Sir William Goscombe John

A Boy at Play


Sir William Goscombe John 1860–1952
Bronze on stone base
Object: 1415 × 850 x1110 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1896

Display caption

This bronze sculpture shows a young boy involved in a popular game of knuckles, played with the back bones of sheep. The poise and skill required is demonstrated by his perfect balance. Welsh artist Goscombe John was interested in naturalism. The boy’s thin face and body, short hair and pose favour realism over a traditional classical style. His life and movement seem to defy death as represented by the bone.

Gallery label, October 2020

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Catalogue entry

N01755 A BOY AT PLAY c. 1895
Inscr. ‘W. Goscombe John’ on back of base.
Bronze, 51 1/4×31 1/4×41 3/4 (130×79·5×106), on a Verdi di Prato marble base, 2 1/4×16×43 3/4 (5·5×40·5×111).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1896.
Exh: R.A., 1896 (1811).
Lit: M. H. Spielmann, British Sculpture and Sculptors of To-day, 1901, p.130, repr. p.131 (the plaster).
Repr: Royal Academy Pictures, 1895, p.195 (the plaster, wrongly described as a marble); Tate Gallery Illustrations, 1928, pl.120.

First exhibited in plaster at the R.A. in 1895 (1711).

The boy balancing himself on his left foot reaches forward with his right to touch a knuckle-bone standing on end in front of him; he must recover his position behind the line which he toes without putting his foot to the ground.

Another bronze cast is in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, and there are smaller bronze versions at Manchester and Newport (Mon.).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I


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