Restoring Apollo and the Nine Muses at Stowe


A piece of a larger puzzle

As part of our vision to return Stowe to its former glory, the task of Apollo and the Nine Muses sits within a larger project of ongoing restoration to the Grade I listed gardens and park. 2015 saw the start of the Landscape Programme: Comprised of 54 tasks and taking place over five years the we're conserving buildings and landscape elements, re-introducing statuary and other lost features as well as restoring historic planting as well as undertaking maintenance of structures and lakes.  

Many of the original statues that once ‘dressed’ the gardens like pieces of a theatre set were sold after debt crippled the Temple-Grenville family, resulting in a number of sales in 1848, 1921 and 1922. 

The re-introduction of these features will bring meaning back into the landscape by re-introducing its iconographical significance and coherence. 

Over the past 30 years we've been undertaking research to locate where original statues are and if these do now not exist, undertaking research to aid in their replication or alternatively working closely to find the original pieces to then replicate them. 

A game of chess

A main focus for us to to recreate the recreate of the statue group of Apollo and the Nine Muses which were associated with Stowe for around 100 years. This statue group, attributed to the sculpture van Nost and constructed from lead, were likely to have been commissioned in the early eighteenth century and the early account describes their lcoation to be on the Parterre in 1724. 

As with many other statues and monuments at Stowe, this statue group were moved around the gardens and appeared – in one form or another - as focal points within three specific areas where they formed an integral part of the iconographical incidents within the designed landscape.

From the early eighteenth century these statues were placed on the Parterre along with a wider set; in the 1730s they were moved to the lower part of the Elysian Fields where they were associated with the Spring of Helicon. In the 1760s the statues were relocated around the Doric Arch which was itself rededicated to Princess Amelia. It is this final location that we are restoring. 

Who are Apollo and the Nine Muses?

Apollo and the Muses are symbols of inspiration and artistic creation. 

Apollo is one of the twelve gods of Olympus and was an embodiment of the classical Greek spirit, representing the rational and civilised side of man’s nature. In sculpture he is generally depicted as the ideal form of male beauty, a counterpoint to Venus.  At Stowe, the sculpture was a Lyric Apollo. In this form, as the God and patron of poetry, music and the arts, Apollo lived on Mount Parnassus, accompanied by the Nine Muses, who were the goddesses of poetic inspiration and the creative arts. 

The Ancient Greeks believed that the Muses inspired the writing and performance of songs that honored famous events and noble deeds. 

Who were the Nine Muses?

The Nine Muses are the Goddesses of creative arts and poetic inspiration. 
•    Calliope the Muse of epic poetry 
•    Clio the Muse of History 
•    Euterpe the Muse of Lyric Poetry
•    Thalia the Muse of Comedy and idyllic poetry
•    Melpomene the Muse of Tragedy
•    Terpsichore the Muse of choral dance and song    
•    Erato the Muse of love and erotic poetry and mime 
•    Polyhymnia the Muse of sublime hymn 
•    Ourania the Muse of astronomy 

Research and investigation

Sadly, the original Stowe set of Apollo and the Nine Muses does not exist. From the wider group of statues, the original lead statue Calliope the Muse of Heroic poetry still resides at Stowe and is now on the top of the Grenville Column. The statues of ‘Painting’ and ‘Sculpture’ – part of the wider set of statues on the Parterre attributed to van Nost - were relocated to the roof of the Temple of Concord and Victory in the middle of the eighteenth century. These were then sold in the 1922 sale and are now in the collection at Anglesey Abbey. 
We believe that the remainder of this statue group have been lost as the 1848 auction catalogue states that ‘The statues of Apollo and the Muses formerly stood near this spot, but they were of lead, and have long since been melted.’ 

In order to recreate this significant set of statues along with the appropriate setting we have also undertaken both archival and archaeological investigations and related this information back to the surviving three statues from the wider Parterre set. 

As no contemporary sketches or engravings for Apollo and the Nine Muses exist for the third and final location around the Doric Arch, the best indication of the style and form of these statues is shown in the 1730s Rigaud sketch View of the House from the Parterre which depicts the Muses in classical form situated on square plinths. Evidence from the Stowe archive – now held in the Huntington Library - provides further information including that the plinths were re-carved in the 1760s and we have discovered fragments from a number of the surbases (the stone atop the plinth but underneath the statue) for these statues have later been reused within the Grotto . 

In addition to considering the documentary evidence that point to the existence, form and location of the statue group of Apollo and the Nine Muses, we've undertaken archaeological investigations in the Elysian Fields to determine if any evidence remains for the foundations of the statue plinths. The area of investigation was guided by depictions on the plans accompanying the Seeley guidebook to Stowe that were produced in the eighteenth century.  A number of foundation fragments have been discovered along with evidence for the gravel path that ran alongside these statues. This evidence does confirm the archival information that these statues were placed on either side of the Doric Arch. 

Recreating the statues

In order to ensure that the recreated statues are of appropriate quality, form, style and size as well as recreate the aesthetic we're proposing to create a harmonious set of nine different statues by creating moulds from the original three lead statues: Calliope, Painting and Sculpture. These statues, attributed to van Nost, originally graced the Stowe Parterre in the 1730s, have a clear provenance to Stowe and are of appropriate form, scale and quality. 

We're working with Cliveden Conservation Workshop to ensure that the new statues that are created use the form, scale, style and details from the original statues to inform the creation of a set that will be in-keeping with the Stowe landscape and setting. The creation of the replica statues will be in composite stone. 

Working with Anglesey Abbey

Cliveden Conservation Workshop have been working at Anglesey Abbey in 2019 to undertake moulds of the statues of Sculpture and Painting which are located in the Emperor’s Walk.

" The statuary group of Apollo and the Nine Muses were, I believe, the most significance statue group at Stowe. Over around 100 years they were associated with significant design phases of Stowe and they have been focal points within three areas of the gardens. The iconography associated with the third and final position of this statue group – the relocation around the Doric Arch at the entrance to the Elysian fields in the 1760s– is the final design intent and most significant of the design phases and it is this phase that we are restoring. "
- Gillian Mason, Curator

For ever, for everyone 

As a charity, we reply on your generous support by visiting, donating, volunteering or enjoying a cream tea in café in order to help us carry out significant restoration and conservation work. If you’d like to support this project further or donate, speak to the welcome team at the New Inn. Thank you.