Interior Space: Terra degli Etruschi

Artist or maker:
Cox, Stephen (b.1946)
2002 {slab}
Place of production:
London, England, United Kingdom
travertine stone
Type of object:
outdoor sculpture
Accession number:


As the title meaning 'The Etruscan Earth' suggests, evidence of Etruscan civilisation is embedded in this work. The travertine stone comes from an ancient quarry in Tuscany. Shards of Etruscan pottery are embedded in the crust on the top of Stephen Cox’s sculpture.

Travertine is a form of limestone created by the deposition on the surface of calcium carbonate, dissolved by springs as they flow upwards through the strata. Although the process of the stone’s creation began millions of years ago, its top surface is relatively modern. There may be Etruscan grass seeds among those that have begun to grow.

From a distance, the sculpture looks like a solid monument, but it is actually composed of relatively thin slabs cut from the travertine block and rearranged. The slits in the side create a tension between substance and void, solidity and fragility. They are like hand holes and suggest the lowering of the great lid or even the possibility of something raising it from inside.

Cox has worked in Italy, India and Egypt – all cultures with outstanding traditions of stone carving. During the 1980s he became enthralled by cultural conceptions of life, death and the afterlife and how they were expressed in tombs, burial chambers and sarcophagi.

The work was first shown in urban squares in Siena and Aosta in Italy. The installations there juxtaposed antiquity with modernity; blank memorials to non-existent individuals with the daily life of the town. The secluded setting in the gardens at Waddesdon consciously evokes other works of art, including from "Et in Arcadia Ego" (1650), Nicolas Poussin’s famous image of death discovered even in Arcadia and Arnold Böklin’s 'The Isle of the Dead' (1880). Cox has described the sculpture in its new setting as ‘a necropolis among Trees, a dark spiritual place.’

The names of those members of the Rothschild family who built and have cared for Waddesdon are inscribed on a travertine slab nearby. The sculpture appears at the end of the path known as the 'Baron's Walk' surrounded by cypresses and yew trees, resonant of Italy and remembrance.

Juliet Carey, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
2500 x 2920 x 1720
Physical details:
travertine from the Etruscan Terme di Rapollano, Italy
Signature & date:
not signed or dated
On adjacent slab


Acquired by a Rothschild Family Trust, 2001.
Exhibition history:
'Stephen Cox Interior Space Sculture Sculpture', Sepdale di Santa Maria della Scala, Siena
2000, no. 4 as 'Interior Space: "Terra degli Etruschi"'
Waddesdon (Rothschild Foundation)
On loan since 2001



Hudson's Historic Houses & Gardens: castles and heritage sites; Banbury; Norman Hudson & Company; 2007; pp. 25-29, p. 28, ill.
Michael Hall, An Acquisitive Gene: Lord Rothschild's Collecting for Waddesdon, Apollo, July 2007-August 2007, 44-49; p. 49, fig. 8.
Pippa Shirley, Waddesdon Manor and Le Gôut Rothschild, World of Antiques & Art, 73, August 2007-February 2008, 60-63; p. 63, fig. 6.

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