Monday, 18 July 2016

A Cavendish Monument

So, talking of 17th-century church monuments, these allegorical figures, carved with extraordinary, surely non-native skill, adorn the tomb of Ann Keighley (died 1627), wife of William Cavendish, the first Duke of Devonshire, in the church of St John the Baptist, Ault Hucknall. The church, near the Elizabethan prodigy house Hardwick Hall, is grander than might be expected for its remote location, but it is still a huge surprise to find monumental sculpture of this quality and in this stlye in a Derbyshire village church.
 The figures represent Modesty, Prudence, Love, Obedience and Piety, and they have evidently been knocked about a bit; three are headless. They look thoroughly Italian, as does the tomb on which they stand, which is topped by a kind of hipped roof from the corbels of which spring the five statues. Nothing much seems to be known about this extraordinary monument, and no names have (as far as I can find out) been suggested for its maker.
 By a quirk of history, this obscure village church also contains the tomb of the great English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who lived for many years in the care of the Cavendish family. His handsome tomb slab, with a Latin inscription celebrating his learning and renown, lies at the foot of Ann Keighley's monument. He died at Hardwick at the grand age of 91, kept fit (according to Aubrey) by much walking, the occasional game of (real) tennis, and, when he was sure no one was about, singing at the top of his voice.

1 comment:

  1. I am informed that the sculpture is more likely Netherlandish (though of course the inspiration is Italian).