Three Goddesses

Joseph Nollekens
English, 1773 - 1776


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These three marble statues representing Minerva, Juno, and Venus formed part of a Judgment of Paris group. The Neoclassical goddesses accompanied a figure of Paris; now considered to be primarily a pastiche from the 1700s, the figure of Paris was then believed to be a heavily restored Roman marble statue, with parts perhaps dating to the 100s A.D. In the ancient mythological story, Paris judged who was the most beautiful among the three goddesses. Although the figures have a cool remoteness, a powerful narrative engagement animates the group in a way rare for sculpture of the 1700s. Indeed, the artist's conception of using a room as a stage for the narrative recalls Bernini's dramatic Baroque compositions.

Charles Watson-Wentworth, second Marquess of Rockingham, commissioned the three statues from English sculptor Joseph Nollekens. As a testament to his classical education and the taste he developed during his Grand Tour of Italy at age eighteen, the marquess assembled this group and other works in his Neoclassical sculpture gallery. The group was designed for the marquess's London house, and after 1782, taken to his heir's estate at Woodhouse, near Rotherham in Yorkshire.

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