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With The Mower Thornycroft treated an agricultural labourer for the first time in British sculpture. He modelled the figure on an Italian worker named Orazio Cervi, who was said to walk annually from his farm in Italy to London. The boots were based on a pair obtained from a local workman. However, any hint of subversion was cancelled by the idealisation of the pose, derived from Donatello’s David, and the pastoral nostalgia of the subject, adapted from Matthew Arnold’s poem Thyrsis, verses which recalled glimpsing a beautiful young farm hand.

February 2010