Last month saw the return to Cliffe Castle of another key piece of artwork from the collection of Henry Isaac Butterfield, installed now in the the bay of Cliffe Castle’s Victorian Winter Garden.
The life-size statue of the Madonna and Child was bought for the House in the 1870s by the textile Millionaire Henry Isaac Butterfield and it was thought to have been lost when the contents were sold in 1950.
Rather miraculously sculpture historian Benedict Read spotted the statue in the grounds of St Anne’s Presbytery, Keighley and recognised it as an important work. We were then able to identify it as the missing Madonna and Child.
When we researched further, it showed that the sculpture had not been sold at the auction of 1950, but had instead been presented by Countess Manvers to St. Anne’s Church, Keighley where her grandfather Henry Isaac Butterfield once worshipped.
Following identification of the work the statue was restored and installed in the entrance area of St Anne’s.
In 2013 negotiations began to re-patriate it to Cliffe Castle , a project supported by Canon McCreadie and the congregation of St Anne’s and she returned to the building in mid-July.
The statue which dates from the 1870s was one of a number of artworks representing the Virgin Mary which were a feature of the Castle. Mr Butterfield is thought to have become a Catholic convert before his marriage to Mary (or Marie) Roosevelt Burke in the 1850s and the images reflect his faith.
The statue is very different to many images of the Madonna and Child. The group is much more informal and the young Christ leans against his mother’s knee in a naturalistic manner. A key feature of the composition is the snake which is coiling around a small lamb to the rear left of the work. The snake symbolises sin and is attempting to overcome the lamb a symbol of innocence and purity. The figure of Jesus is seen crushing the snake, innocence triumphing over evil.
We think she looks beautiful now in the conservatory, particuarly when the sunlight catches the marble. She’s very serene.