A passionate sculpture collector, the 6th Duke of Devonshire commissioned Antonio Canova to carve a work and gave the artist free reign. The result is The Sleeping Endymion, a luminous neoclassical marble. Nearly 200 years later, the 12th Duke of Devonshire and the Duchess similarly placed their trust in an artist of their time, Jacob van der Beugel. “I wanted to create something that tied the beautiful portraits by artists like Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Reynolds, Sargent, and really find a contemporary way of dealing with ancestry and inheritance,” says van der Beugel of his work, a permanent installation of architectural ceramics. At once richly tactile and minimalist, the work consists of 650 panels, which hold handmade ceramic blocks whose patterns correspond to the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence for human mitochondrial DNA, with inserts for the personal DNA of the Duke, the Duchess, their son and their daughter-in-law. Like Canova’s, this commission is one for the ages.
ANTONIO CANOVA, THE SLEEPING ENDYMION, 1819–22. COMMISSIONED BY: WILLIAM CAVENDISH, 6TH DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE.