The Desmond Morris Collection


The Desmond Morris Collection

The Art of Ancient Cyprus

dmorrisDesmond Morris is the author of The Naked Ape, Manwatching, The Naked Eye and numerous other books on human behaviour, as well as being a professional Zoologist, Surrealist artist, lecturer and broadcaster. He began his collection of Ancient Cypriot art after a memorable visit to Cyprus. In his own words: “It started the moment I walked into Room Two of the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia and for the first time set eyes on the amazing objects produced 4,000 years ago by the Bronze Age inhabitants of the island. There I found vessels and figurines exuding a cheerful inventiveness of such warmth and intensity that I became immediately infatuated. The rich playfulness of the bronze age Cypriot artists, their bold self-confidence in experimenting with novel shapes, their exuberant sense of sculptural humour and their imaginative verve in developing highly stylised forms were a revelation.”

On his return to England he visited the salerooms and dealers, first in London and then New York, Boston, Amsterdam, and Paris. Beginning with his first purcase in 1967, he went on to amass a collection of over 1,100 mainly pottery objects during 9 years, the wealth of his collection lying in the Early Bronze Age material, probably the finest collection outside of Cyprus. Many of these objects can be traced back to the 19th century collections of Lawrence and Luigi Palma di Cesnola which subsequently were acquired by Lt. Gen. A.H.L.F. Pitt-Rivers and were displayed at the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Farnham, Dorset. Desmond Morris’s friend, Prof. Vassos Karageorghis, then director of the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus, encouraged him to publish his collection and make it available to scholars and students. Both of these duties Desmond Morris discharged generously and admirably, culminating in the publication in Oxford in 1985 of The Art of Ancient Cyprus, a seminal archaeo-aesthetic work on the culture of this seductive island, illustrating it with his own line drawings and photographs. The launch of the book, which coincided with an exhibition of some of his major objects at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (April-May 1985) introduced by Prof. Vassos Karageorghis, revealed the beauty and humour of this cross-cultural civilisation influenced by Egypt, the Levant and the Mediterranean world.

As well as amassing a large collection of Cypriot antiquities, Desmond Morris also collected items from other cultures, including Roman and Chinese. Various pieces from his private collection have gone on to grace the homes of private individuals or to be viewed publically in Museums across the world.