Caligula’s Bronze Head Rediscovered

28 June 2024 to 8 September 2024 Strawberry Hill House

A close-up photo of a dark-colored metal or bronze bust of a young man with short hair. The features are slightly worn, and it is set against a light, crumpled fabric background. The expression on the face is neutral or slightly serious.
Head of Caligula, bronze, The Schroder Collection

Sculpture lost for more than a century rediscovered by Strawberry Hill House

Following a 182-year absence, Strawberry Hill will once again display the Bronze Head of Caligula after an extensive search has re-discovered this long-lost treasure. The exhibition will not only offer visitors the chance to view this highly sought-after treasure but also delve into the successes of Strawberry Hill's treasure hunting over the last decade.

Horace Walpole (1717-1797) considered the bronze head one of the highlights of his collection, but in 1842 it was sold in the ‘Great Sale’ when most of his collection disappeared into private hands. The Bronze Head of Caligula has never been identified since – until now.

For years the sculpture could only be seen via a life-size drawing by John Carter who was commissioned by Walpole to document Strawberry Hill and its collection. Last Autumn, Dr Davoli spotted a small bust in the Schroder collection’s inventory while preparing an exhibition which bore resemblance to the drawing. Strawberry Hill said it was “unmistakable that every detail in the Carter drawing corresponded with this object, down to the veins of the small Portoro marble plinth that supports the bust”. The curator of the Schorder collection, Dr Caterina Badan, is now working alongside Silvia to reconstruct the history of the object.

As part of its resulting exhibition, a metallurgical analysis will be presented to explore its history, as well as experts in the field giving their take on the origins of the artefact.

Visitors will undoubtably have a fantastic opportunity to see an exquisite item. One that renders both the youthfulness and the cruelty through an Emperor’s face that continues to haunt and captivate. An object that has passed through the hands of Dukes and Earls, from Italy to England, and potentially from the Roman era, through the Renaissance, to a modern-day exhibition in an 18th century Gothic revival building.

Silvia Davoli, curator of Strawberry Hill and finder of the Caligula bust, said: “The discovery of the Caligula’s head, one of Walpole's most valued treasures, is truly an exciting event. Each recovered object opens the doors to new hypotheses, helping us better understand the secret life of objects and their movements through the centuries.”

Further Information:  What's On - Strawberry Hill House & Garden