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AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION OF PORTRAIT BUSTS BY JOSEPH NOLLEKENS

Joseph Nollekens (1737-1823)
British, 1810
BUST OF WILLIAM PITT THE YOUNGER (1759-1806)
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113

AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION OF PORTRAIT BUSTS BY JOSEPH NOLLEKENS

Joseph Nollekens (1737-1823)
British, 1810
BUST OF WILLIAM PITT THE YOUNGER (1759-1806)
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art

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Joseph Nollekens (1737-1823)
British, 1810
BUST OF WILLIAM PITT THE YOUNGER (1759-1806)
signed and dated: Nollekens Ft. / 1810. and inscribed: R.T HON. BLE / WILLIAM PITT / BORN MAY 28. TH  1759 / DIED JAN.Y 23. D 1806
white marble, on a white marble socle
72.5cm., 28½in. overall
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Provenance

Christie's, South Kensington, 9 April 2003;
private collection, United Kingdom

Catalogue Note

'Oh my country! How I leave my country!..."

These were the final words of William Pitt, the Younger, who died on 23 January 1806 aged 46. He had been British Prime Minister for nearly half of his life and had guided the nation through the most perilous years of the Napoleonic Wars. The unceasing strain of these years (not helped by copious quantities of port) had left him utterly exhausted, and contemporaries who saw him in his final weeks describe a frail, worn-out man with lifeless eyes and a hollow voice. Whilst Nelson's victory at Trafalgar had removed the immediate threat of invasion, Napoleon's comprehensive triumph at the Battle of Austerlitz had left him master of Europe and destroyed the coalition of allies that had cost Pitt years of delicate negotiation to bring together. It was generally accepted that news of Austerlitz was Pitt's death blow.

Nollekens' bust of Pitt, Britain's youngest Prime Minister, is, ironically, one of his most celebrated models. Pitt and Nollekens had fallen out during the Premier's lifetime over an inscription on the sculptor's monument to three naval captains, William Bayne, William Blair and Lord Robert Manners. The monument was not unveiled until years after its completion because Pitt refused to supply the eulogy. Nollekens eventually appealed to the King for assistance, infuriating Pitt, who refused to sit for the sculptor. Nollekens' portrait of Pitt is therefore posthumous and is derived from the death mask. The prime version was carved in 1806 and is in the collection of the Earl and Countess of Rosebery at Dalmeny House, near Edinburgh. The present bust exhibits some particularly fine passages of carving in the hair.

Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art

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London