Left: Marochetti's bronze life-size tortoises holding up one of the Italianate urns on the terrace of Kington Lacy. Right: Close-up of the tortoises.

Bronze tortoises by Baron Carlo Marochetti (1805-1867), 1853, on the terrace of Kingston Lacy in Dorset. William John Bankes, the current owner of the house, who had had it remodelled by Charles Barry, only took the very best men for his work, but it did occur to him that an important sculptor like Marochetti might soon be too busy to deal with such minor matters as plant-pot holders for outside the house — even if the plant pots in question were marble urns. Yet he loved tortoises, and the commission was given. Marochetti made sixteen of them for him, modelled on Bankes's own pet tortoise. "Think of my carrying a live Tortoise in a bag all the way from the Palais Royal!" Bankes wrote to his sister Anne, Countess of Falmouth, who was looking after the house and gardens for him during his enforced absence, while his brother George managed the estate as a whole.

He [Marochetti] had offered to super-intend & direct the casting of these for my upright vases, I knew his hands to be too full to think much of such trifles at his return, & moreover Tortoises bury themselves before the end of this month, so, the only way to make sure of having them this year in Bronze was to induce him to take one with him from home as his "compagnon de voyage," & I actually went and fetched it myself; which perhaps you will call to mind when you see it multiplied to the number of 16; the success of the casting of the first he writes me, has been admirable. ["A Passion for Tortoises"]

They are, in fact, very realistic and provide yet another proof of Marochetti's versatility!

Related Material

Photographs by the author. Many thanks to the National Trust at Kingston Lacy for permitting me to reproduce them here, and to Tricia and Iain Frew for arranging the visit to the house and making it so enjoyable. [Click on the images to produce larger pictures.]


"Kingston Lacy." Historic England. Web. 19 March 2018.

"A Passion for Tortoises." The Bankes Archive. Web. 19 March 2018.

Created 19 March 2018