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An Allegory of Charity

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1746 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rysbrack, John Michael (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Terracotta painted grey

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 23, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries, case SWAL

This is the model for a marble relief donated by Rysbrack to the Foundling Hospital in 1746 and for which many contemporary artists, including Hogarth, made works of art. The Foundling Hospital was established in London by Thomas Coram in 1739 to provide refuge for abandoned children. The subject matter is appropriate-depicting an allegorical figure of Charity carrying a child. Rysbrack was one of a number of artists with close connections with the charity and was elected a Governor and Guardian of the hospital in 1745.

The Foundling Hospital still exists and was renamed the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children in 1954.

Rysbrack (1694-1770) was born in Antwerp, and trained in the Netherlands, but spent his working life in Britain. He was one of the most important sculptors active in this country in the first half of the 18th century, and specialised in portrait busts and funerary monuments. Although he never visited Italy, many of his works are clearly indebted to classical archetypes. His terracotta models are particularly fine, and are often virtually finished pieces in their own right.

Physical description

An allegory of Charity in painted terracotta. Charity stands to the left of the centre suckling a child. Another child clutches her robe. To the left of the relief, at the base of a tree, three children are coiling the rope of an anchor, the stern of a ship is visible in the background. In the centre of the relief a kneeling woman milks a cow and to the right two children are gathering sheaves of corn.

There is a vertical crack to the left of centre and other cracks in the bottom right hand corner. The cow's projecting horn is damaged. The relief is painted grey.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1746 (made)


Rysbrack, John Michael (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Terracotta painted grey


Height: 67 cm, Width: 105.2 cm

Object history note

Bought from M. Marcussen, for £185, in 1953.
This was the model for the marble relief over a chimneypiece in the Founding Hospital, London, which was founded by Captain Coram in the mid-eighteenth century to care for abandoned orphans, and for which many contemporary artists, including Hogarth, made works of art.
The model was bought by Sir Edward Littleton and sent to Teddesley Hall, Staffordshire in 1756. In 1759 Rysbrack supplied him with a drawing for a fireplace and frame for the relief. The museum possesses drawings by Rysbrack for a number of chimneypieces at Teddesley Hall, which was demolished in 1954.

Descriptive line

Relief, terracotta, an Allegory of Charity, by John Michael Rysbrack, England, ca. 1746

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Physick, J. Designs for English Sculpture 1680-1860, London, 1969, pp. 101-3
Webb, M. Michael Rysbrack Sculptor, London, 1954, p. 135
Wimsatt, W. K. The Portraits of Alexander Pope, New Haven and London, 1964, p. 99
Whinney, Margaret. English Sculpture : 1720 - 1830 / Victoria and Albert Museum, London, London : Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1971, pp. 42&44
Baker, Malcolm, Figured in Marble. The Making and Viewing of Eighteenth-Century Sculpture, London, 2000, p. 59, fig. 44
Bilbey, Diane and Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470-2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2002, pp. 137, 8, cat.no 189



Subjects depicted

Tree; Ship; Child; Woman; Cow; Anchor


Ph_survey; Myths & Legends; Reliefs; Sculpture; Architectural fittings


Sculpture Collection

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