Lady Morgan

Bust
1830 (made)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sculpture, Room 22, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Lady Morgan (about 1778-1859) was a highly successful Irish novelist, whose works championed the rights of women and dispossessed Irish Catholics. She was less than four feet high and had a slight deformity of the spine and face. This bust was commissioned by the sitter from Pierre-Jean David, usually called David D'Angers, the pre-eminent French portrait sculptor of the time. She is depicted as a confident woman who was in her fifties at the time the bust was executed. The work is a romanticised portrait of Lady Morgan which perhaps complements her literary background and captures her lively and determined personality. The absence of shoulders focuses attention on the intricately carved hair, head dress and slender neck of the sitter. At the time of the sitting, D'Angers noted in his notebook: 'She has the impatience of a child; she guesses at everything; it is the mark of a genius, but I think that often she does not look beyond the surface of things'.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
White marble, carved
Brief Description
Bust in white marble of Lady Morgan, by David d'Angers, French, signed and dated 1830
Physical Description
marble bust of Lady Morgan, her face slightly upturned, flanked on either side by thick curls of hair, and her head encircled by a wreath of oak leaves.
Dimensions
  • Height: 60.96cm
Marks and Inscriptions
LADY MORGAN. P.J. DAVID. D'ANGERS 1830 (inscribed along front edge at truncation)
Historical context
Miss Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan (ca. 1783-1859) was a very successful Irish novellist and a collector and traveller with literary pretentions who frequented the salons of Madame Récamier in the hope of impressing French society. To this end she urgently needed her bust sculpted by a leading master and David d'Angers undertook the task, perhaps with some ironical intent, if we read the sensitive portrait in conjunction with some revealing comments in his notebooks at the time: "She has the impatience of a child; she guesses everything; it is the mark of a genius, but I think that often she does not look beyond the surface of things."
Subjects depicted
Summary
Lady Morgan (about 1778-1859) was a highly successful Irish novelist, whose works championed the rights of women and dispossessed Irish Catholics. She was less than four feet high and had a slight deformity of the spine and face. This bust was commissioned by the sitter from Pierre-Jean David, usually called David D'Angers, the pre-eminent French portrait sculptor of the time. She is depicted as a confident woman who was in her fifties at the time the bust was executed. The work is a romanticised portrait of Lady Morgan which perhaps complements her literary background and captures her lively and determined personality. The absence of shoulders focuses attention on the intricately carved hair, head dress and slender neck of the sitter. At the time of the sitting, D'Angers noted in his notebook: 'She has the impatience of a child; she guesses at everything; it is the mark of a genius, but I think that often she does not look beyond the surface of things'.
Bibliographic References
  • Avery, C. From David d'Angers to Rodin - Britain's national collection of French nineteenth-century sculpture in: The Connoisseur, April 1972, vol. 179, no. 269, pp. 262-3
  • Fogelman, Peggy. David d'Angers's female busts : two portraits of American women In: Apollo. CXLIX, February 1999, p. 30 and 33, fig 16
  • Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1860 in Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 3
  • Cullen, Fintan, R.F. Foster and John McCracken, “Conquering England”: Ireland in Victorian London, London: National Portrait Gallery, 2005.
Collection
Accession Number
6811-1860

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record createdAugust 14, 2006
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