Crafted of a variety of materials, garden statuary has been a staple in grand homes over the centuries, and it makes a bold statement today as well, whether displayed inside the home or outside in the garden. An avid gardener herself, antiques dealer Debbie May, of D. May Antiques in Little Rock, relishes collecting the pieces for their architectural splendor and versatility. “Having a garden, I have always been more than a little partial to the garden pieces and have admired and collected them for the last twenty years,” she says. “I became very interested in antique architectural pieces during the mid eighties, when the architectural fragments were first being used to create furniture and as decorative additions in homes.”
An underlying classical style unifies the pieces she’s amassed, though they run the gamut of periods and materials. Carved of limestone, the quartet of European putti represent the four seasons and date to 1875, while the Italian carved marble statue of Bacchus is as recent as 1940. May has also chosen select reproductions of antiques, such as the Venus de Milo statue and fountain, which are made of incredibly durable cast stone and concrete, respectively. The terra cotta pieces, however, are more difficult to find, because the material fell out of vogue after concrete became readily available. Terra cotta was often used for architectural elements, like the urn with its removable cap and the oak leaf and acorn wreath, which was salvaged from a building in the northeastern United States and dates to 1890.
Despite their age, May encourages collectors to feel confident displaying the pieces outside. “They’re all fairly sturdy and don’t require any particular care,” she says. Because the designs share a timeless quality, they can be incorporated into almost any décor. “Any home, whether contemporary or traditional lends itself to architectural pieces,” she says. “They can be used as a work of art and admired for their uniqueness.” She loves the statuary tucked in a lush garden or used on a dining room console, while the architectural elements can be elevated as an artistic focus, displayed on a covered porch, or even applied to a home’s façade. “They are all easy to display in the home of today,” she says.