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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Bid to keep ancient statue in UK
British Museum's new courtyard
The sculpture is currently housed in the British Museum
The British Museum has launched a fundraising drive to keep an ancient marble sculpture of a dog in the UK.

The 2nd century Roman statue, The Dog of Alcibiades, has been put up for sale by its British owner and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, has shown an interest in buying it.

The government put a temporary bar on the piece leaving the country because of the historical importance placed on it.

The Dog of Alcibiades
The statue was brought to the UK between 1753 and 1756

Now the British Museum is attempting to raise the 662,000 asking price by the sale deadline, 26 August.

The sculpture is twice life-size and represents a Molossian dog, ancestor of the modern mastiff breed.

It is thought to be the only example of Hellenistic animal sculpture copied during the Roman period.

Aesthetic quality

It is currently on temporary display at the British Museum, where a donation box has been placed for visitors to contribute to buying the piece.

Museum creator Susan Walker said: "The dog is really an outstanding piece of sculpture.

"It is very important for the study of Greek and Roman sculpture as it has an outstanding aesthetic quality.

"We are having a fantastic response from the public and we very much hope we are going to raise the money."

The sculpture was unearthed and restored in Rome in the 18th Century.

British collector Henry Constantine Jennings brought it to Britain between 1753 and 1756.

Missing tail

He called The Dog of Alcibiades after learning Alcibiades, an Athenian general, was said to have cut the statue's tail off in order to give people something else to talk about other than himself.

The statue was sold to the Duncombes, a Yorkshire banking family, in 1816.

A descendant of the family is now offering the statue for sale.

Michael Tollemache, who acts for the seller, said: "In the early 1980s, the owner offered to sell this sculpture to the British Museum but it was not then possible to agree a deal.

"The owner is delighted that funds may yet be found to enable The Dog of Alcibiades to find a permanent home in a British public collection."

See also:

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