Asheville Artist Reproduces Biltmore Sculpture
Estate History 06/21/22
Written By Jean Sexton
Asheville artist Alex Irvine has reproduced a Biltmore sculpture, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the wonderful results!
Biltmore sculpture removed for preservation
Known as Woman Reading with Dog, this charming depiction of a young woman reading a book with her canine companion at her knees was originally installed on the Library Terrace at Biltmore House.
Like many of the other sculptures found throughout Biltmore’s historic gardens, Woman Reading with Dog was French in origin. It was produced by Gossin Frères of Paris, a firm well known for their ornamental terra cotta fabrications.
After many years of exposure to the elements, Biltmore’s original sculpture had become unstable due to heavy deterioration, and was removed from the Library Terrace for preservation purposes.
Asheville artist commissioned to create new Biltmore sculpture
“We commissioned a replica from Asheville artist Alex Irvine after he worked with Biltmore’s conservation team on a project that involved recreating a missing arm and floral garland for a terra cotta sculpture located on the South Terrace of Biltmore House,” said Kara Warren, Preventive Conservation Specialist. “We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such an exceptionally skilled ceramic artist who is located just miles from Biltmore Estate.”
To reproduce Woman Reading with Dog, Alex employed a multi-step process similar to the one used to create the original sculpture. He began his work by hand building the figure out of clay, scaling it 9% larger than the original to account for shrinkage during the drying and firing of the clay. The entire commission took more than two years to complete.
The next step was the creation of a 50-part plaster mold of the replicated statue. The mold was assembled on the floor of the kiln in stages to allow access for handfuls of clay to be pressed into the mold to produce a hollow cast.
The legs inside the garment and internal structure were hand-built with slabs of clay. Once cast, the surface details were refined again in preparation for firing.
The clay statue was slowly dried over six months and then fired very slowly to 2100ºF in a one-of-a-kind electric kiln built for this commission.
Installation of the new sculpture
The reproduction of Woman Reading with Dog was installed on the Library Terrace, in the same location as the original.
See preservation in action at Biltmore
In addition to viewing Woman Reading with Dog on the Library Terrace of Biltmore House, you can also view a second reproduction of this sculpture that was made as part of the process. The sculpture will be displayed in a niche in the back courtyard of Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®.