1821, Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey
Marble relief medallion in original engraved mahogany casket
⌀ 38 cm (Casket: 51 x 51 cm)
Leggatt Chantrey, a friend of Turner and Canova, was the pictorial chronicler of the upper class of his era. The great and the good of the Gregorian period visited his studio, from Queen Victoria and Walter Scott to George Washington. His contemporaries compared him to none other than Phidias, one of the most famous sculptors of antiquity. This was indeed apposite as the classical rulers' profiles on medallions and coins from antiquity provided inspiration for his elegantly simple and natural portrait reliefs. This marble medallion was created shortly after a sojourn in Italy in 1819, during which he bought Carrara marble. It is still contained in its companion mahogany casket. The sculptor masterfully captured the features of his anonymous subject. No detail escaped him. He wanted to capture her being through the physiological details of her appearance, as described by Lavater in his "Physiognomic Fragments" in the eighteenth century. To this end, Leggatt Chantrey first met his models for a relaxed breakfast and observed them in conversation with friends. He created three draft drawings using a camera lucida. After approximately six sittings he made a model using plaster of paris, which was followed by the final marble relief. Portrait medallions such as this one had an intimate character. They were kept hidden away in a casket and served as mementos of beloved people who had died.
Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey was born in Norton/Sheffield in 1781, he died in London in 1841.