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1804, is again the vehicle of his humble petition for work. Thus runs the advertisement;
"sculpture And Portrait Painting. "F. Chantrey respectfully solicits the patronage of the ladies and gentlemen of Sheffield and its environs in the above arts, during the recess of the Royal Academy, which he hopes to merit from the specimen he has to offer to their attention at his apartments, No. 14 Norfolk-street. As models from life are not generally attempted in the country, F. C. hopes to meet the liberal sentiments of an impartial public."
There were Sheffield gentlemen ready to be done in plaster, as there had been cutlers and confectioners wil ling to be immortalized in oils. Moreover, there was a laudable desire to push native talent, and Chantrey was fairly taken by the hand by the men of Sheffield. A correspondent of a local journal called attention to the genius which providence had unexpectedly raised in the land of hardware, and the first opportunity was seized to bring its capability publicly to the test. A monument was to be raised to the memory of the late vicar of Sheffield, in 1805, and Chantrey, then 24 years old, was selected for the work. So successful was the artist on this occasion, that Montgomery, in alluding to his achievement, prophesied that " his genius would not only confer celebrity on the little village of Norton, the place of his birth, but reflect glory on his native country itself." Three years after this performance, Chantrey sent for exhibition to Sheffield " a gigantic head of Satan," modelled in the room over the stable in Mayfair, and remarkable not only as an indication of the sculptor's powers, but as the harbinger of all his subsequent
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success. Flaxman, who had seen and admired this head at the Exhibition of the Royal Academy, recommended Chantrey for the execution of the busts of four admirals required for the Naval Asylum at Greenwich. This commission led immediately to others. Painting was given up. The professional visits to Sheffield were also abandoned; no further advertisements were inserted in the Sheffield Iris. Chantrey married, and received substantial coin with his wife. Mrs. D'Oyley's butler was comfortably warm in respect to the things of this life; and when he gave his daughter to his nephew, he added a sum sufficient to enable the latter to build himself a studio, and to take a position worthy of his prospects. From first to last, Chantrey received of his wife's money considerably more than £10,000; and of all artists that ever lived Chantrey knew best how to turn such gifts of fortune to good account.
Francis Chantrey, like Byron, rose one morning and found himself famous. In the year 1811 he had six busts in the Exhibition; and one of these was the head of Home Tooke, which brought commissions, according to Chantrey's own account, amounting to 12,000Z. It is very likely that with this enormous success, acquired through the instrumentality of the radical philologer, Chantrey's own radicalism began to decline. The sculptor was a furious democrat in his early struggles, sneered at the reigning family, and roared for sir Francis Burdett. As he invested his thousands in the Three per Cents, the respectability of existing institutions visibly increased. A more gentlemanly old Tory never lived than Chantrey at the age of 60.
In 1811, over fifteen competitors, Chantrey was selected to execute a statue of George III. for the city of London. From that year until 1817 he commanded in his profession. By universal consent he was allowed to be unequalled in his time as a modeller of busts, and nothing, indeed, can surpass the force, the truthfulness, and simplicity of these works. In 1817 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, and executed the exquisite monument of "The Sleeping Children," now in Litchfield cathedral. Mr. Holland is very much distressed because it has been contended that the sole merit of the design of this monument does not rest with Francis Chantrey; and he takes infinite pains to prove the contrary. Mr. Holland however, might have spared his indignation and his trouble. There is no doubt that Stothard's pencil gave Chantrey the original sketch for this lovely work of art; the sketch is in existence, and will ,we believe, be shortly published in Stothard's life. It is equally certain that the snow-drops placed in the hands of the younger sister were a poetic and affecting suggestion of Allan Cunningham. But what then? Look at Stothard's drawing, and compare it with the grace, feeling and irresistible beauty of the sculptured monument. It matters little who designed the sketch, while the marble remains to attest the power, perception, and matchless skill of the mind that gave it glowing life. No eye that has ever gazed upon those artless forms has cared to look beyond them or to inquire too curiously into their origin. They speak, silently sleeping, sufficient for their creator. What sculptor of Chantrey's day could have wrought such work had the whole Academy combined to furnish him with a subject? From 1817 untill his sudden death in 1841, Chan
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trey's career was one of wonderfully profitable occupation and accumulating triumphs. Four monarchs sat to him, and the list of remarkable persons whose faces he perpetuated in marble is much too long to be enumerated here. The last bust on which Chantrey wrought with his old spirit, and the last which he touched with the chisel, was that of Queen Victoria, now at Windsor, justly regarded by Prince Albert as the best existing bust of Her Majesty. The last bust modelled by Chantrey was that of Lord Melbourne, but upon this the sculptor labored with his own hand very little indeed. His strength was failing him at the time, and the noble sitter was himself suffering from ill-health. Indeed, we have reason to know that while Lord Melbourne would invariably quit the studio in Eccleston-street with a sad conviction of the sculptor's waning faculties, Chantrey himself would at the same time commiseratingly deplore to his friends the visible decline of a statesman's once clear and active intellect. Neither suspected his own trouble, but both regarded the other as passing rapidly into a state of hopeless mental decrepitude.
Chantrey had a dread of modelling horses, and made more of one horse than Ducrow ever made out of his whole stud. The first "horse commission" was the George IV. for the marble arch; the second, Sir Thomas Munro, for Madras; the third, the Duke of Wellington, for the city. Of these unquestionably the finest is the Munro; but all the horses are from the same model. In the first two no difference whatever is made in the animals; in the Duke of Wellington's case the head of the horse is altered, but in other respects the steed is that mounted by Sir Thomas and the King; and no other. For George IV. Chantrey received 9,000Z., and profited 3,000£.; for Monro, he was paid IfiOOl., and profited as much; for the Duke of Wellington his charge was 10,000/., and by this he must have gained at least 5,0 00Z. In his later years the sculptor became greedy of commissions and money, and anxious to secure everything. He was eager for the Wilkie statue, and eagerer still for the Glasgow Wellington statue; but the Glasgow people, having a laudable fear of the old horse, took refuge in Marochetti.
These and other points to which no reference is made in Mr. Holland's book are of interest in estimating the character and claims of Francis Chantrey. It is worthy to be noted—for, certainly, the discovery would never be made by an inspection of his works—that Chantrey's vision was very imperfect. Of the right eye he had no use whatever; yet he was an excellent shot. Of reading, he had none. His education had been of the very humblest; yet no one would have accused him of ignorance on any matter. He had surprising tact, a singular faculty of observation, admirable facility of acquiring knowledge in his daily walks, and perfect skill in concealing his poverty. He was brought up, the son of a working man, first in a poor cottage, then in a carver's shop; but he was at ease in the society of princes, and his manner was as far removed from obsequious flattery as from vulgar rudeness. He had a fine and frank independence which endeared him to his inferiors, and gave dignity to his professional character in the eyes of those above him. It will hardly be said that Chantrey during the whole of his professional and highly "respectable" life was disposed to disturb the