As you enter through the Front Door of Polesden Lacey, you pass through a room called the Lobby. This room often gets overlooked by many of our visitors as a passageway through to the main house, but we have many interesting collection items in this space, not least the Polesden Lacey post box and a large holy water stoup made from Verona marble, which serves as a rather ornate planter. Stationed around the room, like guards, are also five marble busts.
The busts date from the early late nineteenth century and were sculpted by John Hutchison (1832-1910), a Scottish sculptor, based in Edinburgh. Therefore it seems likely that the busts were bought by William McEwan when he still lived in Edinburgh, and were later brought down to Polesden Lacey where they sat in the Entrance Hall, as they do now. John Hutchinson was a prolific sculptor and his other works include the bust of Sir Walter Scott which sits in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. He must have been well respected as a sculptor to have earnt such a commission.
We know that the bust above, of William McEwan Esq. was exhibited at The Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, The Sixtieth, during the Spring of 1886. John Hutchison was an Academician of the Royal Scottish Academy. This organization was founded in 1826, 58 years after the Royal Academy was founded in London, to promote and support the creation, understanding, and enjoyment of visual arts.
Although the busts are relatively modern compared with many in National Trust collections, they still require plenty of care from the house team. They are cleaned using a hogs hair brush – we use this to flick the dust off the marble into an ergo vacuum cleaner, to avoid it settling elsewhere. Being in the entrance to the house, the busts certainly get their fair share of dust so regular cleaning is a necessity!
Next time you visit Polesden Lacey, why not pause a while as you enter the house, to take a better look at our marbles.