This and that — Saturday edition

by chuckofish

After an unusually busy week, it’s all fun now as son #3 and his lovely lady are visiting for a few days. They’ve got that North Country vibe down.


Before I rush off to join the fun, I’ll leave you with a few fun facts in honor of October 1st and the  official start of Octoberween.

Today is the birthday of ardent collector, Charles Townley, born in 1737. Over the course of a privileged life spent pillaging ancient Roman villas in partnership with the Vatican, Townley amassed a vast personal collection of Greek and Roman sculpture, bronzes and smaller finds. Eventually, the British Museum bought the whole thing from Townley’s heirs for about £20,000 — significantly below its purchase price, but still a lot of money at the time. Earlier, Johann Zoffany painted Charles Townley with some of his more famous items. I have to admit that my favorite part of the painting is the dog lying at its master’s feet.


Famously, the head of this particular copy of Myron’s Discobolus (front left in painting) was restored incorrectly, so that it faces in the wrong direction. It should look like this:


Townley’s collection was so large that the British Museum  catalogue had to be two volumes.  Besides the Discobolus, the Townley Galleries included the Townley Vase

the-townley-vase-british-museumand the Townley Venus.


Evidently the family wanted to make sure everyone knew who had purchased these objects. Although I don’t approve of the type of wholesale scavenging that went on, or the profligate way Townley threw his money around, at least the objects ended up in the British Museum. Right?

By contrast, here’s an altogether more appealing story from yesterday’s BBC Explorer about humble, Scottish naturalist and explorer, Joseph Thomson (of Thomson’s Gazelle fame).


Born in 1858, Thomson led several expeditions to Africa in the 1870s and 1880s. Living by his favorite adage, “He who goes gently goes safely; he who goes safely goes far”, Thomson became a legend among the Maasai — so much so that one of their elders recently made the pilgrimage to visit Thomson’s birthplace in Scotland. As the BBC tells it, Elder Kakato had wanted to make the trip ever since he was a child and heard stories about the kind Scotsman. Indeed, I agree that “the words of the elders are blessed.”*

Have a wonderful 1st day of October! Just think — we only have to endure this dreadful election stuff for another month. Until then, I’ll stick with my statues and explorers, thank you very much.

*Maasai proverb