News item from 2011


Ashmolean Museum Acquires Terracotta Model By Clodion

The Ashmolean is delighted to announce the acquisition of a terracotta model, designed by the French sculptor, Clodion (Claude Michel, 1738-1814). The Crucifixion With The Virgin Mary And St John was submitted by Clodion to the Chapter of Rouen Cathedral in August 1785, as part of a large-scale commission designed for the choir screen.

On loan to the Ashmolean since 2003, the acquisition has been purchased through Gurr Johns Ltd under the tax-concessionary scheme for private sales to museums, from Museum Trust Funds (Virtue-Tebbs, Madan, Bouch, Russell, and Jones funds), with the aid of The Art Fund, The Henry Moore Foundation, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the Ashmolean, the Elias Ashmole Group, Alain Moatti in honour of Timothy Wilson, Mrs. Charles Wrightsman through Americans for Oxford, Mr and Mrs J.A. Pye’s Charitable Settlement, Martin Foley, Michael Barclay, donations in memory of the Rev. John Reynolds and of Virginia Pasley, and numerous other private donations.

In 1771 the Chapter of Rouen Cathedral decided to proceed with the replacement of the medieval rood screen with a grandiose Neo-Classical plan, involving several of the leading sculptors and architects of the time. Over the next two decades the project was realized and set on giant iconic columns. In 1785 the Chapter commissioned from Clodion a large gilt-lead Crucifixion group to surmount the screen, which was installed in 1788. With changes in taste the screen came to be seen as inappropriate and was removed in 1884. The sculptural remains, including the figure of Christ, were further damaged by bombing in 1944.

Guilhem Scherf of the Louvre has written: “The choir screen of Rouen Cathedral was the work of some of the most remarkable artists of the age. Looking at the old photographs provokes a definite sense of melancholy at the disappearance of such an ensemble. The demolition of the Rouen screen is one example of the mutilation which the inflexible dictatorship of taste has irreversibly inflicted on our cathedrals”.

The Rouen scheme was Clodion’s greatest religious commission and one of the most ambitious Neo-Classical interventions in any French church. His model of The Crucifixion is effectively the only remaining evidence of it and one of a tiny number of religious works or works that may be described as neo-classical in feeling in his predominantly light-hearted oeuvre.

“It is an extremely special and important object in the history of sculpture in eighteenth-century France and by some margin, the most important sculptural acquisition the Ashmolean has made this century,” said Professor Timothy Wilson, Keeper of Western Art, Ashmolean Museum.

Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director, Ashmolean Museum, said “We are extremely grateful to the individuals and funding bodies for their generous contributions towards this superbly-modelled terracotta by Clodion. Despite the pre-eminent range and quality of the Ashmolean’s European sculpture collection, this will be the first Clodion sculpture to enter our permanent collections, enabling the Ashmolean to be one of the few museums in Britain to represent his work. The Crucifixion now forms the imposing centrepiece to the case of small sculpture in the Gallery of the Arts of the Eighteenth Century.”

The Art Fund
The Art Fund is the national charity for art, helping UK museums and galleries to buy, show and share art. Over the past 5 years, the Art Fund has given £24 million to buy art and supported a range of projects and programmes aimed at helping more people enjoy art. It is independently funded by 85,000 supporters who purchase a National Art Pass, costing from just £37.50, which gives free entry to over 200 museums, galleries and historic houses across the country as well as 50% off major exhibitions. Find out more about the Art Fund and how to buy a National Art Pass at Media contact 020 7225 4888,

The Friends of the Ashmolean Museum
The Friends of the Ashmolean play an active and important role in the Museum. Members are entitled to free entry to exhibitions and a wide variety of activities are organised throughout the year. Since the foundation of the Friends in 1969 they have donated over £1 million to the Museum. Visit

V&A Purchase Grant Fund
The V&A Purchase Grant Fund is a government fund that helps regional museums, record offices and specialist libraries in England and Wales to acquire objects relating to the arts, literature and history.It was established at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in 1881 and continues to be part of its nationwide work. The annual grants budget, currently £600,000, is now provided by Arts Council England (ACE). Each year, the Purchase Grant Fund considers some 250 applications and awards grants to around 100 organisations, enabling acquisitions of over £3 million to go ahead. Visit the website:



Related Links

Go to Top of Page