Portraits: British 19th C, Sculpture, South East England: Artists and Subjects 54 Who is the sitter in this sculpture by Benjamin Cheverton after Matthew Noble?

HMPS_IWCMS_IWCMS_1995_295_001
Topic: Artist

An open discussion might identify the sitter. If this were John Brown, the original by Noble should be in the Royal Collection, and it is not. In image #4, on the back of the bust proper above the socle, there appears the incised signature M NOBLE SC, which corresponds to Matthew Noble (1817–1876)

Jacinto Regalado, Entry reviewed by Art UK

54 comments

Cheverton was an exponent of the reducing machine to create versions of others’ works: many in marble and ivory are known. The incised signature of the original sculptor is always included, in this case Matthew Noble.

Jacinto Regalado,

The John Brown previously considered as the sitter (by Diane Bilbey) is the well-known personal servant to Queen Victoria, but he died at 56, and I don't believe he ever had such a beard.

Jacinto Regalado,

It does not fit Dickens or Tennyson, both of whom I considered.

Andrew Shore,

If you look at image 4 on the Art UK link (i.e. the back) there appears to be some faint lettering on the back of the main sculpture (above where the NOBLE lettering is). The photo is too low resolution to see properly, but it looks like (in the middle) 'WE AR S' with perhaps a date after: 18??

Possibly taking a look at a higher resolution image of the back (or asking someone at IOW Council to look at it) might help us at least narrow it down?

Jacinto Regalado,

Your eyes are apparently sharper than mine, Andrew, but certainly it would be good to have a high-resolution close-up of the area in question, and I hope the collection can provide one when feasible or inspect that area "live" and let us know what they found.

Jacinto Regalado,

I think Andrew meant right above the Noble inscription, David, but he should clarify the matter himself.

I am not that familiar with the work of Matthew Noble but having checked the compilation by Algernon Graves of the Royal Academy Exhibitors 1769-1904 it details about one hundred of his exhibits there between 1845 and 1876. In every case the sitter is identified. I have checked against some of the better known names but have not yet identified the original of 'our' work. In regard to Benjamin Cheverton is it known whether his versions of the work of others are unique or were they produced in numbers?

Andrew Shore,

I've vaguely highlighted on the attached where I think the letters WE A R S (and possible start of a date) are. The S may be on a line perhaps? Or it could be an 8... There's definitely something there, but it might not be the sitter, of course. If there's a higher resolution image available, it could be that there's more to the left of that area visible too.

I've attached three areas where maybe some lettering. The area you indicated Andrew (detail_02), which is largely where the attachment I sent yesterday was centred, along with maybe some lettering on the left hand shoulder (detail_03) and the odd letter of two between these two details (detail_04). I do think the clearest lettering however is the area I highlighted yesterday.

Jacinto Regalado,

Grant, I doubt they were unique, but I expect the number made was based on demand related to the sitter in question. I'm sure his copied busts of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, for instance, were not unique.

Jacinto Regalado,

The Art Gallery of Ontario has a large collection of Cheverton busts after larger originals by others, including multiple copies of the same bust for many sitters, including many who are not well known names now and were never major figures. The number of copies in the AGO collection ranges from 2 to 4 for a given bust, but it has 12 copies of a bust of John Dalton. See link below:

https://bit.ly/3nKd1x9

Christina Corsiglia,

I have been cataloguing the Cheverton busts in the Art Gallery of Ontario for a book about Cheverton that I am co-authoring with Anthony Burton. The book will include those busts, which were collected by Kenneth Thomson (1923-2006), as well as all other known works by Cheverton. I believe this bust represents Harcourt Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone, 1st Baron Derwent (1829-1916), grandson of Edward Venables-Vernon Harcourt, Archbishop of York (1757-1847). Several members of the family sat to Noble, of which Cheverton made numerous reductions. I am attaching a photograph of Harcourt Johnstone. Noble exhibited a plaster bust of ‘Harcourt Johnstone, Esq.’ at the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1851, no. 1364. I would be most grateful to learn of any other Cheverton busts (christinacorsiglia@gmail.com). I think the present bust may well be made of alabaster rather than marble, but it’s difficult to say without seeing it in person.

Jacinto Regalado,

Thank you, Christina. The linked photo seems to be of a younger man than our sitter, and the 1851 plaster bust would be of a very young man (unless you meant 1881, the year he became Baron Derwent). However, our sitter could certainly be Harcourt Johnstone; the very straight nose and high forehead match fairly well.

In the unlikely event you have not checked, the V&A Museum has some Cheverton busts.

Kieran Owens,

With respect, unless the bust has been badly realised by either Noble or Cheverton, there does not seem to be too much likeness in the shape of the nose, the depth of the receding hairline at the point of the parting, or the shape of the eyes and brows.

Also, in 1851, Harcourt Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone would have been 22 years old, so this is definitely not a bust by Cheverton after that particular bust by Noble.

The sitter for this bust looks to be in his early fifties, perhaps, which, if it was of Johnstone means that the work would have been executed in 1879 or after, at least three years after both Noble's and Cheverton's deaths.

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Jacinto Regalado,

I should have realised that this could not be after an 1881 bust because Noble died in 1876, and it cannot be after an 1851 bust of a 22-year-old man. Since the Noble bust can be no later than 1876, when Johnstone was 47, that seems a bit too young.

Jacinto Regalado,

I do think the bust proper, as opposed to the plinth, is alabaster, not marble, which is more in keeping with Cheverton's practice.

Jacinto Regalado,

Alas, even after weeding out Noble busts I've seen and know are not our sitter, there are three dozen busts of men shown by Noble at the Royal Academy during his career, any one of which could be our man.

Jacinto Regalado,

Well, I have narrowed the list to about 20, but even that does not take into account busts which were not shown at the RA.

Jacinto Regalado,

My list, which I got down to 14 but may or may not include our sitter, follows (with the year of RA exhibition after each name):

John Francis, sculptor (1847)
Hon. Alexander Stuart (1848)
Angus MacDonell, Esq. (1849)
Lord Neville (1850)
Colonel Malcolm (1850)
Alexander Halley MD (1850)
Bryan Donkin, Esq., F.R.S. (1853)
Earl of Shaftesbury (1859)
The late J. F. Foster, Esq. (1860)
The late John Allen, Esq. (1868)
Mr. Sergeant Spinks of Brinley House, Kent (1871)
The late John Hartley, Esq. (1872)
The late Lord Southampton (1874)
Edward Wood, Esq. of Newbold Revel, Rugby (1875)

Christina Corsiglia,

My apologies for having taken so long to respond. My initial response was based on notes made several years ago when I first encountered a photograph of this bust in a collector’s files. I should have waited to consult my full Noble file, which wasn’t available to me again until yesterday due to Covid restrictions. I had come to a standstill when trying to determine the sitter of this bust a few years ago and decided to leave it until I begin to catalogue the other busts related to Noble. So with Jacinto’s list as a guide, herewith are my notes. I will send a second list separately of other possible sitters that I’ve identified.

While identifying Cheverton’s works I have collected images of either the busts or the sitters of all of Noble’s works in the BDSB as well as those included in the exhibition of his plasters and models shown in Newcastle after his death. In the list below ‘Elswick Hall’ refers to the numbers in the Descriptive Catalogue of the Lough and Noble Models of Statues, Bas-Reliefs and Busts in Elswick Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne (Newcastle, sixth ed., 1914; orig. ed. 1886). I also have copies of the photos in the Conway Library archive, as well as otherwise unrecorded works either privately owned or on the market and have collected images of as many sitters as possible.

John Francis – This a real possibility as I think it likely that the alabaster bust could be a copy of an early work by Noble, but finding an image of any kind of Francis, who was Noble’s early mentor, seems to be a tall order.

Hon. Alexander Stuart – I’m not yet sure who precisely this is, so it’s difficult to match this name with a sitter.

Angus MacDonnell, Esq. – Again, it’s not entirely clear to me which Angus MacDonnell this is.

Lord Neville – This was a plaster bust of Charles Cornwallis Neville, 5th Baron Braybrooke of Essex (1823-1902) – Elswick Hall Exh., No. 251. Photo attached. Not a match for this bust.

Colonel Malcolm – This was a bust of Major-General Sir John Malcolm (1769-1833), Gov. of Bombay, later MP for Launceston. See drawings by Chantrey at NPG for 1836 statue and prints of 1832 after portrait by George Hayter. Not a match for this bust.

Dr. Alexander Halley (1824-75) – See photo by Camille Silvy of 1861. Halley was 26 when he sat to Noble, so probably not a match for this bust.

Bryan Donkin (1768-1855) – Engineer. See attached photo of bronzed plaster reduction of Noble’s bust sold on eBay in 2018.

Earl of Shaftesbury – Noble’s bust of 1859 was of Anthony, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-85), image attached. I believe Noble also made a bust of his son, Lionel Ashley, included on my second list.

The late J. F. Foster – This was a bust of John Frederick Foster (1795-1858), who was a magistrate in Manchester, chairman of the Quarter Sessions in Salford, and Recorder of Manchester from 1839-58. Noble’s statue of him from 1865 was at the Assize Court of Manchester. I have not been able to find an image of Noble’s bust or statue, nor even a photograph of Foster, but have sent out a few enquiries.

The late John Allen, Esq. – This was actually a posthumous bust of John Allan (1790-1865), a shipbuilder whose funerary monument in Nunhead Cemetery Noble completed in 1867. See attached image of the relief of Allan on the back of the edifice, signed and dated 1867. Not a match for this bust.

Mr. Sergeant Spinks of Brinley House, Kent – This was a bust of Frederick Lowten Spinks (1816-99) of Brenley House, Faversham. Serjeant-at-law, 1862, MP for Oldham, 1874-80, JP for Kent. He would have been 71 years old when he sat to Noble in 1871, so he is a possibility, but I have not been able to find any images of him.

The late John Hartley, Esq. – This was a posthumous bust of John Hartley (1813-1884), owner of Hartley’s Glassworks & Wearglass Works in Sunderland, and a partner in ironworks and collieries, DL for Staffordshire, Mayor of Wolverhampton, 1858. See attached photograph – he doesn’t appear to be a match for this bust, but more images would be helpful.

The late Lord Southampton – This was a posthumous bust of Charles Fitzroy, 3rd Baron Southampton, (1804-1872). The only image I’ve found of him, attached, is when he was quite young. I’ve written to ask if the family has any other images.

Edward Wood Esq. of Newbold Revel, Rugby – This was a bust of Edward Herbert Wood (1847-1886), of Newbold Revel and Isle of Raasay, grandson of Enoch Wood; High Sheriff of Warwickshire, 1864-69. He was 28 when he sat to Noble in 1875, so he would seem to be too young for this bust. I have not been able to find any images of him.

Jacinto Regalado,

Thank you for your help, Christina. A few points:

The RA (perhaps in error) gives Angus MacDonell, not MacDonnell.

I do not think the "Colonel Malcolm" of 1850 is Sir John Malcolm, who died in 1833 and would certainly not be listed as just a colonel after his death (also, the RA listing does not indicate Colonel Malcolm had died).

You must have missed linking the image for Bryan Donkin.

Spinks would have been 55 (not 71) in 1871.

That reduces my list to this (pending your Donkin photo):

John Francis, sculptor (1847)
Hon. Alexander Stuart (1848)
Angus MacDonell, Esq. (1849)
Colonel Malcolm (1850)
Bryan Donkin, Esq., F.R.S. (1853)
The late J. F. Foster, Esq. (1860)
Mr. Sergeant Spinks of Brinley House, Kent (1871)
The late Lord Southampton (1874)

Jacinto Regalado,

This is a fashion and/or culture question for those better informed than I: Does the sort of extravagant beard on this sitter have particular or specific associations in terms of geographic background, socioeconomic status, occupation or time period?

Jacinto Regalado,

The NPG listing of all known portraits of Sir John Malcolm of India fame does not include anything by Noble, whose "Colonel Malcolm" must be a different person:

https://bit.ly/2JhMLeO

Mark Wilson,

You can also remove Donkin from that list judging by the photo on his Wiki he seems to have been notably unhirsute:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryan_Donkin

He was also 85 when his bust was exhibited at the RA and this seems to be of a younger man.

(There was a son and a grandson of the same name, both eminent but neither FRS)

Jacinto Regalado,

The latest list, with ages (if known):

John Francis, sculptor (1847), age 67

Hon. Alexander Stuart (1848), presumably of noble family

Angus MacDonell, Esq. (1849)

Colonel Malcolm (1850)

The late J. F. Foster, Esq. (1860), died 1858 at 63

Mr. Sergeant Spinks of Brinley House, Kent (1871), age 55

The late Lord Southampton (1874), died 1872 at 68

Christina Corsiglia,

Herewith images of Bryan Donkin. I'll check this time to be sure they come through.

Regarding Col. Sir John Malcolm, both the 1886 catalogue by John Robinson (Descriptive Catalogue of the Lough & Noble Models of Statues, Bas-reliefs, and Busts in Elswick Hall, Newcastle-on-Tyne, cat. #9) and BDSB l (citing the Robinson catalogue) list the sitter of Noble’s 1850 bust as Sir John Malcolm and Colonel Sir John Malcolm respectively. The Robinson catalogue, also in its later 1914 edition, includes a brief biography of him (cat. no. 178, p. 52). Lists of other likenesses such as those in the NPG’s Regency Portraits catalogue and the ODNB frequently don’t include all the sculpted portraits of a sitter. And the RA catalogues aren’t always consistent in citing someone as ‘the late’- it often depends on how an artist listed the work on their submission list. That all said, it’s entirely possible that the 1886 catalogue of Noble’s plasters and models was mistaken, and that Noble’s bust was of Sir John Malcolm’s older brother Sir James Malcolm (1767-1849), one of the Malcolm brothers known as the ‘Four Knights of Eskdale’, who died the year before Noble’s plaster bust of ‘Colonel Malcolm’ was sent to the RA. A few images of Sir James are attached.

Jacinto Regalado,

Christina, James Malcolm seems much more likely than Sir John, but I would have expected him to be listed as Colonel Sir James Malcolm in the RA catalogue, not plain Colonel Malcolm. Your images for him are not how he would have looked as an old man c. 1850, but if he was the sitter for the Noble bust in question, I doubt he is our man.

Jacinto Regalado,

Sir John Malcolm was a very important figure; there's a larger-than-life full-length statue of him by Chantrey in Westminster Abbey, and he would never have been listed so perfunctorily by Graves.

Jacinto Regalado,

The sitter need not have any connection to the Isle of Wight, but the provenance of the bust could be significant. It was a gift to the collection, presumably in 1995 according to the accession number (unless that is simply the year it was catalogued). Can the collection tell us more?

I have asked the Curator and am awaiting a reply. From other Isle of Wight Heritage Services artworks, I can see that it is the year the Isle of Wight Heritage Services acquired it. However, this reflects this process

'Further Local Government re-organisation took place in 1995, which was to have an even greater impact upon the Museum Service in terms of its holdings of fine art collections. In this restructure, a unitary Local Authority was established (the Isle of Wight Council), which amalgamated the former Medina and South Wight Borough Councils. Medina Borough Council had inherited (through its predecessor Urban District Council) a miscellany of pictures, which had been located in various council buildings'

so I have asked the Curator for the provenance before 1995.

David

The Curator has told me that the work was held by South Wight Borough Council prior to 1995. They have been unable to find any further details about how the statue was acquired previous to this date.

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose the South Wight Borough Council records would have to be consulted, if relevant records are extant, but I would hardly expect that to happen any time soon under current conditions.

Christina Corsiglia,

A brief update: judging by the attached images of John Francis and John Frederick Foster, neither appear to have been the sitter for this bust by Noble. Additionally, Sergeant/Serjeant Spinks (Frederick Lowten Spinks) should be removed from consideration as it seems the bust was entered incorrectly in Graves and then in BDSB. The original 1871 Royal Academy exhibition catalogue lists the bust as being of ‘Mrs. Spinks, wife of Serjeant Spinks of Brinley House, Kent’ (no. 1190, p. 49). If Noble did in fact make a bust of Frederick Spinks, based on the attached image of him from ca. 1880, he wasn’t the sitter for this alabaster bust either.

Jacinto Regalado,

That leaves the list at these:

Hon. Alexander Stuart (1848), presumably of noble family

Angus MacDonell, Esq. (1849)

Colonel Malcolm (1850)

The late Lord Southampton (1874), died 1872 at 68

I have contacted the Isle of Wight Records Office to see if they can help us with South Wight Borough Council records, and where the sculpture was held prior to 1995.

The Records Office immediately replied back and a very helpful Heritage Service Manager is going to look further into this on paper records, as nothing digital exists. Unfortunately whereas Medina Borough Council had an inventory of all of its art works, he has yet to find the equivalent for South Wight Borough Council.

I am wondering whether the time has come to close this year-old discussion. From the lack of response, it would seem that the Records Office has been unable to make progress with the records of the South Wight Borough Council.

I have tried to advance the discussion using Jacinto’s list of 31 December 2020. In particular I examined two of the ideas, Angus MacDonell, Esq (1849) and the late Lord Southampton (1874), who died 1872 at 68. There was some resemblance with mid-life portraits of Southampton but not sufficient. As to the other ideas, Hon. Alexander Stuart (1848) and Colonel Malcolm (1850), I found these fairly common names difficult to progress.

In these circumstances, unless further evidence is forthcoming, we should probably move towards closure and accept that we have been unable to identify the sitter.

The Collection has commented: 'We appreciate all of your efforts to try and identify the sitter but agree it is probably time to close the discussion.'

Osmund Bullock,

Is there any evidence that Longfellow was sculpted by Matthew Noble? Is there even any evidence that Longfellow visited Britain, or Noble America during the years when the sculptor was active? Are there any images of Longfellow that show him with this combination of very long beard but pretty short and neat hair?

These are the sort of questions any contributor should be asking themselves. If the answer to any of them is 'yes', then share the evidence. If it's 'no' for all, then the idea is likely a non-starter. If it's 'I don't know', then I would respectfully suggest you have more work to do before throwing names into the hat. Men with long beards were two a penny in mid-to-late Victorian Britain, and you need more than that to make a decent hypothesis.

Marcie Doran,

The comment made by Jacinto Regalado of 16/11/2020 20:33 stated that he had considered Dickens and Tennyson. Another comment stated that Noble would have produced works that were not exhibited at the RA.

The ‘Essex Standard and Eastern Counties’ Advertiser’ of June 12, 1868, has an article about a Longfellow visit - “Longfellow in England” (attached).

Osmund Bullock,

Jacinto told us he had considered *and rejected* them, which is rather different.

The Essex Standard piece you've found is indeed valid evidence of a circumstantial possibility of Longfellow (though I don't believe it looks much like him); but I would encourage you to look for things like that before you post, not just when pressed. The danger (for you) of just coming up with a name and presenting it without any supporting evidence beyond a vague physical resemblance is that we're tempted to think it's 'just another wild idea of Marcie's' and ignore you!

Osmund Bullock,

Agreed (on both counts); which is why I usually read Marcie's posts, and often take the trouble to respond. I can't say the same for everyone who posts here.

Marcie, I'm sorry. On reflection I was perhaps a bit harsh. But I do still believe strongly in the value of providing evidence to support suggestions wherever possible, however tenuous and circumstantial.

Marcie Doran,

That was a kind apology, Osmund. Thank you.

Katharine Eustace, Sculpture,

We are all, I am sure, aware that Art Detective is a public domain, and not a club. Electronics have a way of encouraging the spontaneous, conversational response, but a certain sense of formality is no bad thing. Equally, I am sure we all agree that our interventions in discussions should be considered and factual, and supported by documentary evidence where possible.

This year-old discussion, “Who is the sitter in this sculpture by Benjamin Cheverton after Matthew Noble?” has attracted 50 responses. Jacinto’s list of 31 December 2020 formed a valiant attempt to carry the discussion forward. The difficulties of this discussion are discussed in my post of 2 November this year. Regretably we have been unable to make further progress and the Collection accepts that the time has probably come to close the discussion (3 November).

In these circumstances, subject to rection by other group leaders, I recommend that we close this discussion on the basis that we have been unable to identify the sitter.

Jacinto Regalado,

For what it's worth, here's the list (from Gunnis, now thankfully back online) of Matthew Noble's works. Alas, he made so many busts of men that it's a Herculean task to go through them:

https://bit.ly/311hVjh

Andrew Shore,

I note that one of the untraced busts on that Gunnis list was of Charles Seely, who owned many acres on the Isle of Wight: https://bit.ly/3p3bO69

The caricature on his Wikipedia page shows him with some facial hair, but not a long beard. Does anyone know if he ever had a long beard?

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