The Russell Statues 

In 1878, the Auckland Museum received a gift of 22 full-sized plaster casts and 11 busts from a wealthy expatriate Aucklander, Thomas Russell. Russell had placed an order with the workshop of Domenico Brucciani of Covent Garden, London, intended as ‘a truly magnificent donation’ for the newly built Auckland Museum building on Princes Street.

Auckland Mayor Sir John Logan Campbell then saw the opportunity to establish the first free school of art in Auckland to be located in the Museum. The statues were used as models for figure drawing with stools and easels were ordered for students and ‘copyists’.

North-east corner on the ground floor of the Main Hall in Auckland Museum’s Princes Street building. Statues from left are: Discobolus, Demosthenes, Dancing Faun (in corner), Apollino and Laocoön. The Dying Gaul is obscured by Laocoön.

A group of female Elam students in front of the Laocoon cast in the Auckland Museum, possibly the Princes Street building. From left: unknown, Margaret (Woodward) Jackson, Alice (Falliwell) Whyte, unknown, Jane Eyre (later teacher).



Three of these restored 19th century plaster casts of classical Greek sculptures (the Dying Gaul’, Laocoön’ and ‘Discobolus)’ now sit on display in between the Japanese Ceramics and Mackelvie Collection, galleries and above the entrance to the Grand Foyer. They emphasise the Greek Revival architecture of the Museum building and are also an acknowledgement of the historical importance of the arts and learning of classical antiquity to our imported European culture.




Laocoön was a priest who warned the Trojans against the wooden horse left by the Greeks. Shortly afterwards, Laocoön and his sons were killed by two sea serpents sent by Greek goddess Athena. The Laocoön is a masterpiece of violent movement and despair. Reproduced from an original marble sculpture, which dates from the 2nd century BC and was brought to Rome in AD 79, the original disappeared and then was rediscovered in 1506.

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Discobolus of Myron/Diskobolos portays an athlete throwing a discus and is taken from a bronze work of Greek sculptor Myron. Myron preferred to work in bronze and was the leading sculptor in Athens in the middle years of the 5th Century BC. Only copies of the original bronze survive, two of which are in the Terme Museum, Rome. Discobolus was his masterpiece and is remarkable in its depiction of the 'tension of the psychological moment' of an intense physical action.

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The Dying Gaul portrays a mortally wounded Gallic warrior fallen on his shield and is a frank depiction of the poignancy of defeat and death. The marble statue as seen in the Capitoline Museum is identified as a copy of an earlier bronze sculpture commissioned by King Attalus 1 of Pergamum. Attalus defeated an army of invading Gauls, the Galatians, in 241 B.C. and to mark this victory he erected statues of dying or captive Gauls in Pergamum and Athens.

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Auckland Museum acknowledges the generosity of the John Logan Campbell Residuary Estate in the initial establishment of this Gallery.