William Pitt (1759-1806) Prime Minister
About the work
This is one of 74 busts of Pitt by Joseph Nollekens. The sculptor has signed and dated this bust 1813, seven years after Pitt’s death, but the earliest versions are dated 1806. Pitt refused to sit for the sculptor, so Nollekens took his death mask in 1806. The resulting busts were sold for £120 each, providing the sculptor with a steady income. Busts by Nollekens of both Pitt and Fox were often purchased to be displayed as a pair. Nollekens also sculpted a full-length monument of the former Prime Minister, to be placed in the Senate House of the University of Cambridge, for which Pitt had been a Member of Parliament.
About the artist
Joseph Nollekens, son of Joseph Francis Nollekens, a painter from Antwerp, was born in Dean Street, Soho. He studied under the sculptor Peter Scheemakers, before attending William Shipley’s drawing school on the Strand. In 1762 he travelled to Rome where he worked as an antiques dealer, restorer and copier, as well as sculpting portraits of English tourists. By 1771, he had returned to London and taken a house in Mortimer Street, Marylebone. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1772. He sculpted several church monuments and mythological subjects but it was his portrait busts which grew in popularity throughout his career. His final years were plagued by ill health and by 1816 he was almost deaf. He died at the age of 85.
- William Pitt (1759-1806) Prime Minister
- Marble bust
- height: 70.00 cm
- Purchased from Christie's, June 1937 via J Rochelle Thomas
- inscribed on socle, verso: Nollekens F.t / 1813
- With Gooden & Fox Ltd.; by whom sold through Christie’s, London, on 23 June 1937 (Lot 18); from which sale purchased by J. Rochelle Thomas on behalf of the Office of Works
- GAC number