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Sir Richard Westmacott RA (1775 - 1856), sculptor

Bust of Sir William Chambers, c.1797


Height (including base): 2.10ft
Width (shoulders): 1.10ft

Inscription: “I herewith transmit to you the bust of the late Sir William Chambers, so much prized by the gentlemen of this department. Their very high esteem for him induced them to obtain the skilful services of Mr Westmacott as the sculptor, and he, sharing in their veneration for the deceased, exerted himself as the bust abundantly testifies.” Extract from a letter received from J. W. Hiort Esq. of His M. Office of Works dated 12 Dec. 1832 [painted in gold on the front of the wooden block on which the bust sits]

Museum number: SC21

Curatorial note

Bust on a moulded base; with classical drapery round the shoulders, thick curly hair and gaze directed slightly downward to the left. The bust sits on a wooden block, designed for it when it entered Soane's collection and bearing the original painted inscription in gold, c.1832.

Probably the bust exhibited by ‘R. Westmacott Jnr. at the Royal Academy in 1797, the year of Chambers’ death. The bust is therefore posthumous. Westmacott was then 22 and had just returned from Rome where he had studied under Canova. Over the course of his long career, Westmacott produced few portrait busts. Another, of Dr Johnson, in the Royal Collection, closely resembles this one.

Soane placed the bust in a position of honour in a niche at the first turn of his main staircase at 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields emphasising his admiration for Chambers, a founder architect member of the Royal Academy who seems to have acted to some degree as a mentor to the young Soane. When Soane left for Italy on his grand tour Chambers presented him with a copy of a letter to one of his own Students which served as Soane's introduction to Piranesi in Rome and gave him much good advice. Later, Soane acquired copies of Chambers' treatise on Civil Architecture and more than 1,000 Chambers' drawings, including those for Somerset House, which are still in the collection.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Presented to Sir John Soane in 1832 by the Office of Works.


Arthur T. Bolton, English 18th Century Sculpture in Sir John Soane's Museum, 1919, pl IV
M. Busco, Sir Richard Westmacott, Sculptor, CUP, 1994

Exhibition history

Sir William Chambers: Architect to George III, The Courtauld Gallery, London, 10 October 1996 - 5 January 1997; Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 21 February - 20 April 1997

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk