Oliver Cromwell

Bust
1762 (made)
Oliver Cromwell thumbnail 1
Oliver Cromwell thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sculpture, Room 24, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was often represented in 18th-century British sculpture because of his central role in British history. This bust is probably based on a plaster cast of his face, made for his funeral effigy. It also shows Wilton's interest in and understanding of ancient Roman sculpture, which he had studied in Italy.

Cromwell is here represented as a military man with a breastplate ornated with lions and a Medusa head. The Medusa head was a common ornament on armours. It recalls the legend of Perseus killing the fearsome monster, Medusa, whose gaze had turned her enemies to stone. Perseus presented Medusa's head to Athena, Goddess of War, who fixed it to her shield so that it faced her enemies.

Joseph Wilton was born in London, but trained in the Netherlands, France and Italy from 1744 to 1755. He was appointed Statuary to His Majesty George III in 1761, and in 1768 became a founder member of the Royal Academy. However in the same year he inherited a large legacy from his father and neglected sculpture thereafter; he went bankrupt in 1793.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Marble
Brief Description
Bust, marble, of Oliver Cromwell, by Joseph Wilton, English, 1762
Physical Description
The sitter, who wears a cuirass, adorned with lions in relief on the shoulders and a Medusa head on the breast, turned his hand sharply to the right. His thinning hair falls in curls to his shoulder.
Dimensions
  • Height: 74.9cm
Marks and Inscriptions
'OPUS./ JOSEPHI WILTON 1762'
Object history
Purchased by the Museum from Alfred Spero, London, in 1930, for £70.
Subject depicted
Summary
Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was often represented in 18th-century British sculpture because of his central role in British history. This bust is probably based on a plaster cast of his face, made for his funeral effigy. It also shows Wilton's interest in and understanding of ancient Roman sculpture, which he had studied in Italy.



Cromwell is here represented as a military man with a breastplate ornated with lions and a Medusa head. The Medusa head was a common ornament on armours. It recalls the legend of Perseus killing the fearsome monster, Medusa, whose gaze had turned her enemies to stone. Perseus presented Medusa's head to Athena, Goddess of War, who fixed it to her shield so that it faced her enemies.



Joseph Wilton was born in London, but trained in the Netherlands, France and Italy from 1744 to 1755. He was appointed Statuary to His Majesty George III in 1761, and in 1768 became a founder member of the Royal Academy. However in the same year he inherited a large legacy from his father and neglected sculpture thereafter; he went bankrupt in 1793.
Associated Object
A.72-1965 (Original)
Bibliographic References
  • Whinney, M.,English Sculpture 1720-1830, London, 1971, p. 100
  • Whinney, M., Sculpture in Britain 1530 to 1830, 2nd ed. London, 1988, pp. 262, 460, note 26
  • Wilson, D. A bust of Thomas Hollis by Joseph Wilton RA: Sitter and artist revisited. The British Art Journal. V. no. 3. Winter 2004. pp. 17, 19.
  • Bilbey, Diane and Trusted Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2002. p. p. 163-4. cat. no. 220.
  • Wilson, D. The rediscovered Mr Gladstone goes home. A bust of the stateman by Joseph Edgar Boehm. The British Art Journal. VII. no. 3. note. 34 on p. 27.
  • The Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon. Huntingdon, 1965. p. 3. cat. no. 13.
  • Throsby, J. Select view in Leicestershire, from original drawings. Leicester, 1789. I. p. 173 [2345.]
  • A catalogue of the paintings, sculptures, architecture, models, drawings, engravings, etc : now exhibiting by the body of artists, associated for the relief of their distressed brethren, their widows, and children, at Mr. Moreing's Great Room, in Maiden-Lane, Covent Garden. London : Free Society of Artists, 1766no.221
  • Ward-Jackson, Peter. Le Siècle de l'élégance : la demeure anglaise au XVIIIe siècle, Paris : Musée des arts décoratifs, 1959no.73
Collection
Accession Number
A.32-1930

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record createdAugust 14, 2006
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