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Figure - Vulcan (or possibly Prometheus) chained to a rock
  • Vulcan (or possibly Prometheus) chained to a rock
    David, Claude
  • Enlarge image

Vulcan (or possibly Prometheus) chained to a rock

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1710 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    David, Claude (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Purchased using funds from the John Webb Trust

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 22, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries, case FS, shelf WS

The figure is closely related to David's statue of St Bartholomew in the church of S. Maria di Carignano in Genoa, Italy. Malcolm Baker has suggested that it's one of the few free-standing sculptures of mythological figures to have been executed by a sculptor working in England in the first half of the 18th century'.

Although traditionally thought to represent the mythical Prometheus, chained to a rock by the god Jupiter, the figure probably represents Vulcan. The diary of Sir Matthew Decker, who saw the piece in its original setting in 1728, provides an explanation of its symbolism. Placed on the landing half-way up the main staircase, the figure was intended to be accompanied by a further figure of William III, as part of an allegorical representation of how William's arrival in England and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 had averted a civil war. 'Vulcan is accordingly represented as chained, rather than fashioning the instruments of war.'

Physical description

Vulcan is shown chained and manacled to a rock, with his tools, a hammer, pincers and an anvil. He is bearded, looking upwards, almost naked except for a small piece of swirling drapery around his right leg.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1710 (made)


David, Claude (maker)

Materials and Techniques



Length: 86.5 cm, Weight: 181 kg figure and base

Object history note

This sculpture was originally on the staircase of Narford Hall in Norfolk. It was commissioned by Sir Andrew Fountaine. Pruchased at the sale of the collection of Sir Andrew Fountaine, held at Sotheby's, Parke, Bernet&Co, London, on 11 December 1980, lot 221. There it was described as Prometheus. Bought for £4460 using funds from the John Webb Trust.

Descriptive line

Figure, marble, 'Vulcan (or Prometheus) chained to a rock', by Claude David, English, ca. 1710

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

M. Whinney, Sculpture in Britain 1530-1830 (revised by J. Physick), London, (second edition), 1988 p449, note 15.
Bilbey, Diane with Trusted, Marjorie, British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2002, 522 p., ISBN 1-85177-395-9.
A. W. Moore Norfolk and the Grand Tour (Exhibition Catalogue), Norfolk Museums Service, 1985, p31
C. Ceschi, Monumenti della Liguria e la Guerra 1940-45, Genoa, 1949, p51
Malcolm Baker Figured in Marble. The Making and Viewing of Eighteenth-Century Sculpture, London, 2000, p16, pl. 16
Bilbey, Diane and Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470-2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2002, p. 71, cat.no 95
Gunnis, R., Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851, (revised edition, first published London 1953), London, 1968, p. 121

Production Note

Although this sculpture was called 'Vulcan' in an early 18th century inventory, it may represent Prometheus, who was chained to a rock for stealing fire from the Gods.



Subjects depicted



Sculpture; Myths & Legends


Sculpture Collection

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