Two sculptures created for Westminster Abbey and lost for hundreds of of years reappear at auction
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Two sculptures created for Westminster Abbey and lost for hundreds of of years reappear at auction
The terracotta figure was made circa 1728-1731 and was almost certainly the figure described and catalogued in the sculptor’s studio contents sale of 1756. We have no record of who the buyer was in that auction, and the piece has been lost ever since.



LONDON.- Two once lost important English sculptures are to be offered at auction this month. The first is the presentation model for the figure of Gratitude, part of the tomb of Dr Chamberlen in Westminster Abbey. The terracotta figure was made circa 1728-1731 and was almost certainly the figure described and catalogued in the sculptor’s studio contents sale of 1756. We have no record of who the buyer was in that auction, and the piece has been lost ever since.

The other figure that was described and sold with Gratitude at that time, was the terracotta model for the central figure of the tomb; an effigy of Dr Chamberlen. This figure reappeared alone at Sotheby’s, 3 December 1926, as lot 68, bought by a Mr Belham for £8,10s., from whom purchased by Dr W. L. Hildburgh, F.S.A. and given to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1927. That figure remains in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum to this day.

The auction catalogue of 1756 listed the figure as follows: ‘Dr Chamberlayne, and one of the side Figures of his Monument, by Mr Scheemaker', sold for £6,16s. & 6p, 11 March 1756, lot 18 at Langford’s, Great Piazza, Covent Garden: The Genuine, Large, and Curious Collection of Models and Marbles, In groups, Figures, Busts, &c ...of Mr Peter Scheemaker, Statuary.’

The story behind the creation of this tomb which remains in Westminster Abbey today, is a particularly poignant one. Commissioned by Katherine, Duchess of Buckingham, on behalf of her son, Edmund, (then a minor); it celebrates the life and work of the doctor who saved young Edmund’s life.

A lengthy text is inscribed in Latin on the basement of the monument and is a paean of praise for this distinguished and sympathetic medical man. He was a good generalist, but specialised in childbirth and it was for this that the magnificent monument was erected: ‘In return for a life saved at his birth, for health restored, and at last confirmed, EDMUND DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM, place this sepulchral monument, to a man most spotless and friendly. Attached are statues, wrought after the expression of ancient marble, to attest to posterity, what he availed, and what, could it be rendered, remains due to him’ (i.e. presumably Gratitude, hence the subject of the model and the left-hand statue).’

It is very rare for so distinguished and well documented a model to appear on the art market, and wonderful that it relates to Westminster Abbey which has been so integral to the Coronation Celebrations.

In the same auction (at Curated Auctions on 18 May 18th, 2023) is another rediscovered sculpture, lost since the London 1862 International Exhibition, and also significant because it was produced by a female sculptor.

Consigned to the 1862 International Exhibition by Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid, 2nd Baronet (1808 – 1878), and known from the description in the official catalogue; its whereabouts have been unknown since. Although signed by the sculptor, years of surface wear have left the signature virtually invisible to the naked eye. Detected by Sculpture Specialist Rachael Osborn-Howard by touching the surface, the signature only became legible when photographed with a professional camera and lighting and confirmed when compared to other known examples.

Susan Durant is not a well-known name today, but she was one of the first and only female sculptors to achieve major recognition for her work in 19th century Britain, and was for many years a favourite of Queen Victoria. Although much of her work has now been lost, at the time she was very highly regarded; and won numerous important commissions including a number from the royal family. Her medallions of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are now at Windsor Castle, and she also carved a bust of the Queen for the Inner Temple in 1872. These commissions established a close relationship with the royal family and Durant later gave lessons in modelling to the Princess Louise. She was the only woman out of the fourteen sculptors commissioned to produce the marble figures for the Egyptian Hall of the Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. Her figure for Mansion House 'Faithful Shepherdess' was the first major public work ever commissioned from a female sculptor in England. She won the Society of Arts silver medal for a portrait bust in 1847. She was one of the few female artists to exhibit works at the Royal Academy; and exhibited there between 1847 and 1873. She was also one of the few female sculptors allowed to exhibit at the London 1851 Great Exhibition, and of course the International Exhibition of London 1862.

Both British sculptures feature in the 18th May ‘Opulence: Silver, Sculpture & Islamic Art’ auction at Curated Auctions.










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