Sculpture collections at Cliveden
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 art and heritage collections we care for rival the world’s greatest museums. Learn more about the collection of paintings, decorative art, costume, books, household and other objects at historic places.
See the breadth of our collection of works of art, furniture and more: we care for around a million objects at over 200 historic places, there’s a surprise discovery around every corner.
Discover the stories behind some of the greatest artworks and artefacts looked after by the National Trust, as told in a dedicated book, 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust.
Follow in the footsteps of dukes, earls, kings and queens at Cliveden as you stroll through a series of areas in the impressive garden, each with its own special charm.
Discover the background and history of some of the main features in the garden at Cliveden and who was responsible for commissioning and designing them.
Take a guided tour of Cliveden house – now a luxury hotel – and visit the chapel, final resting place of three generations of Astor family.
For over 300 years Cliveden was home to dukes, earls, viscounts and even a prince. Learn how it became a glittering hub for exclusive parties and political gatherings.
Discover everything you need to know about booking specialist talks or bringing your group or school for a visit to Cliveden.