The Mount Stuart Gallery Goddesses - who is your Gallery Goddess?
Although Mount Stuart is not currently open to the public, we are delighted to share the creation story behind the Gallery in the Marble Hall– and to introduce you to the great array of Goddesses who adorn the Gallery’s vaulted ceiling. You are also invited to join our creative competition by producing your own Gallery Goddess! Scroll down for further details- We look forward receiving your entry.
Mount Stuart House is the deeply personal creation of John Crichton–Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute (1847 – 1900) and a place where he realised many of his varied interests and passions. Being surrounded by women from a young age may have shaped his progressive outlook on women rights and his modern attitude towards marriage. Bute was also a father who had a strong, lifelong bond with his first born child and only daughter, Lady Margaret Crichton-Stuart (1875-1954).
As a polyglot and a keen advocate of scholarship, he took great interest in supporting his daughter’s education. While the finishing touches were being made to the interior decoration of Mount Stuart’s Marble Hall in the early 1890s, Margaret was learning about ancient mythology and working hard studying the Greek language. So, when deciding on the embellishment for the first floor Gallery, the 3rd Marquess chose to commission 128 portraits of mythological heroines from the artist and architect Horatio Walter Lonsdale to adorn the Gallery vaults. The idea was that his daughter had, quite literally, the greatest array of female role models to look up to.
As a result, the ceiling was decorated with winding branches from the ‘tree of life’, which frame the classical heads of 128 female figures from ancient myth and legend. To aid Margaret in her studies, the Goddesses were named alongside their pencil and watercolour portraits in Greek uncials - except for the heroines of German literature such as Wagner’s Valkyrie, Brünnhilde.
In February 1897 Lonsdale wrote a letter to the 3rd Marquess of Bute, telling him that he had “started the drawings for the specimen piece of the First Floor Corridor [Gallery] Vault decoration”, in reference to his cartoon for the Greek goddess Hera. This very cartoon - along with rest of the 128 Gallery Goddesses - is today preserved in the Bute Archive at Mount Stuart.
Focusing on these exquisite designs, we would like to introduce you to some of our favourite goddesses over the next few weeks.
Create your own Gallery Goddess competition
Using the Gallery Goddess portrait, we would love to see what inventive ways you can adorn your Goddess. You could use feathers, sequins, pens and pencils to decorate your Gallery Goddess - what ingenious materials will you decide to use?
Simply download and print the PDF template below to get started. Please send a photograph of your entries to email firstname.lastname@example.org, for the one-off chance to view these unique cartoons by Horatio Walter Lonsdale alongside their finished counterparts. Who is your Gallery Goddess?
Not into the arty side of things? Satisfy your mind with our Gallery Goddess wordsearch instead!
Given the time of the year, our first goddess has to be Flora. In Roman mythology Flora is the goddess of flowers and the season of spring – the time for new things to blossom, for fresh beginnings and new life. Flora is also one of the fertility goddesses and therefore closely associated with birth and birth giving. Her festival, the Floralia, was held between April 28 and May 3 and celebrated the renewal of the cycle of life. Although she did not occupy a high rank in the hierarchy of deities Flora was one of the oldest and most important goddesses. In order to secure their crops and, by extension their survival, people brought her many sacrifices. Flora’s sister was Fauna, the goddess of animals and together they represented nature in general, the animal and the plant world.
In his design for the 3rd Marquess of Bute Lonsdale shows Flora with a floral wreath, possibly consisting of forget-me-nots, around her blond, wavy hair. The bottom right hand corner of the image shows the top part of a cornucopia, a horn of plenty, overflowing with flowers including a rose, a lily and possibly campanulas.
This week’s Gallery Goddess is Diana, goddess of the Hunt and the Moon. As per the Roman mythology Diana was closely related to the forest and the animals and, in art, she is often shown in the company of a hunting dog or deer. Her association with the moon is often captured by embellishing her hair with a crescent moon. As a virgin goddess, she pledged never to get married and was worshipped as a protector of young women and childbirth.
In his original design Lonsdale has chosen to show the top of the quiver of arrows and bow thus leaning on one of the most common ways of illustrating Diana as a young huntress. The word ‘gold’ is written in pencil next to the lettering, the top of the quiver and the shoulder strap which secures the quiver to Diana’s shoulder. These are clear reminders to pick out certain elements in gold leaf so as to add interest and sparkle to the finished work when hit by light, both natural and artificial. Electric lighting was one of the exciting and novel features of Mount Stuart when it was first built and the Gallery was fitted with beautifully designed lights by Robert Weir Schultz which likely served to enhance the view of the ceiling.
Amongst the 128 goddesses depicted on the ceiling Lonsdale has also included Diana’s Greek counterpart, Artemis. While Greek mythology was recorded in Homer’s ancient epic poem The Iliad around the 8th century BC, the Roman poet Virgil chronicled Roman mythology in the Aeneid around 700 years. He based the characters on their Greek predecessors and renamed them in Latin. Diana can therefore be considered equal to Artemis and vice versa. The renaming is also evident in the names of the two goddess’s parents: while Diana was born to Jupiter and Latona, Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Leto. Her twin brother was Apollo bearing the same name in each mythology.
It seems that the goddess’s many associations inspired Lonsdale to show these different facets in two separate and different designs: while Diana is depicted as the young huntress, Artemis is portrayed as the Moon goddess with a crescent moon fixed to the veil that’s covering her hair. By splitting what is essentially the one goddess into two designs the intention may also have been educational.