A taste for the new: 19th-century sculpture at Cliveden

In the grounds at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire an important collection of 19th-century sculpture illustrates the contrasting tastes of Cliveden's main collectors: the Duke (1786-1861) and Duchess (1808-1868) of Sutherland and William Waldorf Astor (1848-1919). They were patrons of ‘new' art, enthusiastically embracing contemporary sculptors of their day.

From sensuously carved figures to ground-breaking techniques, this selection of sculpture demonstrates how Cliveden’s previous owners were bold and forward-thinking in their artistic choices.

The Fountain of Love by Thomas Waldo Story

The Fountain of Love  

Female figures frolic with winged putti amidst jets of spurting water. This sensuous marble group, sited prominently on the Grand Avenue at Cliveden, was commissioned by WW Astor from the sculptor Thomas Waldo Story. Astor described the scantily draped female figures as having discovered the fountain of love, caught at the point of ‘experiencing its wonderful elixir’. In commissioning this work, Astor displayed boldness and courage in commissioning an openly erotic art style from a contemporary artist.

The Wounded Amazon by William Waldorf Astor

The Wounded Amazon 

It is unusual that a collector of sculpture is also a practitioner of the art. But Lord Astor was unique in this regard and this marble sculpture of a wounded Amazon may be the only extant signed work from his oeuvre. The Amazons were a race of warrior women in Greek mythology skilled with the bow and in horsemanship. Astor’s composition is based on classical examples, but reinterpreted in a Romantic vein.

Joan of Arc sculpture by Princess Marie-Christine d'Orleans

A unifying heroine 

The image of Joan of Arc was a potent symbol in the vision of a unified France under Louis-Philippe, who was sworn in as King in 1830 following the July Revolution. In 1835 Louis-Philippe commissioned a marble statue of Saint Joan from his daughter, Princess Marie Christine d’Orléans. It proved to be a popular piece of sculpture and many copies were made. This bronze copy was brought to Cliveden by the Duchess of Sutherland. The Court of Louis- Philippe was a liberal one and the Sutherlands and the King may have shared similar liberal political views.

Prince Albert sculpture by William Theed

Prince Albert in Highland Dress 

In this statue, Prince Albert strikes a solitary figure, standing on a rocky cairn in Highland dress. Despite its Romantic, rugged quality, the cast was produced in industrial Birmingham using the ultra-modern method of electroplating. During his life Albert was interested in marrying 'high art with mechanical skill'. He even visited the factory of Elkington & Co. to witness firsthand the pioneering sculptural method to produce casts like this.

Spirit of Liberty at Cliveden

The Spirit of Liberty 

The Sutherlands made extensive acquisitions of modern French sculpture, and this is perhaps the most radical of them all. Liberty is depicted as a male figure, crowned with a star, holding the torch of civilisation in one hand, and the snapped chain of bondage in the other - a provocative subject for an English aristocratic family. Based upon an original sculpture in Paris that commemorated the July Revolution of 1830 in France, this figure of Liberty sculpture chimed well with Sutherland taste for the modern and the innovative.