On display, the sculpture that revealed an aristocrat's guilty secret

The highly esteemed second Lord Melchett, Henry Mond, was an industrialist, politician and financier who represented the cream of British aristocracy.

Gwen Wilson was a show-stopping beauty and an artist to boot. When the two married and moved into one of the most desirable addresses in Westminster, they should have been the toast of polite 1930s society.

But a certain artwork, which was created by Charles Sargeant Jagger – one of the era's most prominent artists – and which took pride of place in their living room, revealed a sensational secret that led to censure and outrage from their contemporaries.

For years the couple had been indulging in a passionate ménage à trois with the writer Gilbert Cannan, a friend of D H Lawrence, and, after deciding that they wanted to flaunt the fact rather than to hide it, they commissioned Scandal to be made in homage to their sexual proclivities. The striking 1.6m-high relief featured a naked couple in an intimate embrace watched by society ladies in a state of moral outrage. Its effect on high society, governed by strict codes, could not be overestimated.

The work, which was recently bought by the Victoria and Albert Museum for $157,000 (£106,000) and is now on display, was made for their home, Mulberry House in Smith Square, central London. Mark Jones, director of the V&A, described the work as a "daring riposte" by Mond to 1930s society.

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