Not on display
This is a life-size bust, carved in white Carrara marble, depicting an elderly gentleman leaning slightly forward. The truncation is faintly classical, consisting of a single drapery wrapped around the neck and falling across the left shoulder. The bust is mounted on an original and separate marble socle, and signed across the reverse ‘CHANTREY Sculptor 1816.’
The bust was made by Francis Leggatt Chantrey, one of the most celebrated British artists of the early nineteenth-century. Born in Norton, Derbyshire, he had only cursory training in a Sheffield plaster-cast shop, before setting up as a portraitist in oils and pastels in and around Sheffield. After moving to London he devoted himself to sculpture and made a name as a modeller of portrait busts, shown at the Royal Academy exhibition from 1809. His staunch naturalism, coupled with innovative but believable poses, convinced some (such as the author Walter Scott) that Chantrey had radically changed the medium of sculpture, and especially the portrait bust.
This is a signed and dated bust from the first decade of Chantrey’s career, and a good example of his early naturalistic style. The sitter leans forward, his eyes – which are incised – are slightly raised, and his lips slightly open. This unforced, and presumably characteristic, pose gives the face a believable versimilitude. Chantrey’s carving skill is revealed in the undercutting of the wispy eyebrows, above more undercutting of the eyelids, and deeply incised eyes, creating the sunken, elderly, effect around the eyes. The hair (or possibly a hairpiece – Chantrey used a wig similar to this on his bust of Sir John Soane, 1830), ranges from very shallow surface relief to deeply cut curls around the ears.
Chantrey’s early works won him royal, political and aristocratic patrons, and over the rest of his career he was awarded commissions for dozens of statues and monuments. He depicted four monarchs, and integrated his naturalism into a grander style. His statue of George IV in Trafalgar Square in central London is representative of his later work. His great technical proficiency and canny workshop practice resulted in a large fortune, which he left to the nation to found a collection of paintings and sculpture which would become the Tate Gallery. The Chantrey Bequest is still one of Tate’s purchase funds.
The plaster model for this work was given to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford by the sculptor’s widow in 1842, and was recorded in the Donations Books as ‘Mr Warp, merchant.’ The art historian Nicholas Penny, in his catalogue of the Ashmolean’s sculpture collection, could find no trace of the sitter. When the marble resurfaced at auction at Christie’s in London in 1987, it was only identified in the sale catalogue as ‘a bust of an elderly gentleman’. The identity of Mr Warp has therefore been something of a mystery. Nobody bearing that name has been located by the scholars who have worked on Chantrey.
Research by Tate curators, however, suggests that he is Chantrey’s friend, John Wauchope of Edinburgh (1751–1828). Wauchope is known from Chantrey’s accounts to have commissioned a marble bust from Chantrey which was delivered in 1816. It was presented that year to Mrs Ann Wauchope, without payment, in testimony of the growing friendship between Chantrey and her husband. A contemporary portrait of Wauchope by Henry Raeburn (1756–1823; another version is in the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh) shows a very similar face, with a characteristic flattened section at the bridge of the nose. During this period Chantrey cultivated a strong base of Scottish patrons, partly through his foreman, Allan Cunningham, and won a series of commissions for Scottish patrons. One such was the statue of Lord Melville 1812–18 (Parliament House, Edinburgh), where the Secretary to the Erection Committee was John Wauchope. There is much correspondence between Chantrey and Wauchope (National Library of Scotland 590, 1036, and Melville Papers 3553). An unpublished ‘Work and Wages Book’ in Derby Local Studies Library records the making of the bust of Wauchope, which commenced in August 1814 and was completed by 20 April 1816. Potts and Yarrington recorded the bust as ‘untraced’ in their commentaries on Chantrey’s Ledger (Baker, Yarrington and Potts 1991, p.52).
The personal likeness of the bust to Wauchope and the 1816 date provide good evidence for the identification. It is concievable that ‘Wauchope’ could be truncated to ‘Warp,’ either by mistake or design (Chantrey was given to nicknaming his friends). However Wauchope does not seem to have been a ‘merchant’ but a solicitor. In his will he describes himself as ‘Writer to the Signet and Trustee of the Estate of John, Duke of Roxburghe.’ His wife and heir Ann Wauchope (nee Cockburn Halkett Craigie), lived in a large house in Brighton Crescent, Portobello, Edinburgh, until her death in 1840. She seems also to have owned one of the Raeburn portraits of Wauchope, given by an heir to the National Galleries of Scotland in 1884.
Alex Potts, Sir Francis Chantrey 1781–1841: Sculptor of the Great, exhibition catalogue, National Portrait Gallery, London 1981.
Malcolm Baker, Alison Yarrington and Alex Potts, ‘An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey’, Walpole Society, vol.56, 1991.
Nicholas Penny, Catalogue of European Sculpture in the Ashmolean Museum, 1530–the Present Day, Oxford 1992, no.775, p.248.
20 November 2013
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