Mrs Freeman as Isis thumbnail 1
Mrs Freeman as Isis thumbnail 2
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images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 120, The Wolfson Galleries

Mrs Freeman as Isis

Bust
ca. 1789 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This slightly under life-size bust is both a portrait of Mrs Freeman, nee Elizabeth Strickland (d. 1821), the sculptor's intimate friend who lived at nearby Fawley Court, Buckinghamshire, and an allegorical depiction of a priestess of the Egyptian god Isis. The musical instrument carved on the socle, a sistrum, was peculiar to ancient Egypt. The sculptor, Anne Seymour Damer (1748-1828) however, signed the bust in Greek lettering, which can be translated as 'ANNA S. DAMER THE LONDONER MADE IT'. In addition to other portrait busts, Damer carved the river masks of the rivers Isis and the Thames in 1785 to serve as keystones for the bridge at Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Anne Seymour Damer, née Conway, had married the Hon. John Damer in 1767, but, following his suicide, trained as a sculptor. She was a cousin of Horace Walpole (1717-1797), who warmly encouraged her, and who declared her on one occasion (perhaps half in jest) to be the equal of Praxiteles. Damer practised as an amateur, being an aristocratic woman, and for this reason was not perhaps always accorded the recognition she deserved. She exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1784 to 1818, executing a variety of subjects in terracotta or stone, and occasionally bronze. She was also a novelist and stage performer.
This bust was originally in the collection of Thomas Hope (1769-1831), whose house, Deepdene, near Dorking in Surrey, was renowned for its art collections. One of the rooms there was known as the Egyptian Room, and this bust may well have been displayed there. It was sold from the Hope Collection in 1930; it was subsequently given to the V&A by Dr W. L. Hildburgh, FSA, who had presumably purchased it at the sale.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Marble
Brief Description
Bust, marble, Stylised marble portrait bust of Mrs Freeman as Isis (or as a priestess of Isis), by Anne Seymour Damer, English, ca. 1789
Physical Description
Marble bust of a young woman. In the hair, which falls in short curls to the shoulders and around the forehead, there is a lotus flower ornament. An Egyptian musical instrument called a sistrum is depicted in relief on the base. The base is signed in Greek characters.
Dimensions
  • Height: 45cm
  • Width: 23cm
  • Depth: 24cm
  • Estimated weight: 40kg
Dimensions checked: Measured; 06/10/1999 by SK
Marks and Inscriptions
'ANNA ? DAMER ??ONINAIA EMIOIEI' (Signature; Greek; socle; ca. 1790)
Gallery Label
  • MRS FREEMAN AS ISIS (OR AS A PRIESTESS OF ISIS) ENGLISH; about 1790 Marble By ANNE SEYMOUR DAMER (1749-1828) Given by Dr W L Hildburgh FSA Mrs Freeman was a neighbour of the sculptor; in this highly stylised portrait she wears a lotus blossom on her hairband, and carved on the base is an Egyptian sistrum, a musical instrument originally associated with the worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis. A vogue for Egyptian themes and forms existed in England and France during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; this work was acquired by the collector and designer Thomas Hope (1769-1831), who owned and designed many pieces in the Egyptian style. As an independent woman sculptor Anne Seymour Damer was exceptional for her time. Her work was especially admired by Horace Walpole, who bequeathed Strawbwerry Hill to her and her sister.(September 1995)
  • British Galleries: Thomas Hope greatly admired the work of the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer. He owned this bust of her friend, Mrs Freeman, shown here as the Egyptian goddess Isis. She wears a lotus blossom in her hair and a sistrum (an Ancient Egyptian musical instrument) is shown on the base. Hope's enthusiasm for Egyptian design led him to decorate one of the rooms in his house in this fashionable style.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA
Object history
Purchased by Messrs Spink from the collection of Thomas Hope (1769-1831), sold at Messrs Foster on Thursday 27 February 1930, lot 132. The annotated catalogue held in the National Art Library records it was sold for £4 10s to Spink, but also records the name of Balham. Presumably purchased from Messrs Spink by Dr W.L. Hildburgh F.S.A., and presumably given to the Museum by him in 1931.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This slightly under life-size bust is both a portrait of Mrs Freeman, nee Elizabeth Strickland (d. 1821), the sculptor's intimate friend who lived at nearby Fawley Court, Buckinghamshire, and an allegorical depiction of a priestess of the Egyptian god Isis. The musical instrument carved on the socle, a sistrum, was peculiar to ancient Egypt. The sculptor, Anne Seymour Damer (1748-1828) however, signed the bust in Greek lettering, which can be translated as 'ANNA S. DAMER THE LONDONER MADE IT'. In addition to other portrait busts, Damer carved the river masks of the rivers Isis and the Thames in 1785 to serve as keystones for the bridge at Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Anne Seymour Damer, née Conway, had married the Hon. John Damer in 1767, but, following his suicide, trained as a sculptor. She was a cousin of Horace Walpole (1717-1797), who warmly encouraged her, and who declared her on one occasion (perhaps half in jest) to be the equal of Praxiteles. Damer practised as an amateur, being an aristocratic woman, and for this reason was not perhaps always accorded the recognition she deserved. She exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1784 to 1818, executing a variety of subjects in terracotta or stone, and occasionally bronze. She was also a novelist and stage performer.

This bust was originally in the collection of Thomas Hope (1769-1831), whose house, Deepdene, near Dorking in Surrey, was renowned for its art collections. One of the rooms there was known as the Egyptian Room, and this bust may well have been displayed there. It was sold from the Hope Collection in 1930; it was subsequently given to the V&A by Dr W. L. Hildburgh, FSA, who had presumably purchased it at the sale.
Bibliographic References
  • Bilbey, Diane with Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V& A Publications, 2002. pp. 70-1. cat. no. 94
  • Gereon Sievernich and Hendrik Budde (eds.) Europa und der Orient, 800-1900, Gütersloh : Bertelsmann Lexikon Verlag, 1989
  • Conner, Patrick (ed). The Inspiration of Egypt : its influence on British artists, travellers, and designers, 1700-1900. Brighton Borough Council, Brighton, 1983
  • [Watkins, D. Thomas Hope. London, 1968. p.49.]
  • Gunnis, R. Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851. London. 1951. pp.120-121
  • Review [1911-1938], Victoria & Albert Museum. Review of the Principal Acquisitions during the Year, London, 1912-1939, 1931, p. 53
  • Graves. Royal Academy Exhibitors. Vol.II, p.253, No.613
Collection
Accession Number
A.31-1931

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record createdAugust 20, 1998
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