British bronze sculpture founders and plaster figure makers, 1800-1980 - S
An online resource, launched in 2011, selectively updated twice yearly. Last updated March 2020. Contributions are welcome, to Jacob Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by Conor Lucey, January 2017
*William Salmon, 5 Anglesea St, Dublin 1778-1820 (renumbered 3 Anglesea St in 1796). Statuary 1778-1802, carver and gilder 1803-6, plaster of Paris and composition manufacturer from 1807. Plaster and lead figure maker.
William Salmon (active by 1778, d.1820) appears to have dominated the trade in plaster and lead sculpture in late Georgian Ireland, operating a business that remained at the forefront of design and technological innovation; a deduction based on the broad social demographic who patronized his business in both raw materials (principally ‘Irish and French Plaster’) and prepared ornament, and the continuation of the firm well into the Victorian era.
Nothing is known of his origins. On 18 September 1788, Salmon married Deborah Mayfield of the parish of St Paul, Dublin, and they had at least one son, Samuel, who became an attorney. In 1823, Samuel was described as Salmon’s ‘eldest son and heir at law’, and from the early 1810s was acting as legal witness (and later executor) to his father’s business and property interests. From a variety of deeds and conveyances it seems that Salmon’s ‘dwelling house’ fronted Anglesea St, adjacent to College Green (the city’s grandest civic space), while his shop operated from the ‘yard and backside’ at the rear of the premises. (In 1781, Salmon acquired the lease of this property for a period of thirty years; ten years later, this was amended to 999 years at the same ground rent of £25 per annum.)
Salmon’s apprenticeship and formal education remain obscure. In 1778, he was advertising imported plaster of Paris (Dublin Evening Post, 6 August 1778), but a year later announced a ‘large Assortment of Statues, Bass-Reliefs, Medallions, Bustoes, &c.’, noting in particular that the ‘Bass-Reliefs and Medallions’ were ‘well adapted for all Kinds of Ceilings, Dining Parlours, Stair Cases, Halls, &c.’ (Dublin Evening Post, 2 February 1779). By 1780, interested parties, ‘directing a line Post paid’, were furnished with a catalogue of his ‘valuable Collection of Bustos, Figures, and Medallions, with their Sizes and Prices’ (Dublin Journal, 17 August 1780). (Copies of this catalogue are as yet untraced.) Salmon also produced and repaired ‘all Kinds of Statues’ in lead and bronze, noting in particular that he had discovered ‘a method of imitating Brownzes of all Colours, viz. Brass, Copper, Alabaster… done to such Perfection as to deceive the Greatest Connoisseur in that Art’. Although he advertised his capacity to model ‘from any Print, Drawings, or Designs, that any Gentlemen may fancy to have in his Cielings, or any other Part of his House’, Salmon also advised clients of the ‘Great assortment of Mouldings’ he periodically purchased in London. Documentary evidence, principally from estate papers, confirms the social calibre of his clientele at this time, including the Royal Dublin Society (1781), Henry Theophilus Clements (1781), and Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol (1783).
Signed works are unknown and Salmon did not exhibit with the Society of Artists in Ireland between 1765 and 1780. Four plaster bas-reliefs sent from his Dublin shop to Downhill, County Derry (ruined) in 1783, and variously priced between £4.11s and £5.13s.9d, were itemized as ‘Choice of Hercules’, ‘Grecian Marriage’, ‘The Graces Erecting the Statue of Cupid’, and ‘Aurora in her Chariot’ (repr. Lucey 2007 p.335, see Sources below). From this ostensibly slight evidence it is clear that Salmon was the source of much of the plaster relief sculpture that features so prominently in many of Dublin’s grandest neoclassical interiors: ‘The Graces Erecting the Statue of Cupid’, for example, may be found in houses built for Edward Augustus Stratford, 2nd Earl of Aldborough (Aldborough House, Portland Row), and George Augustus Rochfort, 2nd Earl of Belvedere (Belvedere House, Great Denmark St). Moreover, the eight plaster medallions purchased in 1966 by the National Gallery of Ireland, and attributed to the renowned Dublin plasterer Michael Stapleton (c.1747-1801), are likely the products of Salmon’s shop: one, catalogued as The Mounting of Cupid on a Pedestal (NGI 8017, repr. Le Harivel 1988 p.596), is identical to his ‘The Graces Erecting the Statue of Cupid’, and Stapleton certainly relied on Salmon’s products for his decorative business (including ‘Aurora in her chariot’ as the centrepiece of drawing rooms ceilings decorated by him in the 1780s and 90s). Salmon’s association with key figures from Dublin’s burgeoning trade in decorative plasterwork is further confirmed by his acting as a witness to the will of Edward Robbins (d.1791), the English-born plasterer who did much to develop the taste for Adam-style classicism in Ireland during the 1770s.
In 1793, Salmon was ‘re-building his house’ for ‘the better convenience of carrying on his business’ (Dublin Chronicle, 17 August 1793). Earlier that year he had acquired a second site on Anglesea St from the Wide Streets Commissioners, the city’s planning authority, who were then engaged in rebuilding the formal avenue being Dublin Castle and the Parliament House. Following an appraisal of the site, the Commissioners decided that any development would obstruct the ‘regularity’ of the proposed works; Salmon was reimbursed his deposit and given use of ‘the space over the Archway’ of an intended stable lane by way of compensation. A trade card in the National Library of Ireland, which describes his shop as ‘Salmon’s Ornament, Chimney Piece and Composition Manufactory’, likely dates from this period and indicates a shift towards the production and distribution of a broader range of merchandise aimed largely at the building community. (In fact, as early as 1783, Salmon described himself as being ‘Employed in making ornaments for Chimney Pieces’.) Notable among his clients in the early nineteenth century was William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam, who in 1805 acquired ‘composition ornaments &c’ for Coolattin, his seat in County Wicklow.
A further dimension to Salmon’s career was his venture into property speculation. In October 1789, Salmon acquired the leasehold of two plots of ground on the south side of Mountjoy Square, part of the expanding Gardiner Estate in Dublin’s northern suburbs. Having contracted the stone and bricklayers work to builder John Prendergast (fl. 1787-1800), the houses were described as fully built in 1791: one house, the present number 39, survives fully intact. Here, the interiors act as a conspectus of the type of products available from Salmon’s shop: bas-relief sculptures in plaster act as the focal points of the two first-floor drawing room ceilings and of the sideboard recess in the ground floor dining parlour, while the joinery throughout the house, including stair treads, skirting boards, and door and window architraves, is enriched with composition ornaments.
Salmon’s will was made on 1 April 1819, and probate was granted in 1820. In the years immediately following his death the shop continued to operate as ‘William Salmon’. It traded as ‘William Salmon and Co.’, 1833-44, described as ‘Plaster of Paris and Roman Cement manufactory’. From 1845 until 1878, now listed as ‘Salmon, Rice and Co.’ and with a second premises in nearby Crown Alley (Cope St), the business specialized in all kinds of plasters, renders and mastics, often by arrangement with London manufactories (Freeman’s Journal, 7 May 1852).
Sources: Conor Lucey, ‘Statuaries and plaster shops in eighteenth-century Dublin’, in P. Murphy (ed.), Art and Architecture of Ireland III: sculptors and sculpture 1600-2000, 2014, pp.518-20; Conor Lucey, The Stapleton Collection: Designs for the Irish Neoclassical Interior, 2007; Adrian Le Harivel, National Gallery of Ireland: Illustrated Summary Catalogue of Prints and Sculpture, 1988. See also Conor Lucey, ‘Bas-reliefs after Angelica Kauffman’, Burlington Magazine, vol.156, 2014, pp.440-4.
Raffaello Sani, 162 Gray’s Inn Road, London by 1869-1881 or later. Plaster figure maker.
Raffaello Sani (c.1834-1894) was born in Italy but was in London by 1861 when he married Emilia Caproni in the Holborn district. She died age 32 in 1869. In censuses, he was listed in 1871 at 162 Gray’s Inn Road as a plaster modeller and caster, age 37, living with his father-in-law, Louis Caproni (qv), in 1881 at 162-4 Gray’s Inn Rd as a plaster figure maker, with his two teenage daughters and two boarders, Antonio Stoanbi, age 56, a hawker in plaster figures, and Henry Cantoni (qv), plaster figure maker, age 21, both born in Italy, and in 1891 at 17 Wilson St, St Pancras, as a modeller, born Sanlaurango in Italy, living on his own. He was in business as a partner in Caproni & Sani, at 178 High Holborn in 1891. Sani died age 60 in 1894 in the Pancras district.
Like other plaster figure makers, Raphael Sani would temporarily set up in towns outside London to promote his wares, so that in 1869 he can be found advertising a fine collection of Italian sculpture, alabaster carvings, etc, at 58 Hanover St, Portsea (Hampshire Telegraph 20 February 1869). Sani’s name, like that of Brugiotti (qv), was appropriated for a novel of the period set in the 1790s, Frank Barrett’s Honest Davie, a novel, 1883.
Alexander Sarti, Fetter Lane,London 1816, 1825, Warner St, Clerkenwell by 1830, Amwell 1841, 26 Great Bath St, Amwell 1851-1852. Figure maker.
Various figure makers by the name of Sarti are known of which the most prominent were Alexander (c.1779-1852), apparently active in London by 1816, Peter, active 1816 to 1837, and Anthony (d.1851), possibly of a younger generation since not known before 1839 (see below). Both Anthony and Peter came from Tuscany, making a connection with the Bolognese Sarti family of sculptors unlikely (see Clifford 1992 p.63).
Alexander Sarti is probably the individual whose wife Hannah gave birth to three daughters between 1816 and 1824, christened at St Andrew Holborn, and a son John Anthony, christened at St James Clerkenwell in 1830. Sarti can be found in census records, in 1841 as a modeller at Great Warner St, Amwell, and in 1851 as a figure maker, born in Italy, age 72, at 26 Great Bath St, Amwell. He died in 1852 in the Clerkenwell district and his wife Hannah in 1854 and they were both buried in Highgate Cemetery. It is possible that some mentions of ‘Sarti’, given below under Peter Sarti, may refer to Alexander Sarti.
There are references to other Italian figure makers by the name of Sarti, not necessarily related, arriving in Dover or the Port of London: Pasquale in May 1837 and June 1840, Giovanni in June 1840, Giuseppe in April 1841, Luigi in 1850 and 1853 and Pietro in 1853. The latter, Pietro Sarti, ‘figurista’, not the Peter Sarti discussed below, and Luigi Sarti, Master, ‘figurista’, from Tuscany, are recorded as arriving in the Port of London from Boulogne on 9 May 1853 with 14 others, apparently in one group, all in the same trade from Tuscany (Returns of Alien Passengers). Pietro Sarti died in 1854 in the Lambeth district. Louis Sarti married in 1862 in the Pancras district but his death is not recorded in British records, suggesting that he may have returned to Italy.
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Alexander Edward Sarti (1850-99), see Giovanni Franchi
Anthony Sarti, 27 Margaret St, Regent St, London 1839, 209 Regent St 1847, Spur St, Leicester Square 1847. Modellist and exhibitor of wax anatomical models.
Anthony Sarti (d.1851) has been studied by Timothy Clifford (Clifford 1992 pp.62-3). However, it is suggested here that he is not the same person as Anthony Sartine (see below) and that he was not a plaster figure maker. Sarti exhibited anatomical figures in wax of Venus and Adonis at the Florentine Anatomical Gallery at 27 Margaret St in 1839 and a wider range of figures at 209 Regent St in 1847 (Richard Altick, The Shows of London, 1978, p.340; see also The Times 28 March 1839, 8 June 1847).
In his will, made 19 August 1847 and proved 12 February 1851, Antonio Sarti, modellist of Spur St, Leicester Square, formerly of Tuscany, made Selina Isabella Sarti (otherwise Doti(?), subsequently Barker) one of his executors, describing her as having had the management of his business in this country for many years. He divided his estate in three with one third going to his wife, Susan, another third to Selina Isabella Sarti, and the final third to his sister, Carolina Francois in Florence, for the care of Fanny Sarti, age 10. He refers to his estate as consisting, among other things, of ‘anatomical and other models, plates and prints and other specimens of considerable value’.
Isabella Selina Sarti, to be identified as Selina Isabella Sarti, married Daniel Barker in the Bradford district in 1851, shortly before Anthony Sarti’s will was proved. She and her husband continued to exhibit wax anatomical figures, as can be seen from a handbill for a display at Boston in Lincolnshire in about 1854 entitled ‘The late Sarti's new Florentine anatomical model’.
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Peter Sarti, London by 1816, 6 Upper King St, Bloomsbury 1822-1826, 59 Greek St, Soho by 1825-1833, 92 Dean St, Soho 1833-1838, Southampton St 1836. Plaster cast figure maker and moulder.
Peter, Pier, Petro or Pietro Angelo Sarti (1793-1868) has been described as the figure maker who above all, for capacity, erudition and exceptional talent, merits the memory and admiration of posterity (Paolo Tagliasacchi, Coreglia Antelminelli: Patria del Figurinaio, Coreglia Antelminelli, 2008, p.127). He was born at Vetriano, a village near Pescaglia in the province of Lucca. He played a prominent part in figure making in London in the early 19th century. Working initially for Matthew Mazzoni (qv), he was employed by Richard Westmacott (qv) in making plaster casts of classical marbles in the British Museum in the period 1816-23 (Jenkins 1990 pp.101-5). He published a poem in London in 1838 as Pier Angelo Sarti, La Reggia dell’Invidia: cantica, shortly before returning to Italy, where he died at Lucca in 1868. His work has been studied by Ian Jenkins, to whom this account is indebted.
Described as Petro Angel Sarti, figure maker and moulder, he gave evidence to a Select Committee on the British Museum in 1835 (see Sources below). In his responses, he stated that he had been in France before coming to London, where he was under Mazzoni ‘for about five years, moulding continuously down at the [British] Museum’, probably from about 1816. He said that he had been working for Westmacott for years, for Rundell & Bridge (qv) for models and for Chantrey (qv).
To mould statues, Sarti told the Select Committee, he would apply for permission through a gentleman of rank to Westmacott (qv), who acted in a private capacity for the Museum. He said that the Theseus statue in the Elgin collection had been moulded three times, twice by himself for Benjamin Robert Haydon and for Richard Westmacott (the statue is now identified as Dionysos; early cast in Royal Academy). A list of marbles in the British Museum moulded by Sarti, including the Rosetta Stone for the Government of Prussia, was appended to the Select Committee report. Sarti reported that he had obtained permission to mould the bust of Homer and was able to sell 80 casts in the first month (this is presumably the Arundel head in bronze, now identified as perhaps of Sophocles).
In 1836 Pietro Angelo Sarti of Southampton St, described as ‘the most substantial of the formatori resident in London’, formerly in the employ of Westmacott at the Museum, was contracted to become the Museum’s first official maker of plaster casts, but the following year he announced his intention of returning to his native Italy, resigning his business to Loft & Fletcher (Jenkins 1990 p.104, see also Ian Jenkins, Archaeologists & Aesthetes in the Sculpture Galleries of the British Museum 1800-1939, 1992, p.36).
Peter Sarti was in business independently as a plaster cast figure maker by 1822 and was described as a mould figure maker in Robson’s 1826 London directory. Sarti’s premises at 59 Greek St were shared in 1827 and 1829 variously with a piano maker, a cabinet maker, an ironmonger and the booksellers, Messrs Treutel Wurt and Co of 30 Soho Square, according to their insurance policy (London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 516/1069311, 527/1099411). Sarti was at 92 Dean St, 1833-7 and perhaps later, sometimes listed as Pedro Sarti, and was succeeded in business there by James Loft and Angus Fletcher as sculptors and moulders until 1839, later by Loft and William Scoular as sculptors, figure makers and moulders until 1844, and then by Scoular alone until his death in 1854 (London Gazette 10 September 1839, 15 November 1844; Survey of London, vol.33, St Anne Soho, 1966, p.140). Subsequently, the premises were occupied by Scoular & Edwards in 1855, while James Loft went on to trade from 29 Clipstone St. For another figure maker by the name of Pietro Sarti (d.1854), see Alexander Sarti, above.
Works in plaster: A good idea of the range of Sarti’s stock-in-trade can be had from the catalogue issued by his successors in January 1839, very soon after he had sold the business (see Loft & Co.’s, late Sarti’s, Gallery of Casts from Antique and Modern Statues, Busts, Bassi Relievi, &c, 1839 (Tate Library). The most expensive antique statue was the 7ft Group of Laocoon at £30, while the most expensive modern work was Canova’s 6ft Group of the Graces at £21. The following large-scale works by British sculptors were stocked: Westmacott’s Venus and Cupid at £5.10s, Distressed Mother at £6 and Nymph at £4, Baily’s Eve at £5 and Maternal Affection at £6, and Nollekens’ Mercury and Juno, both at 8s. The catalogue featured small-scale copies from modern works, antique busts, modern busts (numerous figures from British history, mostly at 15s), bas reliefs including Flaxman’s frieze from Covent Garden Theatre and his Mercury and Pandora, animal torsos, pedestals, brackets and candelabra.
Peter Sarti is surely the ‘Sarti of Greek-Street’, described by John Thomas Smith as being in possession of moulds of John Deare’s bas-reliefs, Summer and Autumn, and also of ‘fifty-two varieties of Fiamingo’s children’ (John Thomas Smith, Nollekens and his times, 1828, vol.2, p.313). For the Athenaeum Club in London in 1830 he supplied figures of Diana dressing and Venus victorious at £8.8s each and eleven busts of British worthies at £1.10s each (Joshua Reynolds cost £3.3s since it needed moulding as well; Sarti was not allowed by the Royal Academy to retain the mould) (John Kenworthy-Browne, A Temple of British Worthies: The Historic Portrait Busts at the Athenaeum, 2011, especially pp.29-30). Sarti produced various busts, Dryden, Milton and Locke, signed (Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire), and Lord Tenterden, 1833 (untraced), as well as figures, Apollo and Diana, 1835, for Goldsmiths’ Hall (Roscoe 2009).
In 1835 and following, through Sarti and Sir Richard Westmacott, a complete set of casts from the Elgin marbles was purchased by the Board of Manufacturers at Edinburgh for the Trustees’ Academy, leading the Trustees to sell off their earlier purchase of some casts from Matthew Mazzoni (qv); the Sarti/Westmacott casts are now in the Edinburgh College of Art and interestingly it has now been shown that those from the west frieze of the Parthenon were cast from moulds made for Elgin in Athens by Bernardino Ledus and Vincenzo Rosati, c.1802 (see Margaret Stewart, ‘Scenery and Scenes: the plaster cast collection and its architecture at Edinburgh College of Art’, forthcoming article). Sarti provided other casts for the Trustees’ Academy, now in Edinburgh College of Art, including the Vatican Crouching Venus, 1834, Castor and Pollux, 1835, with inset impressed metal label: P. SARTI/ 59/ GREEK STREET/ SOHO SQUARE (the cast replaced Sarti’s poor quality first cast) and Actaeon, 1838 (University of Edinburgh Art Collection database, where it is noted that Sarti was paid for three unspecified casts on 9 February 1835).
Through George Basevi, architect of the Fitzwilliam Museum then in construction, in 1837 Sarti supplied for use in ornamenting the museum a pair of caryatids from the Elgin collection at £21 and 12 bas reliefs from the same collection for £24 (Cambridge University Library, University Archives, Prem.II.14 item 111, see also CUR 30.1 item 80 and Syn.Ac.1 p.12).
The following references may relate to Peter Sarti, or possibly to Alexander Sarti (qv). ‘Sarti’ was a purchaser at Joseph Nollekens’ sale in 1823, acquiring various casts, models and work in terracotta (Clifford 1992 p.63). ‘The Dog brought one thousand guineas, and was purchased by Mr. Duncombe, of Yorkshire; but a mould of it belongs to Sarti, the Figuremaker, a cast from which makes a most noble appearance in a gentleman's hall.’ (John Thomas Smith, Nollekens and his times, 1828, vol.2, p.292). In 1826, ‘Sarti’ was paid 10s for unspecified work for John Flaxman (Roscoe 2009). ‘Sarti’ was used by John Linnell for plaster casts in 1827 (‘plasters’ at £3.10s.8d) and 1830 (two bas reliefs at £2.2s), as the artist’s account book shows (Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 21-2000). In 1831, ‘Sarti’ was paid £7.16s.6d for taking down architectural casts at Sir Thomas Lawrence's house in Russell Square, on the instructions of Lawrence's executor (V&A National Art Library, MSL/1938/1923).
Sources: Paolo Tagliasacchi, Coreglia Antelminelli: Patria del Figurinaio, Coreglia Antelminelli, 2008, pp.127-30, repr. Sarti’s portrait. House of Commons, Report from the Select Committee on the Condition, Management and Affairs of the British Museum, 1835, pp.255-8 and Appendix no.31 on p.445, available though Google Book Search; Roscoe 2009. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Updated August 2019
Anthony Sartini, 34 New Compton St, London by 1785-1793 or later. Plaster figure maker.
Outside the time frame of this online resource but see Clifford 1992 pp.62-3. Anthony Sartini (active 1785-1801) is clearly not the same person as Anthony Sarti (see above). ‘Sartini’ undertook work as a moulder for the Derby porcelain factory in 1789 and for Vulliamy the London clockmaker in 1789 and 1790 (Clifford 1992 pp.62-3; A.P. Ledger and Roger Smith, Benjamin Vulliamy and the Derby Porcelain Manufactory, 1784-1795, 2007, pp.72, 79). His trade card from 34 New Compton St describes him as a figure maker (Banks coll. 106.27, with added date 1785). Sartini was appointed ‘Moulder and Caster in Plaister, to the Royal Academy’ in 1791 (Postle 2018 p.486); however this appointment was not confirmed. ‘Sartini’ undertook work for John Flaxman as a plaster figure caster and moulder, 1796-1801, until Flaxman turned to James Cockaine (qv) (British Library, Add. MS 39791, ff.135-42, kindly drawn to my attention by Eckart Marchand). ‘A. Sartine’ supplied cast figures in 1796 and two busts in 1798 to Edward Lascelles, Lord Harewood (Hill 1984 p.24).
Sources: Roscoe 2009. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Benjamin Shout, corner of Little Queen St, Holborn, London by 1775-1785 or later, 223 High Holborn by 1789-1811, oilman and perfume shop, by 1802 dealer in British wines.
Shout & Lightfoot, top of Bedford Row, Holborn, 1790; Benjamin Shout & Co, Bedford Row, London 1791-1794, masons and statuaries; Benjamin and Robert Shout, statuaries, masons and plaster figure makers 1794-1811 or later, Robert Shout, mason and statuary by 1803-1824, R. Shout & Son 1819-1826, Charles Lutwyche Shout, statuary and figure maker 1823-1831. At 18 High Holborn (‘Three doors below Gray’s Inn Gate’), London 1794-1831, yard at 13 Eagle St, Red Lion Square 1793-1813.
The Shout family of statuaries, masons and plaster figure makers, Benjamin Shout (d.1811), his nephew, Robert Shout (1764-1843), and Robert’s son, Charles Lutwyche Shout (1794-1855), operated over three generations from the late 1780s until the early 1830s. They have been studied by Timothy Clifford, to whom this account is indebted (Clifford 1992 pp.63-4).
Benjamin Shout: Benjamin Shout (d.1811) may have come from Yorkshire, where his nephew, Robert, was christened, and where William Shout (d.1826), probably his brother, traded as a mason in York. Shout advertised his oil and perfume shop in Holborn from 1775 (Lloyd’s Evening Post 13 November 1775, and subsequently).
Shout decided to expand his business interests into mason’s and statuary work. Initially, he seems have gone into partnership with Lightfoot, trading as Shout & Lightfoot in 1790 (printed as ‘Shoup’ in Wakefield’s London directory). By 1791 (not 1785 as Roscoe 2009), he had taken his nephew, Robert, into partnership, trading from 13 Eagle St and also from 18 High Holborn as B. & R. Shout, Statuaries and Masons, as is apparent from their neoclassical trade card, headed ‘MARBLE MORTARS’ (Banks coll. 106.27, added date 1795), offering statuary marble chimney pieces, monuments, tombs and every other kind of working masonry. In a very similar trade card, but with the two addresses swapped, they also offered all sorts of Derbyshire spar ornaments (Banks coll. 106.28, added date 1801). Elsewhere, they advertised their statuary marble chimney pieces, available at 18 High Holborn and at their yard in Eagle Street (Morning Herald 10 January 1799).
Benjamin Shout’s will, as an oilman of St Giles-in-the-Fields, made 22 July 1809 and proved 11 April 1811, provides information on his activities and on the Shout family. His business as an oilman, at the corner of Queen St, Holborn, where he had been trading ‘for many years’, was left to his son Benjamin (who was made bankrupt in 1819, see London Gazette 14 August 1819). His half-share in his partnership with his nephew, Robert Shout, as statuaries and stonemasons, carried out from 18 Holborn and from a yard on the south side of Eagle St, he left to his wife, Elizabeth, together with a life interest in the freehold in the yard, and then to his three children in equal shares. His third-share with another nephew, John Shout, in a transport ship he left to his wife.
Robert Shout: Robert Shout (1764-1843), nephew of Benjamin Shout, was christened on 8 July 1764 at Helmsley, Yorkshire. He died in his 80th year in 1843 at Trehearne House, West End, Hampstead (Jackson’s Oxford Journal 20 September 1843). In his will, made 22 January 1839 and proved 29 September 1843, Robert Shout appointed his son, Charles Lutwyche Shout, as executor.
Robert Shout was clearly in business under his own name by 1803, if not before, even though he was operating in partnership with his uncle. He used his trade label (Heal coll. 106.20) to advertise ‘His old established manufactory and spacious shew-rooms’ at 18 High Holborn (‘a Figure of Minerva stands over the Door’). He offered ‘Grecian, Roman and Egyptian Figures and Tripods, for holding Lamps or Candles,… suitably adapted for Halls, Stair-Cases, Pier-Tables, Side-Boards, Chimney-Pieces…’, together with several hundred figures, busts, vases, medallions etc, from the antique, and ‘Likenesses of distinguished Modern Personages, made to imitate real Bronze, Terra Cota, Stone, &c’. There is a book of his designs for monuments and fireplaces in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Bilbey 2002 p.358).
Robert Shout’s broadside catalogue from 18 High Holborn, dating to c.1800-3, advertised more than 300 plaster figures of classical and modern subjects, including figures and busts as large or larger than life, as well as in smaller sizes. Small-scale figures include ‘Mrs Siddons in Tragedy’, as well as numerous classical subjects and a large collection of drapery figures for holding lamps or candles. Monumental figures include George III, William III on horseback, Handel, Ben Jonson, Locke, Milton in two sizes, Newton, Lord Orrery, Shakespeare in two sizes, Spencer and Van Dyck, to focus on British rather than classical subjects. Busts in three different size ranges include almost all of the above plus Dryden, Garrick, Dr Johnson, Lord Mansfield, Dr Mead, Lord Nelson and three other contemporary naval heroes, Alexander Pope, Sir Joshua Reynolds, General Wolfe, among many others, ending in ‘Sundry Busts of Boys, &c. for Artists’. Additionally, Shout offered vases and bas-reliefs for halls, staircases etc (A Catalogue of part of the Figures, Busts, &c. In Plaster of Paris, made by R. Shout…, National Portrait Gallery Library; see also Plaster figure makers: a short history on this website).
Robert Shout's work was used by Wedgwood for stoneware busts, notably Admiral Nelson, 1798, marked: Pubd. July 22nd 1798. Robert Shout sculp. Holburn (Robin Reilly, Wedgwood, 1989, vol.2, pl.733). Shout was one of several figure makers who supplied the watercolourist, John Samuel Hayward; in October 1804 Shout billed Hayward for Egyptian and other figures totalling £10.6s (summary listing by Robert Barnes from bills for casts supplied to Hayward, V&A National Art Library, MSL/1943/920C).
Shout’s works in plaster for lighting and furniture include a pair of gilded torchères supported by three Graces, 1803 (Brighton Pavilion, see Clifford 1992 p.63), a tripod of three bronzed panther-headed monopodia supporting a marble top (Clifford coll., see Clifford 1992 p.63) and a pair of signed female figures holding candelabra, 1818 (Spencer House, London, see Leeds 1992 p.135).
His plaster busts include William Shakespeare, one of a series of British Worthies, before 1806 (Windsor Castle, see Roscoe 2009 p.1126) and another cast, inscribed: SHOUT (Garrick Club, repr. Geoffrey Ashton, Pictures in the Garrick Club, 1997, p.522), Admiral Nelson, 1806, bronzed (repr. Clifford 1992 p.47), an unidentified small bust of a man, published 3 May 1811 (Science Museum, London, see Jane Insley, 'James Watt and the reproduction of sculpture', Sculpture Journal, vol.22, no.1, 2013, p.61 item 337), Sarah Siddons (said to be a self-portrait), c.1820, marked: R. SHOUT/ HOLBORN (Victoria and Albert Museum, see Bilbey 2002 p.358), Andrea Palladio, patinated black (see Roscoe 2009 p.1126) and La Zingara, marked: Zingara/ Shout/ Holborn (Sotheby’s 20 March 2003 lot 241). In or from Hughenden Manor, Bucks, John Milton, after Rysbrack (see Roscoe 2009 p.1126) and four library busts, Francis Bacon and John Locke, marked: R SHOUT HOLBOURN, and Ben Jonson and Classical Man, marked: MADE AND SOLD BY R SHOUT HOLBORN (on loan to Sudbury Hall, Derbys, National Trust). A set of seven library busts of Roman emperors, classical figures and the Virgin Mary, c.1810, painted black, about 24 ins high, inscribed Robert Shout, Holborn, were sold in 2012 (Mount Congreve sale, Mealy’s, 10-11 July 2012 lots 891-7, information from Peter Malone).
Shout’s work was well known. In 1820, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote of Leigh Hunt, ‘his room no doubt/ Is still adorned by many a cast from Shout’. Shout supplied plaster figures in 1805-6 to Lord Monson (bill repr. Leeds 1992 p.134) and in 1806 to the Duke of Atholl (Leeds 1992 p.135; Clifford 1992 p.63). For Edward Lascelles junr, he supplied plaster figures in 1806 and also purchased marbles etc for him at Christie’s in 1810 (Hill 1984 p.25). ‘Shout’, presumably Robert Shout, was paid £5.8s by Sir John Soane in 1814 (Sir John Soane’s Museum Archive, journal no.6, Soane’s account, 15 November 1814). He produced a cast of Canova's Hebe, c.1818, and of other busts by Canova including Venus, Paris and Perseus (Annals of the Fine Arts, vol.3, 1818, p.632, accessed through Google Book Search).
Charles Shout: Charles Lutwyche Shout (1794-1855), son of Robert Shout and Lucy, was born in November 1794 and christened the following month at St Andrew Holborn. He was apprenticed to his father in 1809 (Clifford 1992 p.63). He had a son Robert Howard Shout in 1823, christened at St Andrew Holborn, the first of six children baptised between 1823 and 1837. He published a cast in plaster of Joseph Nollekens’ Duke of York, 24 June 1823 (Walker 1985 p.585). He was active in business from at least 1823 until his retirement in 1831, when his remaining stock was sold by auction on his premises, including ‘all his celebrated models and casts of figures and busts from the antique, and of celebrated characters of the last 30 years’, also bronzed groups and figures for interiors, busts of distinguished persons, lamps, lanterns and shop fittings and fixtures (The Times 6 July 1831). In the 1851 census he was recorded in Hampstead with his wife, three daughters and a 17-year-old son, a lithographer. Shout died in the Hampstead district in 1855.
Sources: Roscoe 2009. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
John W. Singer 1848-1875 or later, J.W. Singer & Sons by 1881-1899, J.W. Singer & Sons Ltd from 1899. In Frome, Somerset, at Eagle Lane 1848, 25 Market Place 1851-1883 or later, manufactory at Cork St from 1866, foundry Market St. London office at 3 Duke St, Adelphi 1887-1894, 35 Craven St, Strand 1895-1901, Effingham House, 1 Arundel St, Strand 1902-1922, 8 Bathurst St, W2 1923-1925 or later. Watch and clock maker from 1848, watchmaker and silversmith by 1862, silversmiths and mediaeval metal workers by 1866, bronze founders and art metal workers by 1889, metal workers, bronze founders, drop stampers etc, for artistic, architectural, ship building and engineering purposes by 1919.
The Singer business was founded in Frome in 1852, according to a later trade catalogue, by John Webb Singer (1819-1904), the son of Joseph Singer, a builder, and his wife, Ann. However, its origins have been traced back to 1848, with an address in Eagle St, as identified by Duncan James (see Sources below), and a directory entry can be found for James William Singer, watch and clock maker, at Bath St in Frome in 1848 (Hunt & Co’s Directory… for… Bath, Bristol & Wells…).
Singer began as a watchmaker and jeweller, but soon diversified into church metalwork and furnishings, a business which became known as Frome Art Metal Works. His metalwork was featured in international exhibitions and in the Art Journal in 1861, along with that of other leading manufacturers (‘Gothic Metal Work’, Art Journal, vol.7, 1861, pp.334-5). In his commitment to good design, Singer set up the Frome Art School in the 1865 (Derek J. Gill, ‘Frome art metal works’, Tools and Trades, vol.8, 1995, p.78). It was not until the late 1880s that the business turned to producing bronze sculptures on a significant scale. The fullest history of the business is that by Duncan James, to which this account is indebted (see Sources below, cited here as James 1984).
John Webb Singer married twice, in 1843, and in 1852 to Sarah Doswell (James 1984 p.8). In the 1851 census, Singer was listed as a watchmaker, widowed with a daughter. In subsequent censuses, he was listed with his wife Sarah and children, in 1861 as a master watchmaker employing 8 men and 6 boys, in 1871 as a silversmith and metal worker employing 8 men and 4 apprentices, in 1881 as an art metal worker, by now employing 47 hands, and with his wife Sarah, daughter Amy, and son Edgar, an artist and designer in metal, age 23, and in 1901 as a metal worker and employer. He died in Frome in 1904, leaving effects worth £18,859.
John Webb Singer took into partnership his two sons from his second marriage, Walter Herbert John (1853-1922) and Edgar Ratcliffe (1857-1947), both of whom had studied at the South Kensington school of design (A.H. Church, 'Singer's Metal-work', The Portfolio, 1892, p.122). In census records, Walter Herbert was recorded in 1891 as an art metal work manufacturer and similarly in 1901; at his death in 1922 he left effects worth £25,042. Edgar was listed with his father in 1881 as an artist and designer, in 1901 as a metal worker and employer, and in 1911 as an art metal worker and employer; at his death in 1947 he left effects worth £24,466. John Webb Singer’s daughter, Amy, took up sculpture and was taught by Rodin in Paris and befriended his lover, the sculptress, Camille Claudel, who subsequently visited her and the Singer family in Frome in 1886 (Odile Ayral-Clause, Camille Claudel: A Life, 2002, pp.28, 48, 65-6).
John Webb Singer made frequent visits to the Continent, purchasing old jewellery and plate, apparently as an inspiration for his own products, initially mainly ecclesiastical metalwork (‘Monumental Brasses’, Art Journal, 1875, p.329, and A.H. Church, 'Singer's Metal-work', The Portfolio, 1892, p.122). He was a collector of English drinking glasses for more than 50 years and of English posy rings, many of which now belong to the British Museum (see W.E. Wynn Penny, ‘Mr. John Webb Singer's Collection of Eighteenth-Century Drinking Glasses’, Burlington Magazine, vol.3, 1903, pp.59-69, 144-53).
Ecclesiastical metalwork remained an important part of Singer’s business. The business received an award at the 1876 Philadelphia international exhibition for its church ornaments (London Gazette 13 October 1876). It produced bronze and enamel work to ornament J. Forsyth’s granite tomb of Alexander and Lady Mildred Beresford-Hope, 1882 (Kilndown churchyard, Kent, see The Builder, vol.42, 6 May 1882, p.550, and A.H. Church, 'Singer's Metal-work', The Portfolio, 1892, p.123). Singer’s 1899 trade catalogue featured engraved brass wall tablets, bronze tablets and brass eagle lecterns (J.W. Singer & Sons Ltd, Memorial Brasses and Lecterns, c.1899,  sheets). Singer’s claimed to have a numerous staff of draughtsmen and engravers, as well as their own trained School of Art workmen. On their estimate paper in 1898, Singer’s offered ‘workers in all metals. bronze founders. electric light fittings’ (Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, Thornycroft papers, item 590).
In 1874 the factory moved to a site on the outskirts of Frome and by 1892 Singer’s had expanded to employ about 100 men, producing sculpture in bronze as well as ecclesiastical metalwork (A.H. Church, 'Singer's Metal-work', The Portfolio, 1892, p.124). By 1898, it was stated that the business employed 160 men (James 1984 p.14, quoting the Somerset Standard).
Singer’s began bronze founding for sculpture in the late 1880s. As early as 1884, John Webb Singer had entered into conversation with Hamo Thornycroft and Onslow Ford (see Beattie 1983 p.188). In 1888, there was a meeting of sculptors at Onslow Ford's studio, including Edward Armstead, Thomas Brock, Charles Bell Birch, Roscoe Mullins and G.A. Lawson, to discuss how to improve bronze founding facilities in Britain, especially for the casting small bronzes by the lost wax process. At a subsequent meeting, chaired by Armstead, ‘Singer of Frome’ was able to report on his new statue foundry at Frome (Elfrida Manning, Marble & Bronze: The Art and Life of Hamo Thornycroft, 1982, p.109, without giving a specific source). Singer’s used both the sand process for larger bronzes and lost wax for small-scale works (A.H. Church, 'Singer's Metal-work', The Portfolio, 1892, p.124). It is worth noting that in June 1888 Fernando Meacci (qv) was undertaking some piece moulding work for ‘Mr Singer’, perhaps as a subcontractor for J.W. Singer & Sons.
In 1899, Singer and Sons became a private limited liability company and the eighty-year-old John Webb Singer passed control to his sons, Herbert, as managing director, and Edgar (James 1984 p.14). The company’s later history can be traced in part from its trade catalogue (J.W. Singer & Sons Ltd, A Few Examples of Memorial Brasses and Tablets, c.1922, based on 1915 catalogue, pp). In 1914, J.W. Singer & Sons incorporated the firm of Spital & Clark of Birmingham and London, and Herbert and Edgar relinquished their majority control (James 1984 p.17). The business thereafter comprised a range of departments: Architectural, Bronze Foundry, Lead Work, Memorials, Metal Manufacturing, Engineering and the Laboratory, with Sir William Bull as Chairman and Ernest Spital as Managing Director. The bronze foundry was described as executing castings from the smallest to the largest, using both sand and wax processes.
Singer’s bronze statue founding activities were subsumed by the Lambeth-based Morris Art Bronze Foundry (qv) in 1927 to create the new firm Morris Singer, as a result of increased competition for labour and the foundry’s relatively remote location in Somerset (James 1984 p.22, quoting an announcement in the Somerset Standard, 27 May 1927, in which Edgar Singer expressed his regret for the change).
Works in bronze (*listed on the foundry’s former website; **documented through trade catalogue, see Sources below). Singer’s extended their premises on the outskirts of Frome to incorporate a statue foundry in 1888, following encouragement from several leading sculptors. Both Alfred Drury and Hamo Thornycroft brought considerable business to the foundry.
For Alfred Drury, Singer’s produced the wall tablets, Bishop Sir Jonathan Trelawny, 1888 (**Bristol Cathedral, see Public Sculpture of Bristol, p.lx) and Opening of the Blackwall Tunnel, 1897 (Blackwall Tunnel, see Beattie 1983 p.111), various statues, Morning and Evening, c.1898, erected 1903, with foundry mark (Leeds, City Square, see Beattie 1983 pp.113-4), Joseph Priestley, erected 1903, marked J.W. SINGER & SONS LTD FOUNDERS (Leeds, City Square, see Penny 1992 p.50), Queen Victoria, c.1904 (Portsmouth, see James 1984 p.34), Queen Victoria, 1904, with foundry mark (Bradford), statue of St George for South African War Memorial, 1904-5 (Bristol, Clifton College, see Public Sculpture of Bristol, p.83), Fine Arts, Local Government and Education, 1904-7 (Vauxhall Bridge, see Public Sculpture of South London, p.121), Queen Victoria, c.1910 (Wellington, New Zealand, see James 1984 p.34), 8th Duke of Devonshire, 1910 (Eastbourne, King Edward’s Parade, see Public Sculpture of Sussex, p.53, mistakenly described as by Morris Singer Co Ltd, Frome), Edward VII Memorial, 1913 (Sheffield, Fitzalan Square, see Public Sculpture of Sheffield and South Yorkshire, p.142) and the war memorial, St George, 1925/6 (St Peter Port, Guernsey, see James 1984 p.35). It has been suggested that various works by Drury in the Ashmolean Museum may have been cast by Singer’s (Penny 1992 pp.47-56).
For William Hamo Thornycroft, Singer’s worked extensively (see Elfrida Manning, Marble & Bronze: The Art and Life of Hamo Thornycroft, 1982), producing various statues including Oliver Cromwell, 1898-9 (outside Westminster Hall, Manning no.53 and p.131, see Henry Moore Institute, Thornycroft papers, items 590-1), King Alfred, 1901 (Winchester, see James 1984 p.34), Dean John Colet, 1902 (Barnes, St Paul's School, Manning no.42, canopy for seated statue, see also Public Sculpture of Outer South and West London, p.205), Dr Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London, 1904-5 (St Pauls Cathedral, Manning no.50), the Gladstone Memorial, 1905, with foundry mark (opposite St Clement Danes, see Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster, vol.1, p.258) and Lord Curzon, 1911 (Curzon Memorial, formerly Calcutta, see Beattie 1983 pp.224-7). War memorials include Boer War Volunteer Memorial, 1903-5 (Durban, Manning no.22), South African War Memorial, 1908 (Manchester, St Ann's Square, see Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, p.127) and Luton War Memorial, 1922 (Luton, Manning no.137).
Also for Thornycroft Singer’s produced the reliefs, Gordon in China, 1889 (Melbourne, Australia, for pedestal of statue) and Agatha Thornycroft, 1896 (Birmingham City Art Gallery, Manning no.201), as well as various statuettes including Girl with a Mirror, c.1901 (Private coll., Manning no.87), Diana Running, 1903-4 (Private coll., see Manning no.62, at least four casts), Girl Tying her Sandal, 1903-8 (Private coll., Manning no.86, at least seven casts), William Ewart Gladstone, 1905 (or 1909), marked: Cirra Perduta, Singer cast it (examples Sotheby’s 29 November 1996 lot 131, 14 July 1999 lot 13) and Morning, 1907 (Private coll., Manning no.146). A work by Hamo Thornycroft’s father, Thomas Thornycroft’s chariot group, Boadicea, 1897-1902, was cast posthumously by Singer’s (Westminster Bridge, see Sculpture Journal, vol.15, 2006, p.111, for photo of sculpture in pieces at foundry, see also Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster, vol.1, pp.340-3, and Bronze sculpture founders: a short history on this website).
Other statues cast by the foundry in the 1880s, 1890s and subsequently include H. Hems’s equestrian William III, 1889 (Belfast, see James 1984 p.33), Joseph Swynnerton’s statue, Robert Verdin, 1889 (Northwich, Verdin Park, see Public Sculpture of Cheshire and Merseyside, p.146), Onslow Ford's camel-mounted statue, General Gordon, 1890(Chatham, see A.H. Church, 'Singer's Metal-work', The Portfolio, 1892, p.124), Joseph Edgar Boehm's equestrian Lord Napier, 1891(now Queen’s Gate; see A.H. Church, 'Singer's Metal-work', The Portfolio, 1892, p.124), D.W. Stevenson’s Mary Campbell, 1896 (The Scotsman 3 August 1896), Thomas Brock’s Sir Richard Owen, 1896 (Natural History Museum, see James 1984 p.33), Lord Angus, pre-1898 (Douglas, Lanarkshire, see James 1984 p.33) and his statuette, Queen Victoria, from model for Victoria Memorial, Calcutta, c.1902 (Victoria and Albert Museum).
A series of small bronze statuettes were published by Arthur Leslie Collie including Frederic Leighton's The Sluggard, Hamo Thornycroft's General Gordon and John Bright, and Onslow Ford's Peace (A.H. Church, 'Singer's Metal-work', The Portfolio, 1892, p.124). In the case of Leighton’s The Sluggard, a reduction of a full-scale statue, there were two editions published by Collie, with the dates 6 May 1889 and 1 May 1890 (example of the latter, Victoria and Albert Museum, marked: J.W. SINGER & SONS, FROME, SOMERSET). Collie then sold the copyright to Singer’s, whose catalogue of c.1914 features a cast ‘from the original signed model by the late Lord Leighton, of which we hold the copyright’ (see Beattie 1983 p.260 n.59). When Singer’s name appears alone, the cast is likely to be later (example in Ashmolean Museum, see Penny 1992 p.114).
Statues from the 1900s and subsequently, Ross R.C. Lucas’s Dr Isaac Watts, 1900 (Southampton, see James 1984 p.34), John Cassidy's Sir Benjamin Dobson, 1900 (Bolton, Victoria Square, see Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, pp.219-20), Mario Raggi’s William Ewart Gladstone, 1901 (Manchester, Albert Square, see Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, p.21-2), George Wade's Statue of Edward VII, 1902-3 (Bootle, Stanley Road, see Public Sculpture of Cheshire and Merseyside, p.48), H.C. Fehr’s James Watt, 1903, with foundry mark (Leeds, City Square) and John Hampden, 1910 (Aylesbury, Bucks, see James 1984 p.34), Archibald Shannan's Monument to Mrs John Elder, 1905, marked: SINGERS FOUNDER (Glasgow, Elder Park, see Public Sculpture of Glasgow, p.100), and his Monument to Lord Kelvin, 1912-13, marked: SINGERS FOUNDER/ FROME (Glasgow, Kelvingrove Park, see Public Sculpture of Glasgow, p.229), Pittendrigh Macgillivray’s John Knox, 1906 (Edinburgh, see James 1984 p.34), Charles John Allen's Queen Victoria, and allegorical sculptures, Industry and Education, for Queen Victoria Monument, 1906 (Liverpool, Derby Square, see Public Sculpture of Liverpool, pp.37-40, other figures cast by A.B. Burton), J. Adams Acton’s bronze effigy, Cardinal Manning, 1908 (**Westminster Cathedral) and Joseph McClure's three figures for Leicestershire South African War Memorial, 1909 (Leicester, Town Hall Square, see Public Sculpture of Leicestershire and Rutland, p.157).
By Frederick William Pomeroy, Ceramics, Engineering, Architecture, and Agriculture, 1904-7 (Vauxhall Bridge, see Public Sculpture of South London, p.121), Justice, 1906 (Central Criminal Court, atop Old Bailey, see Public Sculpture of the City of London, p.63), Sir George Livesey, statue,1908-10 (Livesey Museum, see Public Sculpture of South London, p.246) and Michael Bass, Baron Burton, statue, 1911 (Burton upon Trent, King Edward Place, see Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country, p.39).
From the 1910s and subsequently, Herbert Hampton’s statue, 8th Duke of Devonshire, 1910, marked: SINGER’S FOUNDERS./ FROME. (Whitehall, see Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster, vol.1, p.415), John Tweed’s 3rd Baron Chesham, 1910 (Aylesbury, Bucks, see James 1984 p.34) and Lord Ronaldshay, statue, c.1924 (Bombay, India, see James 1984 p.35), H.A. Pegram’s central figure and J.M. Swan’seight large lions for Rhodes Memorial, 1910 (Capetown, South Africa, see James 1984 p.34), Gilbert Bayes's Horse Head Chain Supports, 1911 (Albert Embankment at County Hall, see Louise Irvine and Paul Atterbury, Gilbert Bayes: Sculptor 1872-1953, 1998, p.117, and Public Sculpture of South London, p.23), Derwent Wood’s 1st Marquis Ripon, 1912 (Ripon, Yorks, see James 1984 p.34), Henry Poole's statue, King Edward VII, 1913, and some ancillary figures, 1913-5 (Bristol, Queen's Road, see Public Sculpture of Bristol, pp.183, 190) and his statue for Evesham War Memorial, 1921 (Evesham, Worcestershire, Abbey Park, seePublic Sculpture of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire,p.182) and Harry Bates's Monument to Field Marshal Earl Roberts, 1915-16 (from 1898 original), marked: SINGERS/ FOUNDER (Glasgow, Kelvingrove Park, see Public Sculpture of Glasgow, p.231).
From the 1920s, William Reid Dick’s tablet marking first direct flight across Atlantic, 1920 (**Rolls-Royce Ltd), Bertram Mackennal’s equestrian Edward VII, 1921, marked: J.W. SINGER & SONS (Waterloo Place, see James 1984 p.19, see also Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster, vol.1, p.405), Mortimer Brown's Radnor Gardens War Memorial, 1921, marked: J.W. SINGER & SONS LTD BRONZE FOUNDERS (Richmond, Radnor Gardens, see Public Sculpture of Outer South and West London, p.290), J.A. Stevenson’s War Memorial, c.1924 (Mombassa, Kenya, see James 1984 p.35) and Roger Hedley's Swan Hunter War Memorial, 1925, marked: SINGERS FOUNDRY (Wallsend, Frank St, see Public Sculpture of North-East England, p.212).
Sources: A.H. Church, 'Singer's Metal-work', The Portfolio, 1892, pp.121-4; **J.W. Singer & Sons Ltd, A Few Examples of Memorial Brasses and Tablets, c.1922, based on 1915 catalogue pp; Duncan S. James, A Century of Statues: The History of the Morris Singer Foundry, 1984. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
James Smith, London by 1840, 5 Thornhill St, Islington 1846, 21 Albion St, Islington by 1851-1852 or later, plaster figure maker and modeller. Charles Smith 1886-1891, Charles James Smith 1899-1908, Charles Smith & Sons 1909-1952. At 24 William’s Mews, Stanhope St, London NW 1886-1891, 15 Kentish Town Road 1899-1912, 1 Southcote Road, Holloway 1913-1952. Sculptors’ modellers.
The Smith family worked as modellers or moulders over three generations from the 1840s until the 1950s. James Smith, born c.1815 at Detling in Kent, was variously described as an ornamental stonework maker, modeller, stonemason and artificial stone worker. James Smith’s son, Charles James Smith senr (1848-1918), first appears in business independently in 1886 when listed as a plaster cast figure maker in the London directory. He in turn was later joined in business by his two sons, Charles James junr (1873-1951), probably born in 1873 in the Pancras district, and George Henry (c.1880-1948). They were leading modellers for sculptors. The following account is substantially indebted to Peter Malone (see Sources below, cited here as Malone 2010).
From the 1851 census, James Smith and his wife Frances can be identified as a Kent couple, who were in London by 1840 when their eldest daughter was born in Islington. In 1846 James Smith, figure maker of 5 Thornhill St, Islington was embezzled of £4 by John Lardner who had failed to pass on the proceeds of figures delivered on his behalf (Morning Post 3 September, 1846). Smith and his family were living at 21 Albion St, Islington at the time of the 1851 census, when he was described as a modeller, age 36, with his wife Frances and five children born in Islington or Clerkenwell.
The son, Charles James Smith, was born in Pentonville in Clerkenwell in May 1848 and christened at St Pancras Old Church in September when his father was described as a figure maker. On his marriage certificate in 1869, Charles James Smith was described as a moulder and figure maker. He died in Tufnell Park in 1918 (Malone 2010 pp.166, 174). In census records, he can be found in 1851, age 3, at 21 Albion St, Islington (see above), in 1861 living in Finsbury, in 1881 at 11 Wybert St as a moulder and figure maker, age 33, with wife Jane and sons Charles and George, ages 8 and 1, in 1891 at 72 Albany St as a moulder, born Islington, with wife, father-in-law and two sons, in 1901 at 15 Kentish Town Road as a sculptors’ modeller, an employer working at home, with wife Jane and son Charles, also a sculptors’ modeller, age 28, born St Pancras, and another son, George, age 21, and in 1911 at the same address with son Charles James junr, both sculptors’ moulders.
Not a great deal is known of the lives of the two sons. Charles James Smith junr was possibly born Somers Town, c.1872; he died in 1951, leaving an estate worth £5295. George Henry Smith was possibly born Wybert Street c.1880 and died Camden 1948 (Malone 2010 p.175). There is a photograph of the two brothers at work, perhaps in the late 1920s, taking the cast of the foot of a young lady (repr. Malone 2010 p.176).
In 1919, it was reported to a Board of Education Committee, set up to review the possible purchase of the business of D. Brucciani & Co Ltd (qv), that the Smiths were charging considerably less than Brucciani and that C. Smith had been in operation for about 22 years (Malone 2010 p.172). Along with Brucciani and Chapman & Hall, they were one of the significant suppliers of plaster casts to schools (Malone 2010 p.172). At this time, the Smiths were calling themselves ‘Sculptors’ Moulders and Art Cast Publishers. Casts taken from the Living and Deceased’ on their invoice paper (Victoria and Albert Museum Archive, MA/1/S2378).
In the 1925, as the viability of supplying schools decreased, the Smiths decided to give up this side of their business. George Smith wrote to the Secretary of the Board of Education, offering their collection of some 1700 large and small casts and over 450 models: ‘We have been established as a firm of Sculptors’ Moulders over sixty years…. Our principle business has always been the reproduction of Sculptors’ original work, but in addition we have paid great attention to the Scholastic side of Art and we have during all these years collected a very large number of fine specimens specially selected by Sir William [Goscombe] John R.A. and other Royal Academicians.’ (Malone 2010 p.174).
Works in plaster: Charles James Smith senr worked as an occasional moulder for the Thornycroft family of sculptors, receiving payments in 1871, at 15 Clarendon Square, Somers Town, and again in 1893 (Malone 2010 p.166). The business took recommendations from a number of Royal Academicians as to casts to choose for commercial reproduction, including William Goscombe John.
Charles Smith, or Charles Smith & Sons, made casts of John Keats’s death mask, which were available for 2s.6d as catalogue item no.231 until the closure of the reproductions arm of their business in the mid-1920s. An example of the mask was on loan to the National Portrait Gallery until offered at Sotheby’s 10-11 July 1986 lot 86 (see Walker 1985 p.289; marked on right of crown of head: [S]MITH [LON]DO[N] No…) and another was at Christie’s 27 November 1996 lot 461 (marked on top: C. SMITH/ LONDON/ No 231). In their catalogue, they also offered masks of Dorsi, Canova and Beethoven (nos 222-3, 227), a small figure of Chaucer (no.301) and bust of Queen Eleanor from the effigy in Westminster Abbey (no.13B), as well as casts after Donatello, among much else (C. Smith and Sons, Enlarged Catalogue of Casts: Specially selected from the English and French national museums and elsewhere, as suitable for schools of art, 26 pp., partly illustrated, copy in V&A National Art Library, NK.98.1007). It was unusual for a figure maker to number his casts, as Peter Malone has pointed out in his study of the Keats mask (see Sources below).
Charles Smith & Sons undertook plaster work for Eric Gill, mainly on small-scale figures, 1910-22 (see Collins 1998 pp.14, 65, 79-80, 88, 105, 128), including Madonna and Child 2: feet apart, working plaster copy, 1910 (the completed stone relief is in National Museum of Wales, Cardiff); Madonna and Child I, painted plaster, edition of 42 or more, 1913, made by Smith (examples, Manchester City Art Gallery, Clark Library, UCLA, Gleeson Library, University of California at San Francisco); Madonna and Child, Suckling, painted plaster, edition of 36 or more, 1913, various casts made by Smith (example, West Sussex Record Office, Chichester); Christ the King, painted plaster, 1919, also found in brass; Christ Child, small wood relief, 1922 (Tate), 13 casts made by Smith, untraced. Smith also made plaster casts of stone lettering designed by Gill, a panel of which is reproduced in C. Smith & Sons’s Catalogue of Casts, before 1919 (Malone 2010 p.168, from catalogue in Victoria and Albert Museum Archive, ED 84/175). The Victoria and Albert Museum purchased three panels of Gill’s lettering from Smith’s in December 1919 (Victoria and Albert Museum Archive, Smith & Sons nominal file, MA/1/S2378).
For Clare Sheridan, ‘Smith' produced casts of her heads, Lev Kamenev and Leonid Krassin, 1920, prior to casting in bronze by Parlanti (qv) (Clare Sheridan, Mayfair to Moscow: Clare Sheridan's Diary, New York, 1921, p.35).
A generation later, ‘Charlie’ Smith assisted Sir Charles Wheeler, by taking ‘perfect reproductions’ in plaster from a clay model (Charles Wheeler, High Relief: The Autobiography of Sir Charles Wheeler, Sculptor, 1968, pp.125-6). Wheeler claimed to have written an obituary for ‘Charlie Smith’ for The Times but this has not been traced. Wheeler described him as ‘a big man, slow of gait and with a high-pitched voice’. He would come into the studio ‘carrying a large white enamelled bowl (for mixing plaster of Paris), a roll of scrim (for reinforcing the plaster) and a collection of odd lengths of iron rods (for bracing the moulds). A long loaf of bread would be protruding from one of his jacket pockets while in another would be a couple of Spanish onions. He would have come to Chelsea, with all this paraphernalia, from Camden Town…. His overalls were stiff and heavy with plaster splashings and were never cleaned and his boots never scraped after a day’s paddling around in gypsum. The soles just wore clean on Chelsea and St John’s Wood pavements and one could follow his footsteps far along the road till a bus stop was reached. But what a worker he was, and what skill he had acquired in a long life and in the service of many of the leading sculptors of the day.’
Charles Smith took George Bernard Shaw’s death mask in 1950 (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, repr. Malone 2010 p.176).
Sources: Peter Malone, ‘How the Smiths made a Living’, in Rune Frederiksen and Eckart Marchand (eds), Plaster Casts: Making, Collecting and Displaying from Classical Antiquity to the Present, Berlin, 2010, pp.163-80; Peter Malone, ‘Keats's “Posthumous Existence” in Plaster’, The Keats-Shelley Review, vol.26, no.2, September 2012, pp.125-35; supplementary information supplied directly by Peter Malone.
The history of institutional plaster cast collections lies outside the scope of this online resource but for Sir John Soane's Museum see Helen Dorey, ‘Sir John Soane’s Casts as Part of his Academy of Architecture at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields’, in Frederiksen 2010, p.599, where work by Giannelli (qv) and Papera (qv) is identified. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
The Statue Foundry and Bronze Works, see Robinson & Cottam
Sculptors’ own foundries lie outside the immediate scope of this online resource but Steell’s is included, as are those of Sir Francis Chantrey (qv) and Sir Richard Westmacott (qv) for their wider significance.
The Scottish sculptor, Sir John Robert Steell, RSA (1804-91), was the son of the Edinburgh carver and gilder, John Steell (1774-1848), whose work is ably discussed by Joe Rock (see John Steell, father and son, sculptors - Joe Rock's Research Pages, information from Helen Smailes). He was in partnership with his father trading as John Steell & Co and as John Steell & Son, carvers and gilders, until both partnerships were dissolved in July 1827 on his commencing as a sculptor in Edinburgh (Edinburgh Gazette 3 March 1829).
In 1849 Steell set up his own ‘large and well-appointed’ foundry in Edinburgh to cast his equestrian statue, The Duke of Wellington (Edinburgh, Register House), meaning that such works would no longer need to be executed in England, according to contemporary newspaper reports (The Scotsman, 31 March, 30 May 1849). See Public Sculpture of Edinburgh, vol.2, pp.185-202 for a detailed discussion. Steell employed Chantrey’s former assistant, William Young, to direct foundry operations (Daily Mail, Glasgow?, 30 May 1849, Steell press cuttings albums, National Library of Scotland, FB.m.55, information from Helen Smailes). By 1876 Adam Walker was serving as his foreman bronze founder, a role he continued until as late as 1888, according to press reports (The Scotsman 10 August 1876, 9 August 1884, Glasgow Herald 18 June 1888). Steell disposed of his foundry some years before his death (Dundee Courier & Argus 16 September 1891). Following his death, an obituarist highlighted how he had used his foundry to cast works by his brother artists as well as his own (The Academy, vol.40, 1891, p.270, accessed through Google Book Search).
Works in bronze: By 1865, it was claimed that six important works and a greater number of smaller commissions had been completed at the foundry (Caledonian Mercury 21 March 1865). These included Steell’s Prof. John Wilson, 1864 (Edinburgh, East Prince’s St Gardens, see Newcastle Courant 13 May 1864). Among later statues by Steell cast at his foundry are the Prince Consort Memorial, including subsidiary statues by other sculptors, 1870-6 (Edinburgh, Charlotte Square, see The Scotsman 18 March 1868, 13 August 1870, 10 August 1876), George Kinloch of Kinloch, 1872 (Dundee, see The Scotsman 29 January 1872), Walter Scott, 1872 (New York, see Glasgow Herald 4 March 1872), Rev. Thomas Chalmers, 1878 (erected Edinburgh, George St, see Illustrated London News 31 August 1878), Robert Burns, 1880 (Dundee, see Dundee Courier & Argus 8 April 1880), the monumental Alexander and Bucephalus (Edinburgh, City Chambers quadrangle, see Public Sculpture of Edinburgh, vol.1, pp.198, 205) and Robert Burns, 1884 (Thames Embankment, see Glasgow Herald 23 January 1884 and Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster, vol.1, pp.326-7).
Various statues by other sculptors were cast at Steell’s foundry. David Watson Stevenson used the foundry for his John Platt, 1877 (Oldham, see The Scotsman 12 February 1877), Henry Bolckow, 1881 (Middlesbrough, see York Herald 7 October 1881), Robert Tannahil, 1883-4 (Paisley, see Liverpool Mercury 16 October 1883) and the high relief portrait, Dr Robert Moffat, on memorial obelisk, 1885 (Ormiston, see The Scotsman 11 April 1885). Other statues cast at the foundry include William Brodie’s relief, Sam Bough, 1879 (Edinburgh, Dean Cemetery, see The Scotsman 23 August 1879), John Mossman's George A. Clark, 1884 (Paisley, see The Scotsman 9 August 1884), T. Stewart Burnett’s General Gordon, 1887-8 (Aberdeen, see The Scotsman 12 March 1887, Aberdeen Weekly Journal 17 October 1887, Glasgow Herald 18 June 1888) and John Hutchison’s figure, A Torch Racer, 1888, cast by Adam Walker (Edinburgh University, on dome of Old College, see Public Sculpture of Edinburgh, vol.1, pp.391, 393) and Dr John Grigor, 1889 (Nairn, see Aberdeen Journal 21 September 1889).
Sources: Rocco Lieuallen, in Roscoe 2009 p.1187. Newspapers accessed through 19th Century British Library Newspapers, see Resources and bibliography.
Outside the scope of this online resource but in the same ownership as Morris Singer Co (qv) from 1973 and, as part of Polestar Ltd, as Burleighfield Arts (qv), 1995-2003.