This ethereal sculpture signed 'I GIBSON FACIEBAT ROME’ is the first example of 'Love Tormenting the Soul’ in white Carrera marble executed by John Gibson, R.A. (d. 1866) in 1837 for Henry John Peachey, 3rd Baron Selsey (d. 1838); it is the original of four versions, and the only version not in a museum collection. Lord Selsey acquired the sculpture during a visit to Rome in the mid-1830s, together with the following lot, 'Psyche with the lamp’ by Luigi Bienaimé (d. 1878). The sculptures are part of the Selsey marbles, and are listed in Walks through the Studii of the Sculptors at Rome, published in 1841 (Hawks Le Grice, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 119, 129). Lord Selsey died age 50 in Florence on 10 March 1838, conceivably on a buying trip for sculpture and art in Italy, and without issue the baronetcy and peerage became extinct (Urban, op. cit., pp. 540-541). His estate was left to his sister, the Hon. Caroline Mary Vernon Harcourt (née Peachey) of Newselles Park, Hertfordshire. On her death in 1871, and without issue, a large portion of her estate was left to Ulick de Burgh, 1st Marquess of Clanricarde (d. 1874) who was a distant relation (West Sussex CRO, Add Mss 24,740, 1848; Salzman, op. cit., pp. 205-210). Lord Clanricarde married the Hon. Harriet Canning (d. 1876), daughter of Prime Minister George Canning, on 4 April 1825 at Gloucester Lodge in Brompton. The couple had seven children including Lady Elizabeth Joanna de Burgh (d. 1854) who married Henry Lascelles, 4th Earl of Harewood (d. 1892) in 1845. It is thought that the sculptures subsequently passed into the collection of the Earls of Harewood: almost certainly via the 2nd Marquess of Clanricarde (d. 1916) who left a fortune of £2.5 million to his great-nephew Lord Lascelles (later 6th Earl of Harewood), with whom he shared a taste for the arts. Lord Lascelles bought Chesterfield House in 1921 and it is noted that the house was filled with art treasures bequeathed him by his great uncle, Lord Clanricarde (The Illustrated London News, 4 March 1922, pp. 286-287). Chesterfield House was sadly demolished in 1937 and by 1948 the statues are recorded at Harewood House.
THE MODEL: 'I look upon this statue as one of my best works’
Four completed versions in marble were made,
1) The original, the present example for Lord Selsey.
2) A version for R.V. Yates, Esq. of Liverpool, made prior to 1841. With Michael Belcher, Holmstead House, Liverpool by 1870. Presented to the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool in 1916 by Colonel Belcher of 10 Fulwood Park, Liverpool, and now on display at the Walker Gallery.
3) A polychrome tinted version for R.S. Holford Esq., Dorchester House, London. Gifted to the Wilson Gallery, Cheltenham by Lady Agnes Dixon Hartland of Ashley Manor in Charlton Kings, Cheltenham in 1939. Exhibited with two other polychrome sculptures by Gibson in a polychrome temple designed by the architect, Owen Jones (d. 1874), at the 1862 International Exhibition, London. Correspondence between Gibson and Edmund Oldfield, a director of the exhibition, shows that Gibson was instrumental in the inclusion of Holford’s model of 'Love Tormenting the Soul’ (RAA, G1/1/265).
4) A version in Gibson’s Roman studio at the time of his death, subsequently bequeathed to the Royal Academy. The fourth and last version belonged to Gibson; it is entitled on the front of the base 'CUPID AND BUTTERFLY’, and signed on the back, 'OPVS IOANNIA GIBSON ROMAE’. This model was at his studio in the Via Fontanello, Rome in 1866 where a visitor described it thus, 'In a large barn-like shed, with a floor of earth, on pedestals of various materials, shapes, and sizes, stand the beautiful Cupid and Butterfly…’ (E. Ellet, op. cit., p. 149). This version was part of the contents of Gibson’s studio that were not sold at the time of his death together with models and drawings for works not yet executed and a large sum of money bequeathed to the Royal Academy with the proviso that his works be on display at the Royal Academy for public exhibition.
The present sculpture is recorded thus in Gibson’s Studio Account Books,
'Executed a Statue of Cupid Caressing a Butterfly whilst he is going to sting it with his arrow for Lord Selsey PrIce £300 – Paid 100’ (RAA GI/V/660, 1822-59, no. III).
Gibson also itemised the expense of pointing, carving and polishing the sculpture payable to his Italian assistant, Baini (op. cit., 1823-42, no. V).
Lady Eastlake (d. 1893), writer, pioneer female art critic and historian, and a personal friend of Gibson, described the sculptor’s recollection of how the subject was conceived,
'There appeared in Rome a boy of twelve years old of most extraordinary beauty of face and figure, and whilst painters and sculptors were contending for him I also availed myself of so remarkable a model. I considered the idea of a statue of Cupid – this time nude. I represented him caressing a butterfly upon his breast, while with his right hand he is drawing forth an arrow to pierce it. I called it “Love tormenting the Soul”. I spent three months upon the clay model, working almost constantly. I afterwards executed it in marble for Lord Selsey, and repeated it subsequently for Mr. Yates of Liverpool, and for Mr. Holford. I look upon this statue as one of my best works’ (Eastlake, op. cit., p. 76).
In 1839, either the present example or the one made for R.V. Yates, Esq., was exhibited at the Royal Academy Exhibition (Graves, op. cit., p. 230).
In 1841, Walks through the Studii of the Sculptors at Rome recorded the sculpture as '17. A Statue of Cupid preparing to wound the Soul, executed for Lord Selsey, with a duplicate for Richard Yates of Liverpool' (Hawks Le Grice, op. cit., p. 119).
In 1849, The Art Journal reported, 'In poetic Art, one of the most beautiful – to our thought the most beautiful – of all his creations, is the Cupid standing with a butterfly on his hand, and in the act of drawing an arrow wherewith to transfix it. This statue was executed in marble for Lord Selsey; and duplicates are in the possession of Mr. Richard Yates, of Liverpool and Mr. Holford’ (Anna Jameson, op. cit., p. 140).
In 1854, a version was exhibited in the Courts of Modern Sculpture, Crystal Palace, 1954, no. 24.
In 1861, the model was depicted in two engravings in Engravings from original compositions executed in marble in Rome by John Gibson, and the index to the volume lists, '5. Cupid drawing an arrow from his quiver to wound the butterfly. In the poss. of Lord Selsey'.
JOHN GIBSON, R.A.
Having served his apprenticeship in his home town of Liverpool, John Gibson moved to London, where through connections with Lord Brougham and Messrs. Christie, Manson & Woods, he received portrait commissions and had his work accepted by the Royal Academy. His heart set on Rome, he finally arrived there in 1817 and was welcomed into the studio of the celebrated sculptor Canova. He also received assistance from Thorwaldsen, who was living in the city at the time. Gibson's first original work was his life-size figure of the 'Sleeping Shepherd' and his first patron, the Duke of Devonshire, for whom he carved 'Mars and Cupid'. The sculptor’s rapid success led friends to urge him to return to England where he could make substantial amounts of money through such commissions. However, despite exhibiting at the Royal Academy between 1816 and 1864 and being elected a full member in 1838, Gibson refused to do so, only revisiting the country on two further occasions, each time to execute a statue of Queen Victoria.