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The formation of the remarkable collection of statuary seems to have stemmed from Lord Shelburne's visit to Italy in 1771 following the death of his wife. His acquisition of these treasures was aided by Gavin Hamilton, who undertook extensive excavations in the vicinity of Rome on his behalf.

Hamilton, a Scottish painter whom Goethe in his Winckelmann praised for expanding the field from which artists drew their inspiration, was just the man for the work full of knowledge, energy, and patience. That Lansdowne House contained probably the finest private collection of sculpture in this country, was largely due to his indefatigable interest in the work of excavation.

But not only this - he was as careful over the housing of these artistic relics as he was in their discovery, and he prepared an elaborate scheme for adorning the home of his patron and for preserving his trouvailles.

The chief item in his scheme was the formation of a gallery, which it was arranged should be erected by the architect Panini. This gallery was formed by the enlargement of a music room which had been a part of Adam's original design of Lansdowne House, and which was later used as a ballroom.

By the early 20th century, the Discobolus, the Hermes, the statue of Artemis, the group of Eros and Psyche, the Marcus Aurelius, and other equally famous pieces of sculpture, together with sarcophagi, altar fronts, busts, and torsos could be seen here - any one of which would be almost sufficient to give prestige to a collection less richly endowed.

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