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Treasures from Chatsworth: The Exhibition

Treasure of the Week: Walking Madonna by Elisabeth Frink

New York
The Devonshire Collection encompasses thousands of objects that have been carefully collected over 500 years. Because of this extraordinary breadth, choosing the 43 pieces that would travel to Sotheby's New York as part of the Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition was a challenging feat. Spotlighted here is one of the treasures that made the cut: Elisabeth Frink’s "Walking Madonna," one of the many sculptures that adorn the gardens and grounds at Chatsworth.

The garden at Chatsworth is a wonderful site for sculpture. Historic statuary, architectural features, summerhouses, eyecatchers and follies are part of a traditional English garden. The practice of placing sculpture in the garden continues with the introduction of contemporary works that are a vital punctuation among the planting and landscape architecture. The commissioning of new works for the garden at Chatsworth is essential to its continuing vitality. Artists bring their own way of interpreting how people use space, or show a new way of looking at the history that is written in the fabric of the landscape.

Details of Elisabeth Frink's Walking Madonna.

The artist Elisabeth Frink rarely tackled the female form, but Walking Madonna conveys complex feelings that are typical in her work. Frink was committed to the exploration of human nature: of suffering and salvation; pain and compassion; terror and tolerance. The angular figure of the Madonna, the coarse surface of her austere garments, her lined face and strong hands depict a life of hardship that has been met with strength. It is a rendering of a mother in grief and a figure alone, and yet she is compelled to move forwards and to persevere. At Chatsworth, the figure strides with purpose through the landscape, and in recent years, the Madonna has been placed in a grove of trees that create a cathedral-like space around the figure.

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