This striking mid-4th-century mosaic from Dewlish Roman villa in Dorset – a 2m by 2.4m panel depicting a leopard attacking an antelope – has been purchased by the Dorset County Museum, saving it from being exported overseas. Discovered during excavations at Dewlish in 1974, the leopard mosaic is considered one of the most realistic depictions of an animal by a Romano-British artist to survive in any artistic medium. It was sold at auction back in 2018, then resold to an international buyer in 2019, but lobbying by the County Museum saw the DCMS put a temporary export bar on the panel, in the hope that the necessary funds to buy it back could be raised. We reported on this campaign in CA 367, and the museum is now pleased to announce that their appeal has been successful, raising £150,000. The mosaic will go on display in the newly refurbished galleries of the museum later this year.
We understand that one of the crucial donors became aware of the campaign after reading the article in CA. The mosaic’s retention and display in Britain will be a boon to researchers studying Romano-British art, as well as to visitors to the museum, who will be better able to appreciate this period of British history.
Anthony Beeson, a Roman mosaic expert, said: ‘Through Current Archaeology’s involvement and concern for the archaeological heritage of Britain, the Dewlish leopard appeal reached many more interested members of the public than would otherwise have been possible, which resulted in this successful conclusion.’
Text: K Krakowka Image: Dorset County Museum; Jon Raine Dorset County Museum, Dorchester