Cork model of the Colosseum in Rome, made by Richard Du Bourg or Dubourg, London, circa 1800.
Originally displayed in Du Bourg's London exhibition of cork models of classical buildings and sites, from 1799 to 1819. Du Bourg's models were auctioned in 1819 to raise money for the elderly and impoverished artist.
The model was subsequently donated to the South Kensington Museum, London in 1859 and displayed in the Ornamental Museum section.
In 1909 the model passed to the Science Museum, London, which donated it to the Industrial and Technological Museum, Melbourne in 1929.
Cork model on timber base, with painted plaster and sand landscaping.
Statement of significance
This cork model of the Colosseum in Rome, made by Du Bourg around 1800, is a rare architectural model of a classical structure, of a type that were popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
De Bourg established an exhibition of cork models of classical buildings and sites at 17 Duke Street, Manchester Square, London in 1799, then subsequently at 67-68 Lower Grosvenor Street, London in the early 19th century. According to Benjamin Silliman's A Journal of Travels in England, Holland and Scotland (1810), Du Bourg was a Frenchman who had spent 9 years living in Italy; although this may have been part of the showmanship and 'authenticity' needed to promote a commercial exhibition.
Du Bourg closed his museum and auctioned the models in 1819. A 'beautiful and very large cork model of the Amphitheatre at Rome' was subsequently auctioned in London in 1826, and this may refer to the subsequent sale of this model.
This model, made by Du Borg and presumably from his London exhibition, was one of 7 models of classical buildings donated by Captain Leyland to the South Kensington Museum in London in 1859. They joined a larger collection of plaster models of ancient buildings and monuments that had originally been commissioned by architect John Nash in the 1820s from the leading French modeller Jean-Pierre Fouquet. The two sets of models were displayed in the Ornamental Museum section; Nash's white plaster models represented the reconstructed form of the buildings as it was imagined they originally looked, while the cork models captured their existing ruined condition.
The collection of architectural models was passed to the Science Museum in 1909, when it separated from the Victoria & Albert Museum. Interest in architectural models had declined at the end of the 19th century, and neither of the new museums wanted the models inherited from the South Kensington Museum. Models were loaned to regional museums, 'cremated' and donated.
This Colosseum model was donated to the Industrial and Technological Museum in Melbourne in 1929. The person instrumental in arranging the donation, along with the loan of 4 aeroplane engines and two locomotive models, was Frederick Coates, managing director of John Coates & Co, an engineering firm based in London and Melbourne. His cousin and a fellow partner in the firm was the engineer and politician George Swinburne, who was a trustee of the museums, library and art gallery in Melbourne. Swinburne had presumably written to Coates in London requesting his assistance in identifying items that could be loaned or donated by the Science Museum.
Donation from South Kensington Museum (The Science Museum), 1929
Type of item
169 cm (Length), 136 cm (Width), 43 cm (Height)
Dimensions include base.
[Article - Journal] Leslie, Fiona. 2004. Inside Outside: Changing Attitudes Towards Architectural Models in the Museums at South Kensington. Architectural History. 47
[Article - Journal] Anderson, R. G. 1995. Connoisseurship, Pedagogy or Antiquarianism? What Were Instruments Doing in Nineteenth-Century National Collections in Great Britain?. Journal of the History of Collections. 7
[Book] Altick, Richard D. 1978. The Shows of London: A Panoramic History of Exhhibitions, 1600-1862.