Military History, Portraits: British 20th C, Sculpture 38 Is this Viscount Allenby? Is the sculptor Sydney March (1876–1968)?

Topic: Subject or sitter

Viscount Allenby had crisp, sharp features and a greater degree of balding by the time he was this age. This bust does not really look like him, unless it is a poor likeness. Compare below:

The side images of this bust (#2,3, 5 and 6) showing the cheeks do not match any photos I have seen of Allenby, whose cheeks were quite smooth, as in this 1931 photo, when he was 70:

I personally do not believe this bust is of Allenby, though it must be of a military man of some note.

The March family of artists included three sculptors who were siblings, Sydney (1876–1968), Elsie (1884–1974) and Vernon (1891–1930). Based on other works by Vernon, Elsie and Sydney March, this bust is most likely to be by Sydney.

Jacinto Regalado, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Curator Jane Cameron replied:

'The painted plaster bust (maquette) was purchased as part of a group of March family sculptures from Ted Few in 1995. Information on the sculptures, including identification, was provided by Ted Few … A box of correspondence, photos and news clippings came with this accession and was transferred to Bromley Archives. I had a quick look through this and there were no photos of the bust or sitter but there may be hints in the correspondence. A lot of it relates to the larger monuments and sculptures that the March family produced but there could be something there. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to go through this but if someone is interested then I am sure it would be possible to make these boxes accessible.'

Jacinto Regalado,

The sitter wears many medals, but the ones on the chest seem too indistinct to be of much help, although the one at the neck may be recognizable. I, however, am no expert on such things, but no doubt others here can do better.

Jacinto Regalado,

Basically, Allenby had a more distinctive, less ordinary face.

Jacinto Regalado,

Sydney March sculpted both the 1st Earl Roberts and the 1st Earl Kitchener, but this bust does not appear to be either of them.

Jacinto Regalado,

Sidney March exhibited at the Royal Academy 1901-1932, but this work does not appear in the relevant RA exhibition catalogues. The Mapping Sculpture database has him as active 1891-1932, which would suggest this bust (if by him) is no later than early 1930s.

Jacinto Regalado,

I do not have access to the DNB online, but Allenby's entry therein may list sculpted portraits of him, and it would be of interest to know if any of the March siblings is mentioned as artist.

Jacinto Regalado,

I assume our sitter's rank can be deduced from his uniform--not by me, but surely someone else can do so.

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose a suitable person at the Imperial War Museums may recognize the sitter on sight, since the question is now who this sitter is, as it is surely not Allenby.

Osmund Bullock,

I agree that this cannot be Allenby, Jacinto, and was about to post profile comparisons to prove the point myself! Our sitter also has too much hair on top, and his moustache is wider with a slight up-kick towards the ends. See attached 1.

The rank is tricky because the modelling is so loose. His left (our right) shoulder tab seems a bit clearer than the other, and I think what we see is the crossed baton and sword at the bottom/outer end indicating general officer rank (so he's defintely not a Field-Marshal). There appears to be a blob - either a crown or 'pip' (star) - above it, but only one; that rules out both a full General (who had both crown and pip) and Brigadier-General (who had neither). The conclusion is therefore that he's either a Lieutenant-General (crossed baton/sword plus crown) or a Major-General (CBS plus pip). See

Whether crown or pip is intended is unclear, at least at this resolution. Either way it's going to be hard identifying him from the rank angle - there were an awful lot of British Maj-Generals & Lt-Generals just after WWI, not to mention Canadians / S. Africans / Australians, etc.

I've made the clearest images I can of the rank insignia from two Art UK pictures (attached 2), but higher-res details of both might possibly help. The relevant AUK images are nos. 2 & 3. Marion?

Jacinto Regalado,

Osmund, can the decoration worn at the neck be identified?

S. Elin Jones,

Could the medal hanging from his neck be the badge of a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order & GCVO?

I realise that the crown is slightly higher than would be expected, but I have doubts, given his loose style, that the sculptor would have been able to successfully place the crown on the cartouche in the middle of the medal.

The GCVO was awarded to Allenby in 1934, and the medal is in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.

Jacinto Regalado,

If it is the RVO, it would be MVO, LVO or CVO but no higher, certainly not the GCVO. See

However, the placement of the crown (if such it be) strikes me as much too high, meaning it is clearly wrong visually.

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose the order at the neck may not be British but continental, such as Belgian.

Osmund Bullock,

The Royal Victorian Order is a good suggestion, but as Jacinto mentions, not I think of the highest grade. I need to check the details for Service Dress in Full Ceremonial order (which is what the sitter is wearing), but I've a feeling that Knights Grand Cross of the various orders did/do not wear the neck decoration with it, while the lower Knights Commander and Commanders did (but not any lower grades than that). The position is a bit puzzling, too: I've never seen a British neck badge/cross worn so high - it normally hangs from a visible 'v' of suspending riband about an inch *below* the tie knot, not over it. A foreign order is conceivable, but there are very strict rules for when and how you can wear them, which I also need to check.

In any case, since Allenby was made a Field-Marshall in 1919, post-1934 his shoulder rank insignia would not have been those of a general (though it's possible he'd received a lower grade of the RVO previously). But I still think the physiognomy points firmly away from him.

Jacinto Regalado,

This is clearly not Allenby, as nothing about the physiognomy or hair matches various clear images of him. I suppose it could be listed as "Portrait of a General" if the sitter cannot be identified, but there is still work to be done before settling for that.

According to Mapping Sculpture , a sale of 168 lots comprising pictures, watercolours, drawings and sculpture by six members of the March family (including Sydney, Elsie and Vernon) was held at Sotheby's, Belgravia, on 2 August 1982. I wonder if the unsold lots comprise what Ted Few sold the collection in 1995, and if there is a catalogue of the 1982 sale (potentially with our bust in it).

Jacinto Regalado,

There are 9 March items in this collection, four busts and 5 statuettes. Three, including our bust, are not attributed to a specific March sibling. One bust (by Elsie) was the subject of a prior AD discussion , which identified the sitter.

Jacinto Regalado,

Vernon March does not appear to have been a sculptor of portrait busts but rather of figures (statuettes and monuments). I can find no such bust by him, including his RA exhibits.

Elsie March did both statuettes and some portrait busts, but her sitters were not major figures of the day, as they often were for Sydney (whose sitters included royalty, important military men and people like Cecil Rhodes). Also, unlike the conventional bust format typically used by Sydney (as in our bust), Elsie's busts tended to be more variable and less standard in format (they often did not include the shoulders and full chest).

Thus, I strongly favor that our bust is by Sydney March.

Jacinto Regalado,

Does someone have a way to get the catalogue to the 1982 Sotheby's sale mentioned above? If our bust was included in it, that could prove very helpful.

Also, there was a retrospective exhibition (presumably for the March family of artists) held in the Grosvenor Hotel in autumn 1981. Maybe there is a catalogue for that as well.

Louis Musgrove,

The award is ,I suggest, the Companion of the Bath- and the sitter is Douglas Haig- who was appointed the youngest Major General in the Army ,in 1904. He wore his CB high. Companions also have a special PIP for the shoulder.

S. Elin Jones,

The order of Bath was also an award that Allenby received on Nov. 5th 1919, for his role in the first world war. It is also a part of the collection of his medals in the IWM. I wasn’t too sure about the sharpness of the angles, but perhaps a close-up of the neck area of the bust may help.

Jacinto Regalado,

Interesting thoughts, Louis, but the physiognomy doesn't match.

Marcie, I think Gough was very probably too old to be our man, and he certainly played no role in WWI.

Marcie Doran,

Thanks, Louis. I’m sorry that I didn’t solve this one.


I realize that there’s strong evidence to suggest that this isn't Allenby but the sitter looks a lot like the second image of Allenby in the attachment.

Jacinto Regalado,

I disagree, Marcie. For one thing, our sitter has too much hair, and his physiognomy is completely wrong for Allenby.

Jacinto Regalado,

For what it's worth, the two other March works in this collection which were not assigned to a specific March sibling have now been identified as by (or attributed to) Sydney March.

Jacinto Regalado,

Interesting, but I do not think so, Louis. Our man has too much hair on top, and Athlone had a smoother and fuller face.

Jacinto Regalado,

Is it feasible to consult a suitable person at the Imperial War Museum for assistance in identifying this sitter?

Jenny Spencer-Smith stepped aside from her role as Group Leader for Military History last month, having been with Art Detective from the start in 2014. I have written to thank Jenny on behalf of Art UK for her long and generous contribution to Art Detective.

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