Borghese Gladiator Statue To Be Restored To Whitby Abbey

By Culture24 Staff | 07 January 2009
  • Archived article
A picture of an iron statue, half completed, with a head

The statue will stand outside the visitor centre at the Abbey

A life-size statue of a sword-toting warrior is to be restored to the abbey where it stood more than 300 years ago as part of a £5.7 million project by English Heritage.

A picture of men in red overalls working in a warehouse

Whitby Abbey's Borghese Gladiator being cast in the London studio of Rupert Harris

The Borghese Gladiator, which is believed to have guarded the Banqueting House at Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire during the 17th century, will be restored by Royal Household conservators Rupert Harris with a mould taken from the bronze of the same model in the Royal Collection.

A picture of a man with a safety mask on his face creating the iron cast of a 17th century warrior

A multi-million pound restoration project is helping to fund the cast

Jeremy Reed, English Heritage Visitor Operations Director for the North, said the scheme was “fascinating.”

"Thanks to the Whitby Headland Project, we have been able to unearth a wealth of information about the post-dissolution period, when Sir Hugh Cholmley brought a very different kind of glamour to the Abbey Headland with his new house, works of art and cobbled gardens,” he revealed.

A picture of the warrior with bits of textile still around the half-completed cast

The warrior figure will hold a sword and shield

“Restoring the gladiator to the centre of the courtyard will set the seal on a decade of work to restore the Abbey Headland's glory."

The original marble Borghese statue was uncovered during excavations in Italy sometime before 1611. Signed by the sculptor Agasias of Ephesus, it was dated to about 100 BC, but was probably based on a much earlier Greek original.

A grand example of classical sculpture of the period, it was named after the Pope's powerful aide, Cardinal Borghese, who held it in his collection, and was originally acquired by King James I through an agent in Rome.

Masons in York have also been commissioned to create the stone plinth from which the gladiator will view the North Sea ahead of a predicted public unveiling in the Spring.

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