The Wedding Cake by Joana Vasconcelos at Waddesdon Manor

31 July 2023

Wedding Cake is a 12-metre-high sculptural pavilion in the form of a three-tiered wedding cake, clad entirely in ceramic tiles. The major new work by celebrated Portuguese artist, Joana Vasconcelos, opened at Waddesdon Manor in June 2023.

Last week, we visited one of England’s finest houses, Waddesdon, to view this exquisitely beautiful part sculpture, part architectural garden folly. Glazed in delicious pale pinks, greens and blues, which reminded us of the palette Sofia Coppola used for her film, Marie Antoinette (incidentally, the writing desk, circa 1781, used by the ill-fated queen at her Petit Trianon in the gardens of Versailles, is currently on display in the Manor), the cake, was an utter joy to behold.

Wedding Cake is fully immersive and so visitors can venture forth into the cake and climb up to the very top. Vaconcelos has described it as her most ambitions commission to date, referring to the sculpture as “a temple of love” celebrating festivity and marriage. Inspired by the long, varied history of the wedding cake, full of symbolism and tradition, and the elaborate tiered cakes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It also draws on the exuberant Baroque buildings and decorative architectural ceramic traditions of Lisbon, where Vasconcelos lives and works.

The 25,000 ceramic tiles and 1,5000 sculptural elements were all moulded, glazed and fired in Sintra and then were transported to Vasconcelo’s studio in Lisbon where they were fixed to the panels. The artist is deeply influenced by the artistic traditions of Portugal, and the way in which she combines her materials reflects international influences on Portugueses culture over centuries – born from a history of exlporing and seafaring.

The work is also a contemporary response to the Rotchschild traditions of hospitality with echoes of 18th-century garden pavilions.The Manor was created by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to entertain and charm guests at his famous house parties, described by contemporaries as a “treasure house of what is beautiful, curious or ancient”.

It is fitting that the sculpture is located in The Dairy at Waddesdon, reminding us of the long European history of placing fanciful buildings in gardens and landscapes.

Almost five years in the making, Wedding Cake was commissioned for Waddesdon, prompted by the long-standing relationship between Lord Rothschild and Vasconcelos.

Wedding Cake will be open until 26 October 2023. To book a guided tour please visit here

CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Waddesdon Manor.