There are a few ways into Waddesdon Manor, and since we were staying only a mile away, we decided to walk. This is the largest property in the National Trust collection, and judging by the size of the car park and idling shuttle buses, it’s the most visited as well. Tourists line up by the dozens to be carted up the massive front lawn and deposited at the foot of the manor. Those tourists making the journey to Waddesdon Manor by bus or car will briefly pass through four statues and hardly give them a second glance. Those of us fortunate enough to take the walk have the opportunity to walk past a plaque that tells you all about the statues and how they came to be where they are (and when!).
They warrant a post dedicated to them for several reasons and one is that they likely get overlooked. Waddesdon Manor is immense and filled with the finest treasures from around the world, all of which are of the highest craftwork. Once people pass these statues they will likely be completely forgotten, and we don’t want that to happen!
Waddesdon Manor Statues
These four statues were sculpted by Giacomo Cassetti, who lived from 1682-1757 and used to sit at the old entrance to Waddesdon Manor, by Grand Lodge on the A41. I don’t know where this is and likely you don’t either. It’s kinda like telling somebody to turn left at the old tree that was struck by lightning in ’62 (you know, over by the Johnson farm…). Suffice it to say that they were somewhere else for along time, and were moved to their current location in 1960.
They are called the Four Continents, and are representations of the four parts of the world as they were known by Europeans at the time. This is the other reason these statues at Waddesdon Manor are so interesting. They give you a clear idea of how the world was divided and considered at the time by a specific group of people.
Four Continents: Ammerica
America wears feathers in her hair and down her neck arms and thighs. Her foot rests on an alligator and the severed head of a man. She is the only one of the four statues bearing her breast.
Four Continents: Europa
The statue of Europe holds a church and a scepter and behind her is a horse. This seems say that Europe was thought (by Europeans) to be the last word in moral authority and knowledge.
Four Continents: Asia
The statue of Asia holds a censer hanging from chains and a bouquet of flowers. A camel crouches behind her. I’m not sure if the European vision of Asia ended in what we call the Middle East or Mongolia, but the camel suggests so.
Four Continents: Africa
The statue of Africa wears a coral ornament and is holding a snake. A lion crouches between her feet and she has a lions mask over her head. All the other sculptures here have somewhat placid and serene expressions on their faces. Africa has a surly sneer and a malformed face and mouth. It seems to say that Africa is wild but those living there have tamed it to the best of their ability. Interestingly enough she also has what looks to be a chain around her neck.
If you are visiting Waddesdon Manor and are able bodied, I would encourage you to take the walk from the car park to the manor itself. It takes a bit longer, but there are a few things along the way that are worth noting. Like the Four Continents by Giacomo Cassetti! It’s a brief moment of calm before the visual assault of Waddesdon Manor.