A statue of Mercury and Cupid probably of the late C17 on a C19 pedestal, thought to be by C G Cibber.
Reasons for Designation
The statue of Mercury and Cupid, East side of Long Canal, Wrest Park, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Artistic interest: This late-C17 statue is of good quality, and may be the work of the noted sculptor C G Cibber;
* Historic Interest: It is associated with the late-C17 designed landscape at Wrest Park, laid out by the 11th Duke of Kent;
* Group Value: For its contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden and its association with many other listed buildings.
Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the Middle Ages until the early C20. Today’s landscape had its origins in the C17 when Anthony, the 11th Earl of Kent, made alterations to the house and started the laying out of the formal landscape around it. In 1702, Wrest became the property of Henry de Grey who, by 1710, had become the12th Duke of Kent. Henry was determined to improve the status of Wrest. At this time the gardens to the south were enlarged, alterations made to the water courses, and a number of garden buildings were constructed. A summer house was placed by the mill pond and a greenhouse was added to the Orange Garden. The architect Thomas Archer was responsible for many of these structures including the Pavilion (Grade I) which marked the southern limit of the garden as defined by the Old Brook. The alignment of the Old Brook is still maintained as the boundary between the parishes of Silsoe and Gravenhurst. Cain Hill was incorporated into the landscape as an eye catcher, its presence emphasised by the geometric axis which, eventually, led east from the house and north-east from the Archer Pavilion partly in the form of avenues.
In the 1720s additional land was acquired, various alterations to the canals were carried out and several garden buildings were commissioned, from the Italian architects Filippo Juvarra and Giacomo Leoni, but also from others, predominantly Nicholas Hawksmoor, William Kent and James Gibbs. Of these the Temple of Diana (now demolished), the West Half House (Grade II) and the East Half House (Grade II) were built. The allees (avenues) and squares, either side of the Great Canal, were also created by 1726 marking the peak of the formal garden at Wrest. Two plans drawn by Rocque in 1735 and 1737 illustrate some of these changes. In 1729 work resumed with additions including an amphitheatre to the north of the bowling green and the creation of the serpentine canal. A greenhouse (on the site of the current Orangery) and the addition to, and enlargement of Bowling Green House (Grade II*) were also completed, both by Batty Langley.
The statue of Mercury and Cupid dates to the late C17 and is probably associated with the 11th Duke of Kent's ownership of the estate, when the Parterres and Long Water were established, and is thought to be by the renowned sculptor C G Cibber (1630-1700). Based on Giambologna's bronze of Mercury of 1588, the statue appears to have been moved to its current location in the late C19. The statue has been previously broken; one wing from the helmet is missing and in addition to other minor damage, the right arm and head has been detached and restored. The statue is very weathered, and some traces of earlier paint are apparent.
MATERIALS: Portland Stone
DESCRIPTION: Statue with square pedestal beneath.
The statue is approximately 2.5m high. Mercury's right arm is raised pointing to the sky, his left hand to the ground, perhaps in a gesture of flight. Drapery falls from his right hand, partially covering his body. The winged cupid at his feet is tying a sandal to his foot. His quiver is on his back and his bow laid on the ground.
The pedestal is C19. The corners of the moulded cap and base sections have curved corners and the die is square.
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 25/05/2012