Friday, 27 July 2012

Restoration Lions

Photos - Restoration Lions, a photo set on Flickr.

Video - Restoration Lions, a video on Facebook
It was a momentous (and nerve-wracking) day at Harlaxton today. The iconic Harlaxton Bronze Lions, loved by so many of us past and present, were removed from the Front Entrance Courtyard. Have no fear; they will be returning in September after a good clean and some minor repairs. This work is part of a major restoration of the Front Entrance Courtyard , including the Side Steps and Entrance Lodges, which has been made possible with a generous donation from the Schroeder Family. As you can see, it was a complex operation needing much care and attention.

The large bronze animal groupings were placed on Harlaxton Manor’s entry lodges by Mrs. Violet Van der Elst. They were sculpted and cast in Paris by the well-known French artist Auguste-Nicolas Cain. The "animalier school" of highly realistic creatures--both exotic and domestic--was popular in the mid-to-late 1800s. Cain concentrated his work on animals in their natural habitats, including somewhat gruesome scenes of conflict. Both of the massive, 1.8 ton Harlaxton bronzes are of this type. One grouping depicts a male and female lion sparring over the kill of a wild boar ('Lion et lionnes se disputant un sanglier'). This piece is dated 1878, and a twin exists in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris. Our second group is of two tigers fighting over the kill of a water buffalo. We know that a like grouping exists in Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow, and other single examples are found in New York's Central Park and now in the Philadelphia Zoo--moved from a street scape as it frightened the horses. Altogether there are six fine examples in the Tuileries, and others in the Luxembourg Gardens and at the Chateau de Chantilly.

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