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Sculpture collections at Cliveden

Sculpture and topiary in the Long Garden in May at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire
The Long Garden in May at Cliveden | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

From sensuously carved figures to groundbreaking techniques, Cliveden’s sculpture collection demonstrates how the previous owners were bold and forward-thinking in their artistic choices.

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

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.

The Fountain of Love sculpture by Thomas Waldo Story at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire
The Fountain of Love at Cliveden | © National Trust/Christopher Warleigh-Lack

The Fountain of Love

Female figures frolic with winged putti amidst jets of spurting water. This sensuous marble group, situated prominently on the Grand Avenue, was commissioned by William Walforf 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’. Astor displayed boldness and courage in commissioning an openly erotic art style from a contemporary artist.

More about The Fountain of Love

The Wounded Amazon

It’s 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.

More about The Wounded Amazon

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.

More about the Joan of Arc statue

The imposing large red facade of the house at Cliveden with neatly clipped terraced parterre in the foreground
The parterre and house at Cliveden | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

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 first-hand the pioneering sculptural method to produce casts like this.

More about the Prince Albert statue

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.

Based upon an original sculpture in Paris that commemorated the July Revolution of 1830 in France, this figure of Liberty sculpture chimed well with the Sutherlands' taste for the modern and the innovative.

More about the Spirit of Liberty statue

An Ancient Egyptian stone baboon in the Long Garden at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire.
One of the Egyptian baboons in the Long Garden at Cliveden | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The Cliveden baboons

Fear not, these baboons are 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. This god 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 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 the National Trust in the early 21st century.

Prior to their return to the garden, 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, having been broken into several pieces in a fall.

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).

The baboons' return to the garden was made possible by visitors who contributed over £12,000 to their conservation and reinstallation by buying a ticket for our annual raffle.

Please note that in order to protect the statues from the winter weather, they are covered from November to March each year.

The oak-panelled Hall at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, with its sumptuous furnishings and elaborate stone chimney-piece.

Cliveden's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Cliveden on the National Trust Collections website.

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