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Title York House Nymphs & Grotto
Collection Public Monuments and Sculpture Association
Artist Not known
Date Completion c.1910
Description Large rustic terraced grotto with waterfall and major ornamental figure group consisting of a standing female figure (possibly Venus) at the top with both arms raised - one hand holds out her hair, the other is held infront of her body - flanked by two prancing horses with fins fanning outwards from their sides and webbed hooves. Positioned on the rocks below and either in or between several scallop shells, are 7 female nymphs in various poses - reclining, sitting, climbing or kneeling -, the 3 central ones with arms raised, reaching or stretching upwards towards Venus, the one directly below her originally offering her a pearl (now missing) in her fingers. The two pairs of nymphs to the far left and right of the arrangement form independent groups as well as being integrated into the total scheme. A wide pool set behind spiked railings separates the grotto and sculptures from the pathway.
Additional Information Mythological subject, possibly Birth of Venus, although exact identity of central figure unknown. Could also represent the Neiads (river nymphs), or Oceanides (sea nymphs) as well as the Pearl Fishers on account of the pearls held in several of the nymphs' hands
Id Number Current Accession RH21
Id Number Current Repository SWLRH21
Location Twickenham, Greater London
Measurements Dimensions Figure and animal group(360 cms (h) x 300 (w) approx.), 7 Female figures(Figures slightly over life size. Total spread of group: 10.25 m x 9 m approx.)
Material Carrera marble, Carrera marble
Notes Probably by a late C19th italian artist although no definite attribution exists. Suggestions include Marabitti, a Sicilian sculptor active c. 1905; Mario Rutelli 1859-1941, another Sicilian artist working in Rome and maker of a Neiad fountain there; or the studio of Orazio Andreoni, head of a Roman carving workshop which sold large numbers of works to English and American collectors. (On the Beale Park work, similar in style to the York House group, there is an inscription reading: O. Spalmach. Studio O. Andreo...ROMA - suggested by Philip Ward Jackson in private correspodence as a possibility)
They were originally sited at Whitley Park, Godalming (formerly Lea Park), the former estate of the wealthy financier Whitaker Wright who committed fraud in 1909 and drank poison while in court. Wright probably imported them from Italy along with another group later sold to Beale Park, Pangbourne, Sussex, and one called The Seasons, later placed in the Winter Gardens at Weston super Mare. The Neiads may have been intended for the famous underwater domed room underneath the lake at Whitley Park which was accessible from an underground tunnel made from iron rings used in the construction of the London Underground Railway, although according to some accounts, they were never unpacked and installed.
The figures were bought from the Wright estate by Sir Rattan Tata, a wealthy Bombay merchant, for the gardens of York House after he acquired it in 1906.After Tata's death in 1918, York House was bought by Twickenham Urban District Council later amalgamated with the London Borough of Richmond on Thames. Noel Viner a local Richmond resident and conveyancer for Lady Tata, helped negotiate the purchase of York House on behalf of Twickenham Council and asked for the statues as a commission. Lady Tata agreed but Viner subsequently donated them to the Town Hall ( and later founded the York House Society).
The statues have been regularly vandalised and defaced throughout their life at York House. There have been a number of restoration attempts, the latest in 1989 under the auspices of a Trust set up by the York House Society and Richmond Council to raise funds which were donated by English Heritage, the Ratan Tata Trustees, Richmond Council and the public. Restoration was carried out by Taylor Pearce Restoration Services under the direction of Keith Taylor 1987-9. The figures were remodelled where damaged in carrera marble and cleaned of accumulated dirt, soot, grafitti and paint, the latter possibly added during WWII to provide a form of camouflage on account of the brilliant gleam of the marble.

by Sir Rattan Tata, a wealthy Bombay merchant for the gardens of the house after he acquired it in 1906.
Rights Owner Public Monuments and Sculpture Association
Source SWL

 

 

 

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