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Purpose

Westminster Abbey, London: Monument to Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Townshend, commissioned by Viscountess Townshend, 1760, executed (13)

Signed and dated

  • 1760

Notes

Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Townshend (1731-59), was the fifth son of the 3rd Viscount Townshend (1700-67), a later patron of Adam at Raynham Hall, Norfolk. He died when he was hit by a cannon-ball at Ticonderoga, New York, fighting the French. His mother, ViscountessTownshend, commissioned Adam to design the monument, and it was executed according to Adam's design for the south aisle of Westminster Abbey. Various elements of the design are borrowed from Adam's unsuccessful competition design for the monument to Major-General Wolfe. The most notable similarity can be seen in the central relief panel depicting the subject's death scene. Fleming notes that it is unknown if Lady Townshend was familiar with Adam's design for the Wolfe monument, but that it was connected to her family as the design for Wolfe's death scene relief panel (SM Adam volume 19/67) includes Wolfe gesturing to his second in command, George Townshend, Roger Townshend's elder brother. Fleming suggests that the composition of a sarcophagus supported by caryatids or atlantes may have been inspired by Italian Renaissance monuments such as that for Pietro Lombardo at SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, but it is important to note that within Adam's possession was a drawing of various Roman tombs by Clérisseau (SM Adam volume 57/20), and two of the tombs depicted in this drawing comprise a strigillated casket supported by terms, being reminiscent of Adam's designs for the Townshend monument, albeit with atlantes in place of terms. The Townshend monument atlantes are Native American men (cultural group unknown), presumably referring to the location of Townshend's death, and establish an interesting stylistic contrast with the rest of the monument which is entirely classical. The marble relief panel is signed by Joseph Eckstein (1735-1818), though a terracotta model for this was made by Luc-François Breton (1731-1800), who also worked for Adam at Syon. The monument is signed by Benjamin Carter (d.1795), though it is generally felt that Eckstein had been given responsibility for much of this work.

In July 1760 Robert Adam wrote to his brother James that he intended to have the design engraved, but there is no evidence that it was published. There are six monuments in Westminster Abbey designed by Robert Adam: to the Duchess of Northumberland, Roger Townshend, John André, James Thomson, Mary Hope and William Dalrymple.

See also Westminster Abbey, London: Monument to Major-General James Wolfe

Literature:
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 51, 89; J. Fleming, 'Robert Adam, Luc-François Breton and the Townshend monument in Westminster Abbey', Connoisseur 150, April 1962, pp. 163-170; G. Beard, The work of Robert Adam, 1978, p. 55; E. Harris, and N. Savage, British architectural books and writers: 1556-1785, 1990, p. 91; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 363-364, 373

Frances Sands, 2011

Level

Scheme

Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

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Contents of Westminster Abbey, London: Monument to Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Townshend, commissioned by Viscountess Townshend, 1760, executed (13)