James Dawkins

In reading about the ghastly massacres and destruction of the museum and statuary in Palmyra, I have been finding out more about James Dawkins, who undertook some of the research and helped finance Robert Wood’s The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor in the Desart, which brought Palmyra to the attention of eighteenth-century students of the antique.   Dawkins came from Jamaica and, after Abingdon School and St. Johns College, Oxford and on succeeding to his family estates, he set off to travel in Italy in 1742.   He set out from England again in 1749, met Robert Wood in Naples and chartered the Matilda to travel round the Mediterranean with G.B. Borra, the Turin architect, as draughtsman.   They arrived in Palmyra on 14 March 1751 and spent five days (fifteen days according to their book) measuring and drawing plans of the temples and recording inscriptions.   The Ruins of Palmyra was published two years later when Dawkins was visiting Berlin in an attempt to get Prussian support for a Jacobite rebellion.   It was a key text in the revival of the antique, influencing Robert Adam in his designs for Osterley, Syon, Bowood and Compton Verney and William Chambers who reproduced The Temple of Venus at Kew.   All that they recorded so meticulously is now in the process of being destroyed.


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