European Sculpture and Works of Art

European Sculpture and Works of Art

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 46. Bust of the Apollo Belvedere.

Attributed to Joseph Wilton R.A.

Bust of the Apollo Belvedere

Lot Closed

July 4, 11:46 AM GMT


12,000 - 18,000 GBP

Lot Details


Attributed to Joseph Wilton R.A.

London 1722 - 1803

Bust of the Apollo Belvedere

white marble, on a white marble socle

bust: 38cm., 15in.

socle: 16cm., 6 1/4 in.

Charles Watson-Wentworth, second Marquess of Rockingham (1730-1782), probably at Rockingham House, London, and later at Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire;

by family descent until sold Christie's London, 15 July 1986, lot 89;

private collection;

Christie's, London, 22 May 2014, lot 1072;

private collection, United Kingdom

An Inventory of all the Household Goods...Statues...which were in the late Charles Marquis of Rockingham' Grosvenor Square London...,1 July 1782, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments, Sheffield City Libraries, M2 [probably];

N. Penny, 'Lord Rockingham's Sculpture Collection and The Judgement of Paris by Nollekens', The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Vol. 19/1991, pp. 5-34

It is claimed that Joseph Wilton was the first academically trained English sculptor. He rose to become the foremost artist of his generation and, from 1761, was effectively sculptor to the British Empire when appointed sculptor in ordinary to George III. Consequently his commissions could be found from New York and Montreal to Jamaica and Ireland as well as across England. The eldest son of William Wilton, a successful ornamental plasterer, Joseph was born in London. Aged 17, he was sent by his father to train with Laurent Delvaux in Belgium and then moved to Paris to train in marble carving with Jean-Baptiste Pigalle.

Around 1747, Wilton progressed on to Rome where he became involved in the making and selling of plaster casts and marble replicas after the Antique. His patrons were English and Irish aristocrats on the Grand Tour, notably Lord Malton, later the Marquess of Rockingham and William Locke. Having won a silver medal at the French Academy, Wilton topped this by being the first English sculptor to win a gold medal at the Academy of St. Luke in Rome. Wilton transferred to Florence in 1751 where he continued to make fruitful contact with future clients, acting as a tour guide around the grand ducal collections and continuing to make copies after the Antique, such as a Julius Cesear for Lord Edgcumbe and some original compositions such as a Bacchus for Lord Tynley. Wilton also met many future colleagues in Florence, including Joshua Reynolds and William Chambers; Sullivan records a picturesque episode of Wilton and Robert Adam skating on the Arno.

In 1755 Wilton returned to England in the company of William Chambers ‘to begin a reputation in London’, and the two friends were to work closely together throughout their lives. Wilton launched on an active career, producing some inventive portraits and continuing his trademark copies after the Antique. He became involved in many new artistic societies, including the formation of the Royal Academy of Arts. This period culminated in 1761 with his victory in the competition for the Monument to General James Wolfe in Westminster Abbey, which he won against Rysbrack, Roubiliac and Cheere. This heralded an expansion into grand new premises and the establishment of a large studio which imported marble, specialised in restoring antique statues and continued to produce portrait busts, statues and chimney pieces. As sculptor to the King he produced several important commissions for royal monuments.

The present bust, which was almost certainly commissioned by Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham (1730-1782), was attributed to Joseph Wilton by Nicholas Penny in 1991. Penny identified the present bust as one of the 'four busts in Marble’ listed in the 1782 inventory of Lord Rockingham's goods as being at Rockingham House in London (op. cit.). Penny identifies the other busts as being two heads after the antique, , one a Pseudo Seneca, in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (inv. nos. 87.SA.110 and 87.SA.111), and another sold in 1949 by Henry Spencer and Sons, Redford (lot 470).

The Apollo Belvedere was a model to which Wilton returned throughout his career, and reflects the impact of his training in the Eternal City. In 1780, he made a lifesize copy of the model which is today at Sledmere House in Yorkshire. He later combined the model with a Venus de' Medici to form a pair at Wilton House in Wiltshire. Interestingly, a reduced version of the Apollo Belvedere also from Wentworth Woodhouse and attributed to the Workshop of Joseph Wilton is in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles (circa 1762; inv. no. 87.SA.113). A bust version, comparable to the present marble, which is signed and dated: I. WILTON .f:t 1758, was sold at Christie's New York on 16 June 2022.