- Museum number
Small bronze portrait bust of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) in shirt, jacket and coat by an unknown sculptor attached to a turned waisted brass socle by means of a stud and nut fitment. There is a small circular hole in the top of the head, either side of the head in the hair and a larger circular hole in the lower back.
- Production date
Height: 128 millimetres
Width: 66 millimetres (max.)
- Curator's comments
- Dawson 1999
Bibliography: C. Fuller (ed.), The Old Radical: Representations of Jeremy Bentham, exh. Strang Print Room and Flaxman Gallery, University College London, Sept.-Dec. 1998, p. 36.
Displayed: MLA Department.
The purpose of the holes in the top of the head and the lower back is uncertain. One suggestion, put forward by Neil Stratford, is that they offered a means of securing the bust for display.
Jeremy Bentham, the reformer, philanthropist and author of Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation (published anonymously in 1789), was born in Houndsditch, London. He was educated at Westminster School, London, and Queen's College, Oxford. Although called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn, he never practised as a barrister, but devoted himself to the philosophy of law. His writings on jurisprudence have had enormous influence. He published on public education, penal reform, the disadvantages of colonialism, taxation and many other subjects, including the treatment of criminals. His ideas lay at the heart of many subsequent reforms. The cornerstone of his political philosophy was the doctrine of utilitarianism. Bentham left instructions that his body was to be used to illustrate an anatomy lecture, after which his skeleton was to be dressed in his clothes, seated on a chair and placed in a mahogany case. His instructions were carried out, and his so-called auto-icon can be seen in the South Cloisters of University College London.(1)
There are several portraits of Bentham, including a bronze medallion by David d'Angers.(2) G. F. Watts painted the auto-icon between 1833 and 1850;(3) both a preliminary sketch(4) and a completed pen and ink sketch(5) are known. Peter Turnerelli exhibited a bust of Bentham at the Royal Academy in 1805(6) and a marble by David d'Angers was commenced in 1825 when the sitter was in Paris. The latter is dated 1828 and was exhibited at the Academy in 1829; bronze copies of it were made,(7) but the bust is quite different from the present example.
This bust, is close to an engraving by W. H. Worthington of Bentham aged seventy-five which was published by Pickering in 1823 (see fig. 17).(8) Another rather similar image, engraved by J. Thomson after a painting by W. Derby, appeared in the European Magazine on 1 May 1823. It is possible that the bust, which would seem from its size to be intended for general distribution, was also issued on the occasion of Bentham's birthday. It might otherwise have been intended for Bentham's relatives and friends. The portrait seems to have been acquired by the Museum with a small group of other objects for no special reason. It may be compared with a bust which was in the possession of the Dowager Countess of Iddesleigh in 1979, and now belongs to her grandson.(9)
(1) I am grateful to Catherine Fuller for information about the auto-icon and for her help with this bust.
(2) An example was sold at Christie's on 17 July 1984, lot 31. See also Catalogue des œuvres de David d'Angers, Musée des Beaux-Arts, ville d'Angers, 1934, p. 119, no. 187.
(3) A version of the oil portrait is in a private collection in Canada.
(4) Now in University College London.
(5) Now in Queen's College, Oxford.
(6) Royal Academy, 1805, no. 740. Present location unknown to the writer.
(7) The bust is mentioned by Gunnis, 1953, p. 121; Catherine Fuller kindly supplied information on its genesis and date of completion.
(8) The location of the painting, also by W. H. Worthington, is unknown.
(9) Information kindly supplied by Catherine Fuller. Mus. in W. Thomas, The Philosophie Radicals, Oxford, 1979, opp. p. 242, said to have been made for Joseph Parkes, a follower of Bentham. The writer has not seen this bust.
An old neg. exists: M12.24 (A. Dawson, Dec. 2010)
- Not on display
- Hole in pedestal.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number