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.
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.
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
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.