Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Thought to have been made to commemorate Octavian’s victory over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium (31 BC), the cylindrical monument was later used as a well-head and was named after the 5th Earl of Guilford who brought the work from Greece to the UK by 1813.

Export stopped in November 2002, the work was acquired by the museum for the total sum of £294,009, with additional funding coming from The Henry Moore Foundation, The Society of Dilettanti, The Friends of the British Museum and the Caryatid Fund.

In the early 19th century, the monument was noted for being in the collection of a Greek high official, named Notara in Corinth. Admired by travelling Europeans and artists, it was eventually acquired by the philhellene Frederick North (later the 5th Earl of Guilford) in 1810 during his tour of Greece. Following his death, it was acquired by Thomas Wentworth Beaumont, MP, a wealthy landowner, who removed it to his home, Bretton Hall, near Leeds. It was not until 1993 that it was recognised by Dr Susan Walker of the British Museum.