Animal antics in the Long Garden at Cliveden
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Head over to the Long Garden to see two baboons which have been released back into the Cliveden estate.
Fear not, they're not wild beasts but ancient granite statues, thought to be between 2,000 and 2,500 years old. Originally created to flank the entrance to an Egyptian temple, the baboons are believed to represent the Egyptian god of writing and wisdom, Thoth - who was often depicted with the head of a baboon, which is considered to be a sacred animal.
The baboons' travels
The pair were purchased in Rome in 1898 by Cliveden’s wealthy American owner and passionate collector of sculpture, William Waldorf Astor. He placed them in his newly redesigned Long Garden, along with other pieces from his collection.
The sculptures were removed in the 1960s and were in private ownership until they were donated back to us in the early 21st century. Prior to their return to the gardens, it was necessary for them to undergo complex and painstaking conservation work with sculpture specialists. One baboon was in a particularly poor state of repair, a fall having broken the statue into several pieces.
A rare Egyptian example
The Cliveden baboons are an extremely rare example of ancient Egyptian sculptures set in an English garden. There are several examples of limestone baboons but no granite ones of this design, particularly with mirror image tails - one wraps around to the left, the other to the right (most representations show the tail to the left).
A substantial sum of money for the conservation and reinstallation of the baboons was raised through Cliveden’s annual raffle, which contributed £12,000 to the cost of the project.
Please note that in order to protect the statues from the winter weather, they're covered from November to March each year.