Sir Hamo Thornycroft

Study for the Statue of Cecil Rhodes


Not on display

Sir Hamo Thornycroft 1850–1925
Object: 248 × 89 × 254 mm
Presented by Lady Thornycroft 1926

Catalogue entry


Inscr. ‘H.T. '04’ on base.
Plaster, 9 3/4×3 1/2×10 (24·75×9×25·25), including base.
Presented by Lady Thornycroft 1926.

A study for the equestrian statue at Kimberley, South Africa. A public meeting was held in the Town Hall, Kimberley, on 17 April 1902, at which it was resolved to erect a memorial to Rhodes. The site is at a crossroad on Du Toit's Pan Road and was donated by Alfred Beit. On 12 April 1904 Thornycroft recorded in his diary that Beit and T. Milner had called to see a model for the statue. By 4 July Smith (a studio assistant) was ‘moulding Rhodes sketch model’. A note of 14 January 1907 records that the plaster model (presumably full size) of the Rhodes statue had gone to J. W. Singer's of Frome, the founders. The memorial was unveiled on 4 December 1907. (Information from the Mayor's Minute of Kimberley, 1907, the Diamond Fields Advertiser of the time, and a Kimberley Handbook of 1914, supplied by O. McIntyre of the Kimberley Public Library, 25 June 1957.)

The statue is over 12 ft. high and stands on a granite podium decorated on three sides with bas-reliefs illustrating incidents taken from the life of Rhodes. Rhodes is shown holding a map of South Africa spread out before him on the pommel of his saddle; he looks towards the great North-land, and is attired in the clothes he wore at the memorable indaba with the Matabele chiefs in 1896.

N04217 is probably only a preliminary sketch and differs from the executed work in several respects. In the final version the horse has all four hooves on the ground, the head is held up and is turned to its left side, while Rhodes's head is looking half right.

A bronze cast from the model of the final version belongs to Dr Eric Donaldson, and measures 13 1/2×10×3 3/4 in.; a label on the bottom is signed and dated 1910. A similar cast to this was previously exhibited at the R.A. Summer Exhibition, 1907 (1712), and again at the R.A. Memorial Exhibition, winter 1927 (117).

Cecil Rhodes (1853–1902), empire builder, industrialist and benefactor, began his working career at Kimberley in October 1871, taking shares in a diamond field at Colesburg Kopje. After gaining his degree at Oxford in 1887 he returned to South Africa, where his control over the De Beer mining concern had by now been fully established, aided by Alfred Beit. Rhodes's political aspirations also took shape, and in 1890 he became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and gave his name to Rhodesia. In his will he provided scholarships at Oxford for American and Commonwealth students, besides making over land in Rhodesia for the use of the new university.

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


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