One of the most beloved landmarks in England’s Kew Gardens is the Hercules garden water fountain at The Palm House Pond (as it’s properly known, although tourists are allowed to call it just “Palm Pond” or “Hercules Pond”). Although originally built to add beauty and humidity to the next door’s tropical greenhouse (The Palm House), it seemed to the designers that something seemed to be missing from the outdoor garden water fountain. It was a statue.
Say Hello To Hercules
Most of Kew Gardens was built and designed in the 1800’s, when the art of the Greeks and Romans was especially revered. It was the only thing thought to be grand enough to place in an English garden water fountain. The pond was built in 1845, the same time construction was going on at The Palm House.
The sculpture of Hercules wasn’t added until 1853. He is naked in the Greek tradition and wresting with a large, angry serpent (the Greek God Achelus) on top of a large square base (called a plinth). The whole thing is over six feet high. Properly, the statue in the garden water fountain is called “Hercules Fighting Achelus”, but it usually just known as “Herc”.
Francis Joseph Bosio
The sculptor who won the job at placing a heroic image in one of the most visited garden water fountains in the country was Francis Joseph Bosio (1768 – 1845), also known as Baron Francois Joseph Bosio. He was French, which somehow seem puzzling for England’s premier garden water fountain. But then again, the subject matter of the sculpture was Greek. England has always had a bit of an identity crisis.
Bosiso was heavily influenced by Greek and Roman art and most of his surviving works are all in the style and subject matter of Greek and Roman myths. Mostly these were of large nude people and horses. Other sculptures resting in museums around the world include “Hyacinth Awaiting His Turn To Throw The Discus” in The Art Institute of Chicago and “Cupid with a Bow” in St. Petersberg.
However, Bosio is best known for the statues of angels and horses on top of the Arc de Trioumphe du Carrosel. How he exactly won the commission for the Hercules statue in The Palm House Pond’s garden water fountain is not known, but in 1824 Bosio won renown for another Hercules and snake statue called “Hercules and the Lernaen Hydra”. Besides his work, not much is known about Bosio.