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Four Statuary Groups in the South Parterre (also known as the French Garden) south of Wrest House, depicting Aeneas and Anchises, the Abduction of Helen of Troy, Venus and Adonis and Meleager and Atal

A Grade II* Listed Building in Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.0074 / 52°0'26"N

Longitude: -0.4118 / 0°24'42"W

OS Eastings: 509111

OS Northings: 235523

OS Grid: TL091355

Mapcode National: GBR G3S.4QK

Mapcode Global: VHFQV.TS5Z

Entry Name: Four Statuary Groups in the South Parterre (also known as the French Garden) south of Wrest House, depicting Aeneas and Anchises, the Abduction of Helen of Troy, Venus and Adonis and Meleager and Atal

Listing Date: 10 January 1985

Last Amended: 18 May 2012

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1113789

English Heritage Legacy ID: 37717

Location: Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire, MK45

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Silsoe

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Silsoe

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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Summary

A group of four statues located in the central part of the South Parterre at Wrest Park. Of c.1730 and known to have been installed at Wrest Park by 1839. By John Cheere, sculptor (1709-1787).

Description

MATERIALS: the statues are made of lead, now painted, and each stands on a splayed Portland stone base, believed to be of C19 date.

DESCRIPTION: the complete ensembles stand approximately three metres high. The statues are positioned in a rectangular formation and flank the central path leading from the house, through the South Parterre, to the Long Canal.

The statue of Aeneas and Anchises is located 50m to the south-east of Wrest Park House and depicts the striding figure of Aeneas carrying Anchises across one shoulder. He is accompanied by his small son Ascanius, and there is a fallen female figure to one side. The statue represents a scene from the poet Virgil's 'Aeniad' where the Trojan prince Aeneas and his son Ascanius escape from Troy, Aeneas carrying his father Anchises.

The statue depicting the Abduction of Helen of Troy is sited 50m to the south-west of the house. It shows a striding soldier carrying a struggling female figure. Beneath them is crouched a male, clasping in one hand the handle to a knife or other implement, now lost, and in the other, a rock. To the far side is the figure of a child. The statue is thought to be loosely derived from a statue by the French sculptor Phillipe Bertrand (1663-1724) depicting the abduction of Helen of Troy by Paris.

The statue depicting Venus and Adonis is sited 25m to the south-east of the house. It shows the seated figure of Venus with Cupid standing behind her, about to release a dove (a symbol of love departing). Adonis stands about to depart, accompanied by a hunting dog.

The statue depicting Atalanta and Meleager is sited 25m to the south-west of the house, shows the standing figure of Meleager holding a shepherd's crook, leaning over the seated figure of Atalanta, with a hunting dog beside the couple. The sculpture was previously identified as depicting Diana and Endymion, but actually depicts Atalanta and Meleager from Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' as evidenced by the presence of a boar's head beneath one of the dog's paws.

History

Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the Middle Ages until the early C20. In 1833, Thomas Phillip Weddell, later Earl de Grey, inherited Wrest, having already spent much time there as a young man demonstrating his early abilities as an amateur architect in the design of the two lodges at Silsoe in 1826 (both Grade II). Although he had great respect for the gardens this did not extend to the house, which he demolished. The present house was constructed approximately 200m north of the old house in 1834-9 by the Earl with the assistance of James Clephan. The stable buildings to the east (Grade II) and the walled gardens (Grade II) to the west were also added between 1834 and 1839. The site of the former house was laid out to include the present parterres and south lawns. The Earl's appreciation of the existing garden’s qualities meant that little else was done to diminish its former appearance. In 1856 'le Petit Trianon' was built for his children and in 1857 an 'American Garden' was laid out north of the bowling green.

These four statutary groups are believed to be the work of John Cheere, a prolific and popular maker of statuary in the C18, with a workshop based at Hyde Park Corner in London. The statues are believed to have formed part of the surviving stock of his work which was dispersed at the end of the C18. They are thought to have passed through the hands of dealers or collectors before being later acquired by the Earl for Wrest Park. An aerial view of the Wrest Park gardens in 1839 depicts the South Parterre with four lead statue groups in their present positions, all of which were added to the Statutory List in 1985.

Reasons for Listing

This group of statues, located in the central part of the South Parterre at Wrest Park, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Artistic interest: fine quality sculptures by the celebrated and prolific C18 sculptor John Cheere.
* Historic interest: the group of statues form an important element of the evolved historic garden landscape at Wrest Park.
* Group Value: the sculptures make an important contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden.

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