Trentham Gardens Perseus statue to face a new epic journey
A FOUR-TONNE statue of Greek mythological hero Perseus is to be transported more than 160 miles from its home in North Staffordshire to take part in an international art exhibition.
The 3.7-metre bronze sculpture, which sits at the head of the lake at Trentham Gardens, was brought to Stoke-on-Trent from Italy 165 years ago by the estate's wealthy owners.
And now it is poised to make another journey – this time to London to join an exhibition held by the Royal Academy of Arts (RAA) this autumn.
The RAA will send specialist contractors to shift the statue, which weighs the same as an average adult elephant, using ropes and pulleys.
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It will then be exhibited in the capital alongside other bronze sculptures from across Europe, Africa and Asia.
Michael Walker, gardens and estate manager at Trentham Gardens, said: "It really is thrilling. It's hard to put into words. We feel like we've entered Chelsea Flower Show and walked away with the first prize. It's a very special statue, and one we're extremely proud of."
Perseus, a demi-god who was sent on an epic journey to bring back the head of Medusa, is a true copy of a statue created by the Italian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini in Florence between 1548 and 1550.
It was made on the orders of the second Duke of Sutherland in around 1840, and shipped over to Trentham.
Perseus is the only copy of Cellini's masterpiece, and demonstrates 19th century England's fascination with the Florentine High Renaissance.
The style can be seen in many surviving features at Trentham Hall, such as the ornate stone carvings and fountains.
Mr Walker said: "What is most significant about Perseus is not simply the association with Benvenuto Cellini, and its sheer size, but also its positioning at Trentham. Sitting on a pedestal, surrounded by stone columns designed by Sir Charles Barry, Perseus stands prominently between Capability Brown's mile-long lake, some quintessentially English countryside, and Charles Barry's vast Italian Garden."
The Sutherlands stopped using Trentham as one of their homes at the turn of the century, and Trentham Hall was demolished in 1911 before the Trentham Gardens Pleasure Park opened in the 1920s.
The Sutherlands continued to run Trentham Gardens until 1979.
Ownership then changed hands a couple of times before St Modwen bought the whole 725-acre estate in 1996. By that time Perseus was in a very poor condition and, on the advice of English Heritage, the statue was restored by conservationist Rupert Harris in London, and reinstalled in 2004.
It was Mr Harris who suggested it as a worthy exhibit for the RAA's exhibition.
Mike Herbert, regional director for St Modwen, recalls visiting the studios as Perseus was being restored.
He said: "I got into a London cab as I left the building and telephoned the office, saying 'there's a massive hole in his leg and his right arm has been taken off, but he should be alright'. You should have seen the taxi driver's face."
The exhibition, called Bronze, runs at the main galleries of the Royal Academy from September 15 to December 9.
Visitors to Trentham have until the end of August to see Perseus before he leaves. He will be returned when the exhibition ends.