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Sir Austen Henry Layard (1817–1894)

Photo credit: The Trustees of the British Museum

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En route to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1840 Sir Austen Henry Layard (1817–1894) fell under the spell of the Middle East, particularly the mounds concealing the remain of Assyrian civilisation, opposite Mosul in what is now Iraq, which Emile Botta, the French Consul, was beginning to explore. With funding from Stratford Canning, British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, he began in 1845 to dig at the mound of Nimrud. There he discovered three Assyrian palaces and numerous objects, some of which were sent to England to great acclaim, particularly on account of their Biblical associations. Layard’s excavations continued at Kuyunjik, now supported by the Museum. In 1851 he turned to politics, becoming an MP the following year. Disenchanted by government, he transferred to the diplomatic service as Ambassador to Spain and subsequently to Constantinople.

British Museum



Sir Austen Henry Layard (1817–1894)




oil on canvas


H 120 x W 84 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

gift from Miss Phyllis Layard, 1968

Work type



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