Fragment of decoration, half length figure of Cupid
- Place of origin:
London, England (probably, made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
British Galleries, room 58e, case WN
This fragment of a terracotta relief depicts a Cupid figure, which may have supported a shield or other device. The relief was produced as an element in the architectural decoration for the exterior of Suffolk Place, Southwark, London. This and other reliefs were excavated on the site of the house in 1937.
Suffolk Place, a vast house built by Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk between 1518 and 1522, is the earliest example of a Tudor courtyard house known to have carried this type of extensive terracotta decoration. This use of terracotta quickly became fashionable and appeared on other buildings commissioned by Henry VIII's courtiers, including Cardinal Wolsey's York Place (later Whitehall) and Hampton Court Palace.
Charles Brandon was an orphan raised at the court of Henry VII and became a life-long friend of Henry VIII, who made him 1st Duke of Suffolk in 1514. The Duke was one of Henry VIII's most powerful courtiers, marrying Henry's sister, Mary, in 1518.
Materials & Making
The relief is made of moulded clay which was dried and fired to create terracotta (literally 'cooked earth'), a material suitable for use as external decoration. The scale of building projects such as Suffolk Place was vast and by using a cheap raw material and a reproductive method of manufacture, the buildings could be decorated economically and speedily.
Relief in pale pink terracotta. The half length figure of Cupid with short curly hair nearly full face showing the right wing only. The left arm is raised, the right across his chest. The lower left hand corner and an uncertain amount of the lower part broken away.
Place of Origin
London, England (probably, made)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 23.5 cm, Width: 19 cm, Depth: 11 cm
Object history note
Made in London for Suffolk Place, Southwark, the house of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk (died in 1545). Found during excavations in 1937 for a new building for Messrs Mosers on the site of Suffolk, the place of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, brother-in-law to Henry VIII. Given to the Museum by Messrs Mosers Ltd, Iron Steel & Hardware Merchants, Borough High Street, Southwark, London in 1938, together with cat. nos. 33 to 43.
Relief, fragment of a decoration, terracotta, showing Cupid, from Suffolk Place, Southwark, the house of Charles Brandon, England (London), 1518-1522
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Bilbey, Diane with Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V& A Publications, 2002. pp. 28. cat. no.35
Review [1911-1938], Victoria & Albert Museum. Review of the Principal Acquisitions during the Year, London, 1938
Gunn and Lindley. 'Charles Brandon's Westhorpe: an Early Tudor Courtyard House in Suffolk', Archaeological Journal., CXLV, 1988, pp.280
Morris, Richard K, 'Architectural Terracotta Decoration in Tudor England' in Lindley, Paul, Frangenberg, Thomas (ed.) Secular Sculpture 1300-1550 Stamford, 2000, pp.179-209.
Lindley, P, review of Homand, M, 'The Early Tudor Country House: Architecture and Politics 1490-1550' Oxford Art Journal. XI/I, 1988, pp.65, 66
Gurn, S.J and Lindley, P.G. 'Charles Brandon's Westhorpe: An Early Tudor Courtyard House in Suffolk' Archaeological Journal CXLV, 1988, p. 280, pl. XXIC.
Rendle, William and Norman, Philips Inns of Old Southwark and their associations. London: Longmans, Green. 1888. p.265
Labels and date
These terracottas were fired like bricks in a kiln, but were probably made from finer, denser clays. They were mass-produced and used mainly to decorate exterior brickwork. The motifs shown here are fragments of pilaster ornament and of a winged cherub, which may originally have supported a coat of arms. The winged female head evokes the spirit of ancient Rome and may be derived from a classical motif. Similar works are found elsewhere in Europe, and these examples may show the influence of Italian sculptors working in England. [27/03/2003]
Sculpture; Architectural fittings