Sir David Towry Piper CBE FSA FRSL (21 July 1918 – 29 December 1990) was a British museum curator and author. He was director of the National Portrait Gallery 1964–1967, and of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1967–1973; and Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, 1967–1973, and Director of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1973–85 and Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, 1973–1985. He was knighted in 1983.

The second of three sons of Stephen Harvey Piper, Professor of Physics at Bristol University, Piper was born at Wimbledon and educated at Clifton College[1] and St Catharine's College, Cambridge (where he took an M.A.).[2][3]

Piper was Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford for 1966–67.[4]

In 1956, Piper prepared a descriptive catalogue of the Petre family portraits at Ingatestone Hall for the Essex Record Office.[5]

Under the pseudonym Peter Towry, Piper wrote a number of novels, including Trial by Battle (1959), a story based on his experiences as a prisoner of war in Japan for three years during World War II.[6]

In 1945, Piper married Anne Horatia (1920–2017), daughter of Oliffe Richmond, classics professor at Edinburgh University. She was a novelist and playwright. They had three daughters- Evanthe, Ruth, and Emma-[7][8] and a son, theatre designer Tom Piper (born 1964).


His publications include:

As Peter Towry:


  1. ^ "Clifton College Register" Muirhead, J.A.O. p475: Bristol; J.W Arrowsmith for Old Cliftonian Society; April, 1948
  2. ^ "Piper, Sir David Towry". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 16 October 2019. (subscription required)
  3. ^ Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes, Volume 95, Kelly's Directories, 1969, p. 1585
  4. ^ "Oxford Slade Professors, 1870–present" (PDF). University of Oxford. 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 February 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  5. ^ Piper, David (1956). Petre family Portraits. Essex Record Office Publication No 26.
  6. ^ "David Piper, 72, Dies; British Art Historian". New York Times. 4 January 1991. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  7. ^ "OBITUARY: Lady Anne Piper, who has died aged 96". Oxford Times. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  8. ^ "The joy of sets". The Sunday Herald. 7 May 1994. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  9. ^
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Robert Hamilton
Director of the Ashmolean Museum
Succeeded by
Christopher White