Luigi Palma Di Cesnola, count, an American soldier and archaeological explorer, born in Turin, Italy, July 29, 1832. In 1848, at the age of 15, he left the royal military academy at Turin, and enlisted as a volunteer in the war against Austria. He then returned to the military academy, and graduated, receiving his commission in 1850, which he resigned in 1854. Upon the breaking out of the Crimean war he reentered the army, and served upon the staff of Gen. Ansaldi. The close of the war precluded all prospect of advancement in the Italian military service, and after a while he embarked for America, landing at New York in 1860. Here lor many months he supported himself by giving instruction on the flute and lessons in French and Italian. In the spring of 1861 he married one of his pupils, a daughter of Commodore Reid of the United States navy. Soon after the outbreak of the civil war he established classes for military instruction, and not long after became colonel of the 4th regiment of New York cavalry, He was present with his regiment in 18 engagements up to the light at Aldie, June 17, 1863, where he was wounded, taken prisoner, and confined in the Libby prison, Richmond. In April, 1864, he was exchanged for Col. Brown, brother of the governor of Georgia, and afterward took part in the subsequent operations in Virginia. At the close of the war he was breveted, brigadier general, became an American citizen, and was appointed consul at Cyprus, his place of residence being Larnaka, the principal seaport, which stands on the necropolis of the ancient Chittimof the Phoenicians, the Citium of the Romans. There in 1845 had been discovered a bass relief in black basalt, bearing a cuneiform inscription denoting that it was a present from Sargon, king of Assyria (721-704 B. C), to his vassal, the king of Chittim. At Larnaka Cesnola heard of a massive stone vase, 7 ft. high and 11 ft. in diameter, weighing 30,-000 lbs., and supposed to belong to the 9th or 10th century B. C, which the emperor Napoleon had just presented to the museum of the Louvre. His attention was soon attracted by some ancient coins and fragments of terra cotta in possession of the inhabitants of Larnaka, and he began to open some of the tombs, in which he found many objects of antique art.
In 1800, while residing at Dali, 20 m. N. W. of Larnaka, a curious stone was shown to him lying several feet below the surface of the ground. He perceived that it was a part of a tomb, and making excavations he discovered that Dali occupied the site of the necropolis of the ancient Idalium, a city which ceased to exist almost 2,000 years ago, where once stood a great temple of the Venus of Cyprus. Procuring a firman from the sultan, he commenced excavations. These were continued, here and elsewhere, for three years, employing some hundreds of men, during which more than 8,000 tombs had been opened, when at last the jealousy of the Turks was aroused, and an edict from the sultan prohibited all further excavations in Cyprus. But in the mean time Cesnola had accumulated a magnificent collection of antiquities, which in 1872 was purchased for the metropolitan museum of New York; a collection which for extent and historical and artistic value is unequalled by any other of the kind in the world. The number of articles is not yet fully ascertained, but in August, 1870, when it was examined by the representative of the Russian imperial museum, there were about 13,000 articles, among which were many statues and statuettes, 1,800 lamps, 5,000 vases, 2,000 coins. 1,700 pieces of glass ware, 600 gold ornaments, 300 bronzes, and 100 inscriptions.
In July. 1870, the emperor Napoleon made a large offer for the collection, then in Cyprus, for the imperial museum of the Louvre, the cost to be paid from his own private purse; but when Cesnola's acceptance of the offer reached Paris, the emperor was a prisoner. In 1872 Cesnola sent the entire collection to London for sale, where it was thoroughly examined by experts connected with the British museum, and others, and its value was fully recognized; but for some unexplained reason the attention of the trustees of the museum was not called to it, and when Cesnola came to London he found that the knowledge of the existence of his collection was confined to a few persons connected with the museum, and no one in Europe seemed inclined to purchase. At this juncture an American gentleman made a liberal offer for it, which was at once accepted, and Ces-nola's cherished desire that his collection should go to his adopted country was realized. When this became known in England, great indignation was expressed that the British museum should have lost the chance of becoming the possessor of this unique collection. - Cyprus being situated midway between Phoenicia and Greece, and having been long under Egyptian domination, its art bore the characteristics of all these countries.
Perhaps the most notable single object is the colossal statue found at Golgos, 10 miles from Larnaka, in the buried ruins of whose temple were discovered the mutilated remains of more than 1,000 statues.
The Colossus of Golgos.
The colossus is 28 ft. in height. Upon the head is the helmet-shaped Assyrian cap; the long heard is in four curled plaits. It is supposed to represent a high priest, and to date from the 18th century B. C. No European museum possesses so old a statue. The oldest heretofore known were some Assyrian and Egyptian statues dating between the 8th and 14th centuries B. C. In the Cesnola collection are several other statues probably nearly as old as this colossus. The Egyptian type is well represented, one of the best preserved statues being that of a female figure holding the lotus. Among the works of the Greek type are sepulchral bass reliefs, with inscriptions; Venus with her attendants; Urania; a life-size draped statue of a priest of Venus of the Macedonian period, the head wreathed with laurel, an olive branch in the right hand, and a symbol in the left; colossal heads with the shelly hair of early Greek art; fine statues of children and youths; and antique heads of the noblest Hellenic type. Among the marble and alabaster statuettes are Venus holding a dove, Pan playing the pipes, and women performing on the tambourine and harp. There are heads without number, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian, heads of animals, and implements of all kinds.
The objects in terra cotta are numerous, some plain, others colored red or black. Venus with her attendants is a favorite subject. There are chariots and horsemen, dancing girls, grotesque masked figures, a donkey, a lioness with whelps, bulls, goats, and birds. There is a toy horse on four wheels, with a hole, doubtless for a string. This was taken from the tomb of a child, whose plaything it was perhaps long before the first Olympiad. In bronze there are statuettes of Osiris, Minerva, and Pomona; bracelets, anklets, rings, and amulets; brooches, buckles, tweezers, and mirror cases; battle axes, javelins, and arrow heads. Vases of every material, size, and shape are numerous; there are more than 1,000 different designs. Some of them are 3 ft. high and 4 1/2 in diameter, and, though probably 3,000 years old, are as fresh as when they came from the maker's hand. In the collection of jewelry are rings of various sorts, some with precious stones, as sapphires, carbuncles, and carnelians; clasps, beads, and spoons; mortuary plates of pure gold, which were tied upon the forehead of the dead, bearing designs in low relief of acanthus leaves, lines, scrolls, and sometimes female figures.
There are gems and stones engraved with mythological and other designs, Minerva in carnelian, Mercury in jasper, Mars in garnet; heads in onyx and agate; and some fine paste cameos. The collection is specially rich in glass ware, of every shape, form, and purpose; cups ribbed and iridized, blue and ribbed, white opaque; a bowl of dark blue with iridized tints of green and purple; bottles with raised spiral lines in blue and amber, or with serpents in relief trailing over the surface. One wine cup, with a yellow ground, has feather ornaments in blue and yellow, with serpentine handles of opaque glass. The collection of coins was of great value and interest, but it was lost by the shipwreck of the vessel in which it was sent from Beyrout to England. In it were coins belonging to the best Greek period, the age of Phidias. There were coins of the Greek imperial class, among which were those of Alexander, the Seleucidse, and a series of those of the kings of Cyprus. There was one beautiful gold coin, weighing 22 dollars, struck by Ptolemy Philadelphia. There were also Indian, Greek, Ptolemaic, Cypriote, Roman, Byzantine, Lusignanian, and Venetian coins, in gold, silver, and bronze. The inscriptions promise to be of great historical value.
So recently as 1863, the duke de Luynes stated that there were only three known inscriptions in the Cypriote language, and these had not been deciphered. In the temple at Golgos alone Cesnola found 34 inscriptions, and his whole collection contains about 100. In some respects the preservation and discovery of these Cypriote remains is more remarkable than in the case of those of Assyria. The latter were buried in the destruction of the palaces where they were found, the sites of which have been uninhabited almost ever since. But in Cyprus the sites of the tombs have been for many centuries covered over by inhabited towns, and scores of generations have lived and died on the spot, never dreaming of the treasures which lay buried a few feet below. The discovery of the buried temple of Venus at Golgos was in every way remarkable. It was known very nearly where it must have stood. Between 1817 and 1864 French archaeologists expended several hundred thousand francs in excavating for it; but they dug a few miles away, and only found the site of the ancient city, now occupied by a small village. In 1866 Cesnola excavated in the same place, and of course unsuccessfully.
In the winter of 1809-'70 he thought he had found the site of the necropolis, but on digging down came upon the famous temple itself, with its rich collection of antiquities. After that he purchased the ground of the village of Kuklia, (50 m. S. W. of Lar-naka, which he had satisfied himself was the she of the ancient Paphos, close by the spot where Venus is said to have risen from the sea, and where was the chief seat of her worship. Here he hoped, not without reason, that he should come upon some of the famous works of Praxiteles and Lysippus, when his hopes were blasted by the edict from the sultan forbidding all further excavations in Cyprus. But the value of what he had already accomplished is beyond all price. Only a single collection of the kind at all approaches his, and that is the famous Kertch collection of Greek antiques, formed, it is said, by the royal collector Mithri-dates the Great, which has found a resting place in the imperial museum of the Hermitage at St. Petersburg.