A Roman sculpture of the empress Domitia, posing in the guise of the goddess Demeter, is among the antiquities going on display.

A young British entrepreneur who has amassed a spectacular collection of art and antiquities, ranging from Egyptian reliefs to masterpieces by Rubens and Picasso, is to display the works in a new multi-million-pound museum in the south of France.

Christian Levett, the 41-year-old son of an Essex bookmaker, is to throw open the doors of the Mougins Museum of Classical Art next month for visitors to admire approximately 700 works spanning 5,000 years that he has acquired over the past seven years.

The publicity-shy businessman, who would rather people focus on the collection than the collector, is driven by what he calls his “slightly compulsive need to collect”. Speaking to the Observer, he was critical of collectors who keep rare and significant works to themselves. “Naturally people can put art or antiquities in their homes. But something of unique importance, like the Crosby Garrett helmet [the Roman helmet found in Cumbria and sold to an unknown buyer], I believe the owner should at least make available to museums,” he said.


Dalya Alberge