With the original statues of Stowe now scattered due to the great auctions of Stowe House in 1921 and 1922, the National Trust has been seeking the return of originals or gain permission to have faithful replicas cast. National Trust Stowe enlisted the expertise of Cliveden Conservation to replicate the final two martial statues (The Gladiator and the Wrestlers) which would complete an important phase in their landscape programme.
Summary of the conservation work carried out
Cliveden Conservation Norfolk Workshop, which is renowned for its excellence in the conservation of historic plasterwork and specialist casting, was appointed to make the replica statues.
St Paul’s Walden Bury kindly gave permission for the workshop to loan their Borghese Gladiator statue. By using silicone rubber to produce a copy mould the team were able to capture every tiny detail. An existing mould of an original bronze Wrestlers statue at Blenheim Palace was also sourced which meant this statue could also be cast at the workshop.
Using a reconstituted stone mix blended with a unique formula, the Norfolk Workshop successfully cast both statues, reinforcing them with a stainless steel armature to act as a skeleton. The original Borghese Gladiator’s missing sword was carefully recreated using expert craftsmenship.
Both the Gladiator and Wrestlers statues were carefully transported and installed at National Trust Stowe. The conservation team then lime washed them in situ to match the other statuary in the garden.
One hundred years on from their disappearance both statues are now back in the landscape along with Sampson and the Philistine, Hercules and Antaeus which have all been reinstated. The Wrestlers, which is thought to have been introduced to Stowe in the 1730s along with the other martial statues, is back in its rightful position within the Labyrinth looking out over Warden Hill Walk. The Gladiator is positioned in the Grecian Valley.
National Trust Stowe
Principal Conservation Contractor:
What we did
“The setting for the Wrestlers Statue is based around a labyrinth of evergreen shrubberies creating an area of garden designed to mimic the different routes one can take through life but eventually ending up with a magnificent view of all creation. The planting hides winding paths with play features of a skittle alley and swing to distract en route through the Labyrinth dating from the mid-18th century. We have sourced plantings which were native to England to faithfully recreate the spirit of place.”
Anna Tolfree, Gardener for National Trust Stowe