After thirty-three years in the planning and crafting, a brand-new statue of Apollo has just landed at one of the National Trust’s flagship estates: Stowe Gardens in Buckinghamshire.
The arrival of Apollo completes a group of ten statues located around Stowe’s Doric Arch, which stands at the entrance to the area known as Elysian Fields. Apollo’s Nine Muses have been in situ since March 2020. They, like the rest of us, spent lockdown in isolation, patiently awaiting Apollo’s return.
Apollo is considered the most handsome and most Greek of all the gods. He’s certainly been the most elusive of all of Stowe’s original statues to replace. It’s taken many years of research to reimagine the statue.
The lead original was attributed to sculptor van Nost and is known to have been at Stowe by 1735. However, an auction catalogue for the estate notes in 1848 that the statue of Apollo had ‘long since been melted’.
Apollo was the Olympian god of many things, including sun and light, music and poetry, healing and plagues, archery and agriculture. Stowe’s Lyric Apollo was mainly concerned with music and poetry.
He lived on Mount Parnassus with nine ethereal female muses who dedicated their lives to the Arts by supporting and encouraging creation, sparking imagination and providing inspiration.
Through research and archaeological excavation, it’s understood that, like many other statues at Stowe, Apollo and the Muses were moved around the garden, but their final location was around the Doric Arch, which is where they’ve been reinstated.
The Stowe Apollo design was based on a composite interpretation of several surviving 18th-century statues, including an Apollo in the collection of Historic Environment Scotland and another in the Royal Collection.
The research was conducted by Gillian Mason of the National Trust, and the statue was modelled in clay by Cliveden Conservation’s award-winning stone sculptor Jem Hobbs. The statue was then moulded and cast within Cliveden Conservation’s Norfolk workshop, which specialises in castings.
National Trust Curator Gillian Mason said: “Stowe is a garden full of classical references and meaning. It’s a landscape built on myths, legends, historical characters and events, where over one hundred sculptures once played a part in telling these stories. Bringing back statue groups like Apollo and the Muses to the gardens adds meaning and significance to this remarkable landscape.”
René Rice, Head of Decorative Arts, Cliveden Conservation, said: “It has been a privilege for Cliveden Conservation to work in collaboration with the National Trust on the completion of the statuary group ‘Apollo and the Nine Muses’ for Stowe’s 18th-century landscape garden. The installation of the statue of Apollo completes a project which began over four years ago.”
The return to Stowe may only be a small step for a Greek God, but it’s a giant leap in restoring Stowe’s Grade 1 listed landscape gardens.
Apollo and his Nine Muses will welcome visitors from the last week of April. For fans of Dr Who, the Nine Muses are the perfect spot for a picture with Stowe’s very own group of weeping angels. Apollo has informed us he will allow selfies if asked nicely.