed his body, and placing him erect in a cave, they put a sceptre in his hand, with two jars by his side, one filled with milk, the other with water, as the necessary provision for his journey”.

This ceramic vessel pre-dates the conquest of the Canary Islands by Spain in the late 15th century and, as Soane's account states, may be much older. Spanish troops invaded Tenerife in 1494 and overcame the indiginous Guanche people, capturing their princes some of whom were presented as trophies to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The island was gradually colonised by immigrants from Europe and the native people fell victim to introduced diseases such as smallpox. The island became an important staging post for shipping of convicts to Australia and for ships to the West Indies. The British navy, under Nelson, unsuccessfully attacked Tenerife in 1797. Dr Moore and Dr Sprat, referred to in Soane's account remain unidentified but must have been amongst the earliest British visitors.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Said to have been discovered in 1827 and presented to Soane by a Dr Moore some time between 1827 and 1830.


J. Soane, Description, 1835, p.35
J. Soane, Description, 1830, 1832, p.xviii

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk