Manual Ref* NFbreLY001 Show 11 images 38

Fighting Bulls

County Norfolk   District Council Breckland 
Civil Parish or equivalent Lynford  Town/Village* Lynford 
Road Entrance to Lynford Hall 
Precise Location Entrance to Lynford Hall 
OS Grid Ref TL817940  Postcode IP26 
Previous location(s) Paris Salon, 1864, Gardens of Lynford Hall overlooking lake (Country Life November 1903) 
Setting Outside  Access Public 
Artist/Maker Role Qualifier
Jean Baptiste Clésinger  Sculptor(s)   

Commissioned by

Mrs Lyne Stephens 

Design & Constrn period

1863, 1864 exhibited Paris Salon no. 2555 

Date of installing


Exact date of unveiling

First in gardens at rear 


Abstract Animal Architectural
Commercial Commemorative Composite
Free Functional Funerary
Heraldic Military Natural
Non-Commemorative Performance Portable
Religious Roadside, Wayside Sculptural
Temporary, Mobile Other  

Object Type

Building Clock Tower Architectural
Coat of Arms Cross Fountain
Landscape Marker Medallion
Mural Panel Readymade
Relief Shaft Sculpture
Statue Street Furniture War Memorial
Other Object Sub Type: Statue of two fighting bulls

Subject Type

Allegorical Mythological Pictorial
Figurative Non-figurative Portrait
Still-life Symbolic Other

Subject Sub Type

Bust Equestrian Full-length
Group Head Reclining
Seated Standing Torso
Part Material Dimension
Fighting bulls  Marble  H 130 cm L 270 cm D 60cm 
Plinth  Stone  H 120 cm W 320 cm D 60 cm 

Work is

Extant Not Sited Lost


Forestry Commission 

Listing status

Grade I Grade II* Grade II Don't Know Not Listed

Surface Condition

Corrosion, Deterioration Accretions
Bird Guano Abrasions, cracks, splits
Biological growth Spalling, crumbling
Metallic staining Previous treatments
Detail: The group is filthy and in poor condition with biological growth

Structural Condition

Armature exposed Broken or missing parts
Replaced parts Loose elements
Cracks, splits, breaks, holes Spalling, crumbling
Water collection Other
Detail: There are cracks at the back of the group of bulls, and both bulls have lost their tails and horns and there is damage to neck of the left-hand bull, and losses from his shoulders


Graffiti Structural damage Surface Damage

Overall condition

Good Fair Poor


No Known Risk At Risk Immediate
Signatures/Marks At the bottom edge of the sculptural group: COMBAT DES TAUREAUX CAMPAGNE DE ROME J. CLESINGER 1863 

Description (physical)

Two bulls sprawl with their horns locked in combat. To the front they have knocked over a fragment of a column- which indicates the Roman Campagna. At their back grass and flowers are flattened in their struggle. 

Description (iconographical)

The group was chosen for the gardens of Lynford Hall overlooking the lake by Stephens Lyne-Stephens' widow. A French dancer (Yolande Duverney b. 1812) she made her reputation in Paris and London in the 1830s before becoming Lyne- Stephens' mistress from 1837 and later wife. Stephens Lyne-Stephens (1801-1860) had inherited a vast fortune (he was reputed to be the richest man in Great Britain) and like other nouveaux-riches in the 1850s bought a country house with a huge estate and imitated Tudor models in his rebuilding. He acquired the run down Lynford Hall together with 8000 acres in July 1856 and suggested that William Burn base his designs on Hatfield House. His widow had inherited the hall on the death of her husband in 1860, just as the rebuilding neared completion- but was only allowed to take possession in 1862. In July 1861 her husband’s will had been challenged in the courts by the trustees, who also tried to sell Lynford Hall, only allowing Mrs Lyne-Stephens to take possession in 1862, when she commissioned the east window of St Leonard, Mundford, her parish church. Although restored by Sir Ninian Comper in the early 1900s, the window is dated 1862 and dedicated to Stephens Lyne-Stephens. It includes his coat of arms and the Martyrdom of St Stephen set under the figures of the penitent Magdalen, Christ and St Leonard. The Magdalen fitted with Mrs Lyne-Stephens’ renunciation of her previous career as a dancer and her – generously funded - self-abnegation as a widow. She also commissioned a mausoleum in the grounds of her London home, Grove House, Roehampton, designed by William Burn and consecrated in 1864 with sarcophagus for her husband's (and later her) tomb. The display of the Fighting bulls in the gardens of Lynford Hall, overlooking the lake, was a further memorial to Stephens Lyne-Stephens, and one of her first acts on taking control of the estate. She must must have chosen the group as a tribute to the tradition of hunting at Lynford represented by the earlier Lynford Stag and Stephens Lyne-Stephens’ interest in hunting, he had bought paintings of horses and huntsmen by the minor English painter John Ferneley. Like the Clésinger these were unlike anything else in Mrs Stephens' extensive collection and she bought nothing else from Clésinger preferring, for instance, a Bust of Louis XIV by Girardon. In 1859 Clésinger had produced a single Roman Bull for the Salon of 1859, praised by Baudelaire and bought by the state for the Musée du Luxembourg (now lost, but known through replicas, including a full-sized marble). About three years later he prepared for the Fighting Bulls with a half-size coloured plaster model of the theme (H. 0.88 ; L. 1.44 ; P. 0.6) in the collections of the Musée d’Orsay, on loan at the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie Besançon (included in the photos), before producing the 1863 marble group exhibited at the Salon in 1864. Clésinger had used a tree stump – omitted from the bronze replicas – to support the weight of the marble Roman bull, which in turn was the starting point for the right, hand bull, also supported by tree stump at the rear, and combined with naturalistic vegetation, a feature of the base of the Woman bitten by a snake. The impact of the charge can be seen in the left hand bull, in his death throes, with his tongue forced out of his mouth. Clésinger modified the design in the Lynford group, removing the tree trunk from the rear, allowing the head of the dying bull to fall onto his rival, to underline the fatal outcome of the struggle, and achieve a sinuous but unbroken line across their backs as the right hand bull stands with no sculptural support. Clesinger also added the broken fluted column to underline the setting in the Campagna. The marble was described by the Clesinger's friend the critic Theophile Gautier (1811 - 1872) in August 1864: 'The two enemies have given their all as they charge in blind fury, their legs braced, muscles tensed, flanks quivering with the effort; it seems as though the fight will continue, but it is over; one of the bulls has plunged his horn into his rival’s stomach, ensuring that he will soon roll over dead, his hooves in the air, pulling the victor down in his fall’. The plaster model shows the wonderful effect of the bulls’ horns and the modelling of the animals' hides, which can still just be made out under the layers of grime on the marble.  


Date taken:  30/4/2006
Date logged: 

Photographed by:
Sarah Cocke

On Site Inspection

Date:  30/4/2006

Inspected by:
Richard Cocke

Sources and References

Roberts, Jane, Glass. The Strange History of the Lyne Stephen's Fortune, Chippenham, 2003, 252ff Country Life November 1903, when Lynford Hall belonged to H.A.. Campbell; and information from Laurie De Margerie, and Catherine Chevillot, Musée d’Orsay; T. Gautier, Correspondance générale 1862-1864, edited by C. Lacoste-Veysseyre, under the general direction of P. Laubriet, Geneva, vol. 8, 1993, 289-290  


Date entered:  12/5/2006

Data inputter:
Richard Cocke