I previously featured the busts and the pedestals accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to West Wycombe. The allocation also included a rare Roman marble child’s sarcophagus dating from the late second century.
The sarcophagus has been carved with groups of Cupids enacting scenes from the Meleager myth. Presumably little Cupids enacting a tragic story were thought to be appropriate for a child’s sarcophagus.
The sarcophagus was brought to West Wycombe by Sir Francis Dashwood, second Baronet (1708-1781), who was fascinated by classical antiquity, and particularly by the cult of Venus and her son Cupid.
Sir Francis installed numerous representations of Venus and Cupid around West Wycombe. A painting attributed to Luca Cambiaso in the Music Room shows Venus Disarming Cupid.
In the Tapestry Room the chimneypiece has a painted depiction of The Toilet of Venus.
In the park the second Baronet constructed a Temple of Venus, the layout of which celebrated the female anatomy. Unsurprisingly, this was demolished in the nineteenth century.
In 1982, however, Sir Francis Dashwood, eleventh Baronet (1925-2000), commissioned the architect Quinlan Terry to rebuild it on the basis of archival research. So Venus still rules at West Wycombe.