Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Model - Achilles Arming

Achilles Arming

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1777 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Banks, Thomas RA (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr Reginald H. Pott, on behalf of his deceased wife

  • Museum number:

    A.22:1, 2-1955

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 22, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries, case 2 []

Achilles, the doomed hero of Homer's Greek epic The Iliad, seems to have been a particular favourite of Thomas Banks. When it was acquired by the V&A in 1955, this terracotta model for a bronze or full-size marble had been broken into many pieces; it was conserved shortly after its acquisition. A label beneath the base had a defaced inscription in 19th-century handwriting recording Banks as the sculptor. However, recently it has been suggested that Achilles arming is in fact by the Swedish sculptor Johan Tobias Sergell (1740-1814). They were acquainted: Sergell spent the years 1767-1778 in Rome; Banks was there from 1772 to 1779. A version of this model in bronze - unsigned, but with the figure wearing a fig leaf - was recorded in a private collection in 1984 (V&A departmental records). But what appears to be a life-size version - shown among other sculptures in an oil sketch of about 1846 by John Partridge (1790-1872) entitled The Fine Arts Commissioners in 1846 - is probably an invention by Partridge made in order to represent Banks more prominently in Partridge's imaginary collection of great works of art.

Thomas Banks (1735-1805) was apprenticed to a London mason, but also spent time working alongside the sculptor Peter Scheemakers (1691-1781). He enrolled in the life classes held at the St Martin's Lane Academy, and later at the Royal Academy Schools. In 1772 he became the first sculptor to win the Royal Academy's three-year travelling stipend, and went with his wife to Rome, where he eventually spent seven years. He specialised in ideal works, most of which were executed in Rome for British patrons, although he continued to produce similar work after his return to London. He was made a Royal Academician in 1786. Banks was one of the most original British Neo-classical sculptors, who dedicated his work to the antique spirit rather than to the fashionable classical style alone.. He tried to establish a market for modern gallery sculpture , which was particular for most patrons at the time preferred restored antique marbles, replicas, pastiches, busts and memorials.

Physical description

Achilles, nude, stands with his left leg forward and both arms raised, and holds a helmet, which he places on his head. Behind him, on the base are a cuirass and shield.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1777 (made)


Banks, Thomas RA (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 47 cm, Weight: 3.78 kg

Object history note

In the possession of Edward H. Corbould, and lent by him to the 1862 International Exhibition. On loan to the Museum from Mrs. M. Pott, Kensington, London, from 11 February 1937 until 1955. Mrs Pott was the daughter of the former owner, E.H. Corbould. Given by Mr. Reginald H. Pott, 1955.

Historical context note

The exact date and purpose of the terracotta are unknown.

Descriptive line

Model, terracotta, Achilles Arming, by Thomas Banks, English, ca. 1777

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

Bilbey, Diane with Trusted, Marjorie, British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2002, pp. 46-7, cat. no. 68
Bryant, Julius, " ' Mopurning Achilles': a missing sculpture by Thomas Banks", in Burlington Magazine, CXXV, no 969, (Dec. 1983), pp. 742-5, and fig. 16
Sutton, D. (ed.), "Magic Land", in Apollo, XCIX, June 1974, p. 402, fig. 16
Cunningham, A., The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors and Architects, London, 1830-3 (III), pp. 109-10
Whinney, Margaret. English Sculpture : 1720 - 1830 / Victoria and Albert Museum, London, London : Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1971, p. 134, cat. no. 43, illus. on p. 135



Subjects depicted

Shield; Cuirass; Helmet


Sculpture; Myths & Legends


Sculpture Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.