Thetis and her nymphs rising from the sea to console Achilles for the loss of Patroclus

Relief
1777-1778
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 118, The Wolfson Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This relief was originally commissioned by Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry, later 4th Earl of Bristol (1730-1803), who ordered it to be undertaken in marble when he was in Rome in 1777 (where Thomas Banks was working), only to countermand the commission the following year. The marble had been roughly blocked out by then, and was finished at a later date, after the artist's return to Britain. It was later given by his daughter, Mrs Lavinia Forster, to the National Gallery, London. It was subsequently transferred to the V&A. A plaster version, probably the original model, is now in Sir John Soane's Museum, London.

People
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.

Subject Depicted
The subject is taken from Homer's epic poem The Iliad (Book XVIII). The Greek hero Achilles, grief-stricken by the death of his friend and companion at arms, Patroclus, is comforted by his mother, the goddess Thetis and seven of her nymphs, summoned from the deep. The emotional intensity of the piece, and the somewhat eroticised emphasis of the figures, owe much to Banks's friend in Rome, the Swiss painter Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), who made extremes of feeling and sexuality something of a specialism in his own art.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Relief
  • Tablet for Relief
Materials and Techniques
Marble
Brief Description
Relief and tablet, marble, 'Thetis and her nymphs rising from the sea to console Achilles for the loss of Patroclus', by Thomas Banks RA, Italian, ca. 1778
Dimensions
  • Height: 91.4cm
  • Width: 118.7cm
  • Depth: 14cm
  • Weight: 128.5 kg
Marks and Inscriptions
'THETIS RISING FROM THE SEA / TO CONSOLE ACHILLES FOR THE / DEATH OF PATROCLUS./ BY THOMAS BANKS, R.A./PRESENTED BY HIS DAUGHTER/Mrs LAVINIA FORSTER' (inscribed on the tablet that commemorates the gift)
Gallery Label
British Galleries: The rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman art encouraged the production of modern sculpture of ancient subjects in the Neo-classical style. This relief carving shows a story from Homer's epic poem, the 'Iliad'. Its oval form and clearly-defined low relief carving it resembles a greatly enlarged ancient cameo.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Presented by Art Fund
Object history
The marble was started during Banks' stay in Rome. It was probably the commission of the Earl of Bristol and the Bishop of Derry, but remained in the artist's possession.



It was presented by the artist's daughter Mrs Lavinia Forster to the National Gallery in 1845, and was transferred to the Tate Gallery in the early 20th century, sometime between 1897 and 1902. Placed on indefinite loan at the V&A Museum in 1936. Formally transferred from the Tate and accessioned by the V&A in 1984.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This relief was originally commissioned by Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry, later 4th Earl of Bristol (1730-1803), who ordered it to be undertaken in marble when he was in Rome in 1777 (where Thomas Banks was working), only to countermand the commission the following year. The marble had been roughly blocked out by then, and was finished at a later date, after the artist's return to Britain. It was later given by his daughter, Mrs Lavinia Forster, to the National Gallery, London. It was subsequently transferred to the V&A. A plaster version, probably the original model, is now in Sir John Soane's Museum, London.

People
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.

Subject Depicted
The subject is taken from Homer's epic poem The Iliad (Book XVIII). The Greek hero Achilles, grief-stricken by the death of his friend and companion at arms, Patroclus, is comforted by his mother, the goddess Thetis and seven of her nymphs, summoned from the deep. The emotional intensity of the piece, and the somewhat eroticised emphasis of the figures, owe much to Banks's friend in Rome, the Swiss painter Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), who made extremes of feeling and sexuality something of a specialism in his own art.
Bibliographic References
  • Daniela Gallo, Modele ou Miroir. Winckelmann et la Sculpture Néoclassique, Paris, 2009, p. 46.
  • 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. 47-48, cat. no. 69
  • Whinney, M. Sculpture in Britain 1530 to 1830, (revised by J. Physick), London, 1988 (second edition), p. 324, fig. 235 and p. 466, note 11
  • Bryant, Julius (ed.), Thomas Banks 1735-1805. Britain's first Modern Sculptor, exhib. cat., The Soane Gallery, London, 2005, cat. 17, on p. 29-30
  • Keutner, Herbert. A History of Western Sculpture - Renaissance to Rococo, London, 1969, plate 232, p. 333
  • Gunnis, R., Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851, London, 1952, pp. 37-40
  • Guillaume Faroult, Christophe Leribault, and Guilhem Scherf (eds.), L'Antiquite revee: innovations et resistances au XVIII siecle, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 2010
Collection
Accession Number
A.15&A-1984

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record createdJune 20, 2001
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