Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 1:19 am by M. in    No comments
A curious item will be under the hammer today, July 21 at Christie's:
A Victorian Carved Marble Bust of a Lady
Attributable to Richard Westmacott the Younger (1799-1872, mid-19th Century
£1,500 – £2,000
Sale 10652 —
Christie's Interior
21 July 2015
London, South Kensington

Although only signed with a monogram, the style is similar to other works of Westmacott, as is the style of the signature.
There is a resemblance to the portrait of Brontë in the N.P.G. (c.1833, NPG 1724), namely the long nose and the centrally-parted shoulder length hair.  However mid-Victorian portrait sculpture tended to present an idealised version of the sitter, occasionally to the detriment of likeness and furthermore Westmacott is not recorded as executing a bust of Brontë. 
That's quite true, but what we find interesting is that Richard Westmacott and Joseph Bentley Leyland knew each other:
Leyland had visited London in the December of 1833, when he obtained from Stothard a letter of introduction to Ottley, the curator of the Elgin Marbles, to allow him to study the marbles in the British Museum. Permission was readily granted, and the sculptor availed himself of it. A year later Leyland took up his residence in the metropolis. He was received in a friendly manner by Chantrey and Westmacott, the latter inviting him to dinner, and afterwards showing him his foundry at Pimlico, and his works in progress, among which was the statue of the Duke of York. (The Brontë Family, Vol. 1 of 2 with special reference to Patrick Branwell Brontë by Francis A. Leyland)
Of course the close friendship between Leyland and Branwell was forged a few years later and nothing suggests that Mr Westmacott had any contact with the Brontës.


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