Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  Pluto Enchaining Cerberus
  • image Image 1 for M405
  • image Image 2 for M405
  • image Image 3 for M405
  • image Image 4 for M405
Sculpture, 'Pluto Enchaining Cerberus'. SM M405. ©Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photo: Lewis Bush
  • image Image 1 for M405
  • image Image 2 for M405
  • image Image 3 for M405
  • image Image 4 for M405

Henry Webber RA (1754 - 1826), sculptor

Pluto Enchaining Cerberus



Museum number: M405

On display: Catacombs
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

This is a small-scale copy of the famous marble group of 'Pluto enchaining Cerberus' (Pluton tenant Cerbère enchaîné) by the French sculptor, Augustin Pajou (1730-1809), today in the Louvre Museum in Paris (RF 2982). The original marble was Pajou's diploma work, approved by the Academie Royale in Paris in 1759 and submitted for admission to the Academie in 1760 (the Louvre sculpture is signed on the rock at the back PAJOU. F. / 1760).

In summer 1787 Henry Webber's then employer, Josiah Wedgwood, sent him to Rome - partly as a guide for his son, John Wedgwood, and partly to gather material for future designs at his factory. A written agreement with Wedgwood stated that Webber was going 'for the purpose of making models, drawings and other improvements in the art of modelling and designing for the benefit of the said Josiah Wedgwood'. Webber and Wedgwood junior travelled to Rome via Paris, Geneva, Genoa and Florence. Webber presumably saw Pajou's sculpture during his time in Paris and made this copy, bringing it with him when he returned to London in 1789.

This piece is first recorded in Soane's collection in 1830 when it is mentioned as being in the basement Catacombs in Soane's published Description of his house. Earlier drawings of the Catacombs of c.1825 (recording the area as it was first arranged) do not show the sculpture and therefore it seems likely that it entered the collection between 1825 and 1830, perhaps acquired by Soane after Webber's death in 1827.

In his 1835 Description Soane notes that 'the Model in clay of Pluto holding Cerberus, is the work of Mr Henry Webber, the sculptor, who, under the auspices of the late Mr Wedgewood [sic], so happily improved our taste, particularly in the imitation of Etruscan pottery'.


J. Soane, Description, 1832, p.11
A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660-1851, Yale, 2009: entry on Henry Webber (regularly updated online version available via www.henry-moore.org)
Sir J. Soane, Description, 1835, p.31

Exhibition history

Hounds In Leash: The Dog in 18th and 19th Century Sculpture, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 24 May - 26 August 2000

Soane collections online is being continually updated. If you wish to find out more or if you have any further information about this object please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk