English lead statues of a stag and doe standing quietly majestic. Copies of the originals found in 1756 in the garden of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum.
The Roman city of Herculaneum, not far from Pompeii, is five miles from Mount Vesuvius but when the volcano erupted in 79 CE the whole town was buried with ash and lava to a depth of twenty meters. Herculaneum was completely lost until the early eighteenth century.
Another almost identical female deer was found with the stag, along with remnants of a third, now lost. The villa where it was found was very large and was clearly a home of great luxury and wealth; it was filled with sculpture, mosaics and wall paintings. The originals were made in bronze and currently reside in the Naples Museum.
The pair shown here are lead and were most probably copied in the mid 1800s.
As Gertrude Jekyll the famous English garden designer pronounced firmly "There can scarcely be a doubt that the happiest material for our garden sculpture and ornament is lead."
Lead has been used to decorate and shape English gardens for centuries. It's a wonderful and durable material that is naturally resistant to any type of corrosion and cracking as well as impervious to harsh winters, sea-salt air, and inclement environments. When left exposed to wind, weather, and time, it will develop a beautiful grey patina that will last generations.
To learn about the history of English lead ornamentation, please visit ourblog.