- Museum number
Plaster portrait bust of Philp Henry, 4th Earl Stanhope (1781-1855), full face, in Roman dress, on circular plaster socle by Richard James Wyatt (1795-1850). Signed.
Height: 74 centimetres
Width: 51 centimetres (max)
- Curator's comments
- Dawson 1999
Comparable examples: Chevening House, Kent, buff-coloured plaster painted grey and another of white plaster, with a greyish coating, both signed.(1)
Displayed: possibly 1884, over the cases in the Glass and Ceramic Gallery ('Guide', 1884, p. 18); c.1960, British and Medieval Antiquities and subsequently MLA Dept.
The 4th Earl Stanhope,(2) half-brother to the famous Lady Hester Stanhope, with whom he fell out, was one of the less distinguished members of this dynasty, which included his forebear, Lord Chesterfield (see registration no. 1762,0528.13). An ultra-Tory, connected with William Pitt since childhood, he seems to have always opposed the ruling party and never held office. In the 1830s he spoke against the New Poor Law and even became associated with the move to extend the suffrage. He travelled extensively and lived much of his life in Germany, whose people he greatly admired.(3) He is perhaps best known as the protector of Kaspar Hauser, a supposed foundling from Nuremberg, whom he took under his protection, and about whom he wrote after Hauser's mysterious demise in December 1833.(4)
The sitter has been identified by comparison with a marble bust at Chevening House, Kent, also signed 'R. J. WYATT ROME.'(5)
Stanhope is depicted in a pen and wash drawing of 'Members of the House of Lords' attributed to Isaac Robert Cruikshank.(6) In this he is shown with Peel, Wellington and Aberdeen, all of whom were actively involved with the British Museum.
Richard Wyatt(7) was born on 3 May 1795 above his father's shop at 360 Oxford Street, next to the Pantheon. He was the fourth son of Edward Wyatt I, who made picture frames, pier glasses, girandoles and other furniture. When he died in 1833, Edward Wyatt left each of his sons £11,000, money which he had presumably earned, at least in part, as carver and gilder to the Office of Works for work on Windsor Castle and Carlton House. His son worked for him before being apprenticed at the age of fourteen to J. C. F. Rossi. In 1812 he began to attend the Royal Academy Schools, and in 1815 was awarded its Silver Medal for the best model from life. He first exhibited at the Academy in 1818. In 1820 he left England, working in the Paris studio of Baron François-Joseph Bosio. He arrived in Rome in 1821 with letters of introduction from the painter Sir Thomas Lawrence and from his uncle Sir Jeffrey Wyatville. He soon met John Gibson (see registration no. 1900,0609.1), who became his lifelong friend. The two men worked in the studio of Bertel Thorwaldsen after the death of Canova, before establishing their own studios opposite each other in Via della Fontanella Barberini. Wyatt's success began with a commission from the Duchess of Devonshire in 1822, and reached its apogee in the 1840s before he was obliged to move his studio to the Via dei Incurabili because of Garibaldi's entry into Rome. He established an aristocratic clientele for his figures and groups, and it seems likely that this portrait is in some way linked to his circle of admirers, even perhaps to Sir Robert Peel, for whom he carved 'Ino and the Infant Bacchus' in 1829.
Wyatt never married. He died on 27 May 1850 and is buried in the English cemetery at Rome. His tombstone is carved with a medallion portrait by Gibson. The statues remaining in his studio after his death were sold at Christie's on 22 June 1861.
The portrait sculpture of Richard James Wyatt is little known. He revisited England only once, in 1841, and it is likely that most of his sitters must have posed for him in Rome. This bust is in the austerely neoclassical style he adopted under the influence of Canova.
Many questions still remain about this bust in the context of the career of Richard Wyatt. The sculptor evidently enjoyed the patronage of the Stanhope or Grenville families. Stanhope's mother was Louisa Grenville (1758-1829), the second wife of the 3rd Earl. There is a much smaller marble bust by Wyatt of Stanhope's daughter, Lady Catherine Lucy Wilhelmina Stanhope, later Duchess of Cleveland (1819-1901), as a young woman, at Chevening House, which bears a similar signature. It may perhaps have been done at the same time as that of her father. Although uninterested in paintings, Stanhope seems to have had a well-developed appreciation of sculpture, describing a monument and a group of figures on his travels in Switzerland and Italy in 1833.(8) How his love of sculpture related to the genesis of this portrait still remains unclear. Stanhope, who is recorded in Rome between 6 November and 12 December 1834,(9) was a frequent visitor to Italy, and indeed wrote a guidebook to the country for private circulation, but the writer has not been able to refer to this in order to discover whether it describes visits to Wyatt's studio.
The bust is solid plaster, over which two coating layers have been applied. The classical-style image imitates second-century Roman portraits. Although the pupils of the eyes are incised, the drapery is not closely based on the classical prototype in which the sitter was always bearded.(10)
(1) The writer has been unable to examine these plasters in detail, as they are kept on top of bookcases.
(2) The best account of his life appears in A. Newman, 'The Stanhopes of Chevening: a family biography', London, 1969. A portrait of the 4th Earl by Ströhling is reproduced opposite p. 240.
(3) See Philip Henry, Lord Stanhope, 'Letters from Switzerland.' 1834, unpublished, printed at Carlsruhe, 1834, p. 157.
(4) Philip Henry, Lord Stanhope, 'Anzug eines Briefes des Grafen Stanhope an den Herrn Schullehrer Meyer in Ansbach', Carlsruhe, 1834 and 'Materialen Zur Geschichte Kaspar Hausers, gesammelt und herausgegeben von dem Grafen Stanhope (Ueber Kaspar Hauser's Leben. Von ihm selbst geschrieben)', Heidelberg, 1835. For a modern account of this affair, see Johannes Mayer, 'Philip Henry, Lord Stanhope: der Gegenspieler Kaspar Hausers', Stuttgart, 1988.
(5) Dawson is most grateful to Jacob Simon for bringing the marble to her attention and to Captain J. D. W. Husband, secretary to the Trustees of the Chevening Estate, for allowing her to examine this bust, displayed in the Entrance Hall, and for drawing her attention to the two plasters at Chevening.
(6) R. Ormond, 'National Portrait Gallery, Early Victorian Portraits', London, 1973, no. 2789, p. 427.
(7) Information on his life is taken from J. M. Robinson, 'The Wyatts: an architectural dynasty', Oxford, 1979, which in turn is partly based on Rosemary Martin, 'Life and work of R.J. Wyatt', unpublished MA thesis, date and place unknown [c. 1970?], consulted at the Library, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. This does not mention the Museum bust.
(8) Stanhope, 'Anzug eines Briefes des Grafen Stanhope', pp. 83, 134-5, 147.
(9) Mayer, 'Philip Henry', p. 539.
(10) Dawson is grateful to Susan Walker for discussing this bust with her.
- Not on display
- traces of surface coating, some remaining areas of discoloration after cleaning of sooty deposit prior to cataloguing in 1999.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
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