- Museum number
Marble portrait bust of Richard Payne Knight (1751-1824) by John Bacon the Younger (1777-1859), depicted in a severe classical style, full face, with prominent wart on lower right cheek.
- Production date
Height: 46 centimetres (total)
Width: 24 centimetres (breast)
Width: 23.50 centimetres (head)
- Curator's comments
- Dawson 1999
Literature: A. Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts: a Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their Work from its Foundation in 1769 to 1904, London, 1905, pp. 88-9; Gunnis, 1953, p. 29; George Bullock: cabinet-maker, exh. cat., Blairman, London and Sudley Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1988, p. 145
Comparable examples: National Portrait Gallery, London, marble and bronze with drapery, dated 1814, NPG4887(1).
Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1811, no. 954 and 1812, no. 931 (presumably the plaster followed by the marble); Royal Academy, 'British Portraits', 1956-7, no. 398; Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, 1982, 'The Arrogant Connoisseur 1751-1824', no. 64.
Displayed: 1859, ?Entrance Hall (MLA Dept file); c.1906, Entrance Hall (photograph by Donald Macbeth, see Dawson 1999, p. 16, fig. 9; at least 1957-62, P&D Keeper's Room (MLA Dept record); 1979-94, Ante-Room to Trustees' Board Room; 1994, Gallery 47, 'The Nineteenth Century'.
Richard Payne Knight,(2) philologist, numismatist and collector, was the son of Thomas Knight, domestic chaplain to Lord Deloraine and his wife, who had been his servant, Ursula Nash. His grandfather was an ironmaster who acquired substantial property in Shropshire and Herefordshire. He spent his youth at Wormsley Grange, near Hereford, and was educated at home and by a private tutor on account of poor health. Soon after his coming of age he began to build a new house at Downton, Shropshire,(3) which he himself designed. Although furnished with battlements, its interiors are richly classical in style. His London house after his retirement from politics in 1806 (see below) was 3 Soho Square, not far from Sir Joseph Banks (see registration no. 1814,0312.1), who lived at no. 32.(4) After travelling abroad in the 1770s, Payne Knight became Whig Member of Parliament for Leominster, Herefordshire in 1780. In 1781 he was elected to the select group of high-born collectors of classical antiquities, the Society of Dilettanti. From 1784 he was MP for Ludlow, Shropshire, retaining the seat as a supporter of Charles James Fox until 1806. In 1794 he published The Landscape, a didactic poem attacking Capability Brown. In 1802 he was appointed to the Committee of Taste convened to superintend the monuments of St Paul's Cathedral. He was one of the founders of the British Institution, established in 1805. After the death of his friend Charles Townley (see registration no. 1995,0402.1), Payne Knight participated in the negotiations leading to the acquisition of Townley's collection of classical marbles by the nation. On 9 April 1814 he was appointed a Trustee of the British Museum, representing the Townley family. Richard Payne Knight is buried at Wormsley, Shropshire.
His bequest to the Museum included 1,144 drawings, including 273 by Claude Lorrain. His collection of paintings did not remain intact, although some were at Downton Castle until recently. He also bequeathed his important collection of ancient bronze sculpture and other miscellaneous objects, such as a millefiori glass ball.(5)
John Bacon the Younger was the second son of John Bacon RA and was born at his parents' house in Newman Street, London, on 13 March 1777. He was trained by his father, entering the Royal Academy in 1789, where he won a silver medal. He was awarded the Academy Gold Medal in 1797. He took over his father's business on his death in 1799 and was extremely successful until about 1830, after which time he apparently retired, although he completed two works in churches in Exeter. Bacon exhibited at the Academy between 1792 and 1824, and at the British Institution in 1806 and 1807. Sir Robert Smirke (see registration no. 1895,0210.1) was one of several who had a poor opinion of Bacon the Younger's work, but the list of his eminent clients in the early years of the eighteenth century for both monuments and busts shows that this opinion was not widely shared.
The model for this striking and somewhat unflattering bust, presumably in plaster (present whereabouts unknown), was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811 (no. 954). Payne Knight's high regard for Bacon is recorded in Farington's Diary on 14 June 1810,(6) precisely the time when the bust must have been modelled. It was engraved by Thomson and published on 1 August 1824 in the European Magazine.
John Bacon Junior signed drawings of his family from 47 Bedford Square, near the Museum. A drawing of Joseph Planta (1787-1847, diplomat and son of the Principal Librarian [i.e. Director] of the Museum of the same name), made at Hastings is dated November 1841.(7)
In this bust the sculptor combines a highly naturalistic style, which includes the depiction of the wart on the sitter's lower right cheek, folds of skin on the throat and pouches below the eyes, with a sparely classical form. The surface of the excellent quality marble has been carefully finished to obliterate all toolmarks.
The golden sheen naturally present in this marble seems to have been deliberately left in the neck area and removed elsewhere; see E.Dolci, Carrara Cave Antichi: Materiali Archeologici, Carrara, 1980, no. XI, p. 163, statuary marble from Polvaccio.
(1) K. K. Yung, National Portrait Gallery, Complete Illustrated Catalogue 1856-1979, London, 1981, no. 4887.
(2) Biographical details have been taken from Nicholas Penny, 'Richard Payne Knight: a brief life', in M. Clarke and N. Penny (eds), The Arrogant Connoisseur, 1751-1824, exh. cat. Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, 1982, pp. 1-18.
(3) The house is discussed by Nicholas Penny in 'Architecture and landscape at Downton', in Clarke and Penny (eds), The Arrogant Connoisseur, pp. 32-49, and in 'The taste of Richard Payne Knight', Country Life, vol. 171, no. 4006, 1982, pp. 218-21, and more recently by A. Ballantyne, Architecture, Landscape and Liberty, Richard Payne Knight and the picturesque, Cambridge, 1997, pp. 245-80.
(4) For Banks' house, see A. T. Bolton, A small town house of the XVIIIth century, 32 Soho Square, London: home of a great naturalist', Country Life, 27 September 1913, pp. 7*-11*.
(5) Clarke and Penny (eds), The Arrogant Connoisseur, no. 71, illus. H. Tait (ed.), Five Thousand Years of Glass, London, 1991, fig. 209.
(6) Clarke and Penny (eds), The Arrogant Connoisseur, no. 64.
(7) There is a photocopy of this drawing in the National Portrait Gallery Archive sitter box, from an album sold at Christie's, 27 July 1982, lot 50, from the possession of a descendant of the artist.
- On display (G1/od/nr43)
- Exhibition history
1982, Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, The Arrogant Connoisseur 1751-1824, no. 64
1956-7, London, Royal Academy, British Portraits, no. 398
1811/2?, London, Royal Academy
- Minor damage to base of plinth at front and back, minor damage to truncation at lower proper left and upper proper right.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: OA.10551