The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dying Gauls

A life-sized bronze statue of The Dying Gaul at Iford Manor

The Dying Gaul at Rousham Garden was made by Peter Scheemakers in the early 1740s

It wasn't until I was looking through all my photographs of the Passionate Gardener's Tour last May, that I noticed two of the gardens had versions of the same statue called The Dying Gaul. I had vaguely heard of The Dying Gaul from the 2005 film with the same name, but I needed to do some research to understand the historical significance of the statue in these gardens. 

The most famous Dying Gaul statue was created from marble during the first or second century AD, and is located at the the Capitoline Museum in Rome. It is a copy of a bronze Greek original made a century earlier. The original statue, which was lost, or more likely melted down, was made by by the Hellenistic sculptor, Epigonos. The Dying Gaul was a monument to commemorate Hellenistic victories over the invading Gauls in what is now Turkey. The statue depicts the final moments of a Gallic warrior. When the Roman statue was brought to the United Sates, Earl A. Powell III, director ofNational Gallery of Art stated that, "the Dying Gaul is a deeply moving tribute to the human spirit. An image of a conquered enemy, the sculpture represents courage in defeat, composure in the face of death and dignity.”

William Kent, who designed the gardens at Rousham from 1733-1740, chose this statue to highlight the military background of his client, General James Dormer-Cottrell. The statue at Iford Manor, an Italianate garden designed by Harold Peto in the early part of the 20th Century, was a much newer reproduction made of bronze. Petro was a devotee of Italian gardens and liked to use ancient fragments of masonry and old buildings to create a feeling of the past in his gardens.

You can see both gardens and statues this September, when I will be hosting a tour called Late Summer Gardens of Southern England. For the itinerary, look here. For more details, visit the Discover Europe website here. If you have any questions, you can reach me directly at


  1. I did a double take when I saw those photos. I remember the one at Rousham but when our garden touring schedule got too busy, we took Anne Wareham's advice to skip Iford Manor, which she said wasn't looking good on their last visit. I think I'll always regret that decision. (Sorry, Anne.) I'd love to go on one or your garden tours one day.

  2. I have been to Iford Manor twice and I thought it was in excellent condition. We had a engaging tour with the owner, Mr John Hignett, who clearly loves the garden and its history. I think you would have liked it. I'd love you to join me on one of the tours!

  3. Next month I'll be at Iford for the 3rd or 4th time as part of a garden tour I'm hosting. Mr. Hignett does indeed love the garden and is a delightful person to talk to. It was my impression that he and his wife rather than Peto added the Dying Gaul to the garden. I will ask about that.

    And yes, James, a pity that you didn't get to Iford. I like it very much and am keen to see how the work that's been done recently.

    1. Pat,
      Thanks for clarifying that for me. Let me know what you find out. I didn't ask Mr. Hignett about it. I only noticed that it was of The Dying Gaul when I returned.
      Pat, how can I find the itinerary of your tour?

    2. Finally back from another glorious tour of English gardens. I asked John Hignett about the Dying Gaul and you were quite right, it was Peto's addition.

      The itinerary for the tour isn't posted anywhere. But I can tell you we saw some amazing places, including Trematon Castle, Wildside, Spilsbury Farm, Penny Hobhouse's tiny garden The Dairy Barn, Plaz Metaxu, Stavordale Priory, Malveryleys, Hinton Ampner, Hauser & Wirth, Knightshayes, Cothay Manor, Farrs, West Green House, Hestercombe and more!

    3. Thanks, Pat, for doing the Dying Gaul detective work! Sounds like your tour was fantastic! Any favorite gardens?

    4. Yes, Plaz Metaxu, Spilsbury Farm as the two I could live in, albeit for different reasons. Stavordale Priory for the romance of the setting. Iford Manor for its integrity. Malverleys for the richness of the plantings. plus... choosing a favourite is hard!

    5. Thanks, Pat. I will do some research on your suggestions. I have the same problem choosing a favorite garden. I assigned a difficult task I'm afraid!



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