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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

HISTORIC HOUSE IN DANGER OF LOSING ITS MARBLES


Historic house in danger of losing its marbles
Outcry over English Heritage’s “disgraceful” support for potential sale of significant collection of classical sculptures

By Emily Sharpe. News, Issue 231, January 2012
Published online: 30 December 2011

Sefton. Moves are afoot to allow a group of Augustinian nuns to sell 102 classical sculptures from Ince Blundell Hall, a Grade II-listed estate in the borough of Sefton, near Liverpool, in north-west England. This would result in the dispersal of the greatest collection of ancient marbles in England outside the British Museum. Many of the historic interiors and exteriors were constructed specially to display the sculptures.

The collection was assembled by Henry Blundell (1724-1810), who built two extensions to the house—the Garden Temple (around 1775) and the Pantheon (1802-10)—to display his vast collection of antiquities, filling interior and exterior niches with works bought from some of Italy’s finest residences, including the Villa d’Este and the Villa Mattei. It is these marbles that the occupants, a group of August¬inian Sisters, want to sell. The estimated value of the sculpture varies, but one expert says it could be as much as £10m.

In 1959, Blundell’s heir, Joseph Weld, donated around 500 sculptures to what is now the National Museums Liverpool. He gave the house to the Sisters, who turned it into a nursing home.

An independent dealer has been in discussions with the Sisters about selling the sculptures since last summer. When Sefton council was alerted to this, it sought advice from English Heritage about granting permission “to remove, repair and replace fixtures and fittings”.


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