The frontally-seated crowned figure, dressed in a shoulder-cape and long robes, sits enthroned, his left foot on the lower step of the base, and his head turned to his left, a pose echoing Michelangelo's Moses. Base inscribed with a thunderbolt and the god's name, Thuner, in runic characters.
Thuner, the god of thunder, was one of the seven Saxon Deities executed by Rysbrack for Lord Cobham’s garden at Stowe, in Buckinghamshire. Each Saxon god was associated with a day of the week, and Thuner, the most powerful of the gods, was linked to Thursday. Originally placed in an open grove around an altar, by 1744 the statues were repositioned around the Gothic Temple of Liberty, designed by William Kent, and formed an integral part of the underlying political theme of the garden. The Saxon deities were separated after the Stowe sale of 1921, and the figure of Thuner reappeared in 1984 after having been in a Hampshire garden for over 60 years. The Saxon gods are tied in with the political iconography of Stowe, and symbolise Lord Cobham’s allegiance to the ideals of those Whigs who had broken away from Sir Robert Walpole. As such they symbolise an ancient British identity.
Sculpture, Room 23, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries, case FS
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Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London