Collection online

portrait bust

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Bronze portrait bust of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), wearing star of Order of the Bath; by A S Damer (1749-1828).

  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1814 (before)
  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 71 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        on collar
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Transliteration

      • Inscription Translation

        Anna Seymour Damer fecit
  • Curator's comments

    The bust once had a turntable device, which would have had brass handles at the sides, so that it could be rotated. These were removed at an unspecified time. A recent cast is in the British Library.
    For a marble bust of Lady Ailesbury, the artist's mother, sold at Sotheby's, 8 December 2006, lot 142, see object file.

    See also BM exh. cat. K. Sloan, 'A Noble Art', 2000, no. 184 (text below):
    Anne Seymour was the daughter of two of Walpole's greatest friends, his cousin Field Marshall Henry Seymour Conway and his wife, Caroline, Countess of Ailesbury. Anne inherited Strawberry Hill on Walpole's death in 1797. She married John Damer in 1767, but nine years later he committed suicide after running up gambling debts. She had drawn since childhood, frequently sending Walpole sketches on cards much like those done by Lady Burlington (see p. 215). She began modelling in wax in her early teens, first a dog in bas-relief and then heads 'in the manner of [Isaac] Gosset' (1713-99). Gosset was a Huguenot wax-modeller of profile reliefs, sold in oval frames and much copied and reproduced by Wedgwood and Tassie.
    In 1778-9 she was sent to Italy for her health and presented a self-portrait in marble to the Uffizi. When she set out again in 1781, Walpole wrote to Horace Mann in Florence that she was so reserved and modest that 'We have by accident discovered that she writes Latin like Pliny, and is learning Greek. In Italy she will be a prodigy; she models like Bernini, has excelled the moderns in the similitudes of her busts and has lately begun one in marble. You must keep all knowledge of these talents and acquisitions to yourself; she would never forgive my mentioning them, at least her mental qualities - you may hint that I have talked of her statuary, as you may assist her if she has a mind to borrow anything to copy from the Great Duke's collection.' She had lessons in anatomy and studied with John Bacon the elder and Giuseppe Cerrachi, whose full-length marble statue of her is in the British Museum. She exhibited as a Visitor at the Royal Academy from 1784-1818, presenting her work to family, friends and public institutions. A Whig and a Foxite like Diana Beauclerk and the Duchess of Devonshire, she made a bust of Charles James Fox and in 1823 presented her old friend Richard Payne Knight with a copy of her earlier self-portrait. It came to the Museum with his bequest, but was destroyed in 1941.
    She began to work in bronze around 1800 and this portrait of another friend, Sir Joseph Banks, botanist, President of the Royal Society and one of the Museum's greatest Trustees and patrons, may be based on a terra-cotta model exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1806, now lost. The static herm-like form indicates a desire to imitate early Greek sculpture, echoed by her signature in Greek letters on the side. She had made earlier gifts to the Museum, including a group of tiles from the Alhambra, and in 1814 she presented this bronze bust with instructions it should be placed on a pivot. Following her intention that it be place at a height, the Museum displayed it on the great staircase in Montague House, but it was removed fifteen years later and around 1850 relegated to a basement where it remained for the next century.
    Her full-length statue of George III still graces the Edinburgh Register Office and she presented the bust of her friend Lord Nelson to the City of London, and her bust of Charles James Fox was sent to Napolean at his own request. She received from him in turn an enamelled gold box set with brilliants which she left to the British Museum.

    Literature: Walpole Correspondence, v. 38, p. 198, v. 25, p. 184; Alison Yarrington, 'The Female Pygmalion: Anne Seymour Damer, Allan Cunningham and the writing of a woman sculptor's life', The Sculpture Journal 1, 1997, pp. 32-44; Aileen Dawson, 'Portrait Sculpture: a catalogue of the British Museum's collection, c.1675-1975', 2000, no. 2


  • Bibliography

    • Dawson 1999 2 (further bibliography in Dawson) bibliographic details
    • Webb 2013 XXVI bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G1/od/nr6

  • Exhibition history

    2014 15 Feb-11 May, Lincoln, The Collection, Joseph Banks, A Great Endeavour - A Lincolnshire Gentleman and his Legacy

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Bronze portrait bust of Sir Joseph Banks by Anne Seymour Damer


COMPASS Title: Bronze portrait bust of Sir Joseph Banks by Anne Seymour Damer

Image description



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Object reference number: MCN11515

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