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  • image A91

Cast of a relief of ‘The Apotheosis of Homer’ (see also S20).

Plaster cast

Museum number: A91

On display: Lobby to the Breakfast Room
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

The scene shows Homer's 'Apotheosis' or elevation to Divine status. The celebrated Greek poet is seated lower left on a throne, sceptre in hand. He is being crowned by two standing figures who can be identified as the winged goddess of ‘Time’ and a representation of ‘the World’. The kneeling figures which support the throne symbolize Homer's two major works, The Iliad (describing an episode from the Trojan War) and The Odyssey (on the journey home of the Greek hero Odysseus). The Iliad and The Odyssey are thus presented as belonging to all civilizations and all ages. Homer is receiving a sacrifice from a group of figures representing Mythos (‘tale’), History, Poetry (with two torches), Tragedy (with a mask) and Comedy. In this way, Homer is admitted to the company of the gods and Muses shown above. The reclining figure of Zeus, King of the Gods, presides over the scene.

The original marble from which this cast was taken was probably made in Alexandria (Egypt) in 225-205BC at a time when Homer attained cult-like status in cities throughout the Greek Empire. It has an inscription recording that it was made by Archelaos of Priene and naming the figures. It is thought to have been excavated in Southern Italy, at Bovillae on the Via Appia, in 1658, and it was acquired by the British Museum in 1819 (BM Sculpture 2191) at an auction held by Messrs May.

The earliest Soane Museum inventory entries record his casts as 'after the original in the British Museum, formerly in the Palazzo Colonna' (Rome) and Soane's description notes that the original was in the Colonna Palace 'before the French Revolution'. A Sale Catalogue in the Soane collection records it being sold in 1804 at a sale of the contents of the 'late Mr Bryan's Picture Gallery'.

One of Soane's casts, S20, was at the Soane by 1817 when it is shown in a dated watercolour view of Soane's Study, so it must have been taken before the orignal entered the British Museum. The other cast, this one (A91), was hung by Soane in his 'Lobby to the Breakfast Room'. This space was created in 1824-25 and the cast is shown there in a view dated 1826. The 1837 Soane inventories describe A91 as a 'copy' of S20 which seems to imply that this second cast was commissioned by Soane from the one he already owned, perhaps specifically for his new space.

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