GENERAL LUIGI PALMA DI CESNOLA

 
The most famous nineteenth century antiquarian to prowl Cyprus in search of exotica was without doubt Luigi Palma di Cesnola, that irrepressible soldier, adventurer, diplomat and collector who would end his life as the first director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The Met recently has opened its new Cypriot galleries in 2000, featuring numerous objects obtained from Cesnola. These formed the nucleus of the original Met collection when it opened in 1880.

Born into a noble Piedmontese family, he fought valiantly for the unification of Italy, then with the British during the Crimean War and ultimately for the Union in the American Civil War as a lieutenant in the cavalry. Wounded, imprisoned, then released in an exchange, he was to see more action as a colonel in the Army of the Potomac - but he never officially held the rank of general which he later conferred upon himself. In 1865 Cesnola, by then a naturalized citizen of the United States, was offered the position of American Consul to Cyprus. He accepted and on Christmas Day of that year he and his American wife arrived in Larnaca for a decade-long stint on the island that would result in one of the most productive, and lucrative, treasure hunts in the annals of antiquarianism.

  Text by Stuart Swiny
 
 
 
  View Objects Info & Papers Bibliography Collection Home Page  
 
Cesnola's Travels:
A biography of Cesnola, his life, travels, and contemporaries and how their lives were intertwined. This section will also include his map of the locations where he acquired objects on Cyprus.
 
 
Cyprus: Its Ancient Cities, Tombs and Temples:
Cesnola's book of his activities on Cyprus, including his excavations of sanctuaries, city sites, and especially tombs.
 
 
The Cesnola Collection(s):
Cesnola's accumulation of artifacts now are split among various museums of the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts - Boston, the Metropolitan Museum, the British Museum, the Louvre, the Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University, and the Ringling Museum, and others too numerous to list here.
 
 

Stanford and Cesnola:

The Cesnola Collection's purchase and arrival at Stanford University, its exhibition, and the subsequent damage in the earthquake of 1906.
 

 
The electronic publication of the Semitic Museum's Cesnola Collection has been made possible by financial support from Mr. David A. Detrich (1938 - 2005). In its successive stages many people have contributed in many ways to this project, but at its outset it was his generous gift to the Museum that provided both the means and the impetus for its undertaking.
 
Detrich was an early and enthusiastic visitor to the Ancient Cyprus exhibit, which opened at the Semitic Museum in 1997. His intense interest in and deep knowledge of Luigi Palma di Cesnola and his collection of Cypriot antiquities, and of the archaeology of Cyprus as a whole was evident over the course of numerous conversations, both in person and by email.
 
Among the numerous things we discussed was the possibility that the entire Semitic Museum Cesnola corpus, some 1300 pieces, could be published electronically, taking full advantage of the economy, speed, and global reach of the World Wide Web to make the collection more accessible to scholars of Cypriot antiquity. Ultimately, Detrich suggested that we submit for his consideration a proposal to do just that - produce a web-based catalogue of the Semitic Museum's Cesnola Collection. His response to our proposal was immediate, positive and generous.
 
With his gift in 1998, we were able to mobilize the Museum's existing staff, especially Helena Wylde Swiny who became responsible for the web-catalogue, and material resources; building on the work already undertaken in the course of preparing the material for exhibition. But it was his initiative that gave the entire project its beginning and the vision of its goal.
In 2001 Detrich became president of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI), one of the American Schools of Oriental Research, based in Nicosia, Cyprus. That same year he financed another project at the Semitic Museum. The authenticity of a certain terracotta horse within the Cesnola Collection had been questioned. This whetted the curiosity of the former schoolteacher, prompted his endless desire "to find out more", and illustrated his sense of humor. The results of our scientific enquiries can be seen in the entry for 1995.10.864.
With these words the Semitic Museum hopes to acknowledge in some small way the contribution that David A. Detrich has made to Harvard University, to the archaeology of Cyprus, and to a fuller understanding of the life and work of Luigi Palma di Cesnola.

 

 

 

 

 
 

Bibliography
  View Objects Info & Papers Bibliography Collection Home Page  

©1999 The President & Fellows of Harvard College
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Last modified: Tuesday, 05-Sep-2006 16:12:42 EDT