Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Statue of a Countess

I am pleased to share the news that my latest article, "Between Venus and Victoria: John Gibson's Portrait Statue of the Hon. Mrs. Murray, Later Countess Beauchamp," has just been published in Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide (along with a number of other very interesting essays by some colleagues I know that I look forward to reading). My essay discusses for the first time the portrait statue you see here that Gibson made for the 3rd Baroness Braye of her widowed daughter Catherine, who later married Earl Beauchamp (pronounced "Beecham").

The statue was commissioned in 1842 when the Baroness and members of her family were on their grand tour in Rome, and it was completed in 1846. Gibson exhibited the marble statue at the Royal Academy that year, where it received mostly positive feedback, but one critic rather surprisingly compared it to the Hottentot Venus. (You'll have to read the article to learn why!) The Baroness and her daughter were friends with Gibson for many years, and he often visited them at their London home and at Stanford Hall, where the statue is on view as part of the family's art collection to this day. What makes the story of this statue even more remarkable is that Catherine made the bold decision to have Gibson tint it while it was still in the early days of his own experiments with polychrome sculpture (i.e. Tinted Venus). As I discuss in my essay, she received sharp criticism afterward for having done this, but Gibson urged her to "fight it out" and not give in to the critics. (Wise words I need to remember myself many days!)

I am incredibly grateful to the current Baroness Braye and her family for their generosity and hospitality in giving me access to unpublished family papers and their homes, and to the staff at Stanford Hall for responding to all my inquiries along the way. Without their encouragement and support, this article never could have come to fruition.

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