“Scene of the Deluge” by Matthieu Kessells 1784 - 1836
Carved from Alabaster marble
This sculpture is to be found inside the Orangery itself (originally inside the Castle) , and is what many people would consider to be a “traditional” sculpture. It was made by a German sculptor named Matthieu Kessells, as a gift for Thomas Mansel Talbot in 1817. At this time the Mansel – Talbot family (who owned the Margam Estate) were accumulating works of art, and sculptures in particular, to adorn the rooms and hallways of the newly built Margam Castle. They were an extremely wealthy family, and acquired works of art from all corners of the World.
“The Scene of the Deluge” is a large sculpture. The three figures contained within it are almost life size. The approximate size of the whole sculpture would be about twelve feet. The sculpture is made from white alabaster, a hard, white, chalky substance, used to recreate the effect of much more expensive marble. The surface of the figures are very smooth, and the whole sculpture has obviously been delicately sculpted. The figures are very realistic, well proportioned, and carved in great detail. It is situated in the Orangery, and although this was not its original site (that was in the hallway of the castle itself), its present position is very suitable. The large airy Orangery complements the statue, the natural sunlight streaming through the large windows highlight the lifelike features delicate folds of material with light and shade.
The theme of the statue is the “Scene of the Deluge”, a religious parody, showing an emotional fight for survival. If you look at the sculpture from different angles you will see three different “death grips”, all relating to survival. Kessells expresses the pain and effort of survival, each figure desperately clings on to each other and life itself. The main grip is that of the man, who looks over the woman and baby as they grasp each other. If his grip should fail, then the woman and baby would perish. The woman has a grip around the man’s ankle, and a desperate grip of the baby. The baby clings to its mother, pulling at the cloth of her dress.
This sculpture might even today be a parody of the eventual fate of the Talbot family, as the death of Lady Emily Talbot at the beginning of this century meant that the Talbot family no longer existed as she was the last remaining family member, had not married and had no children.