Charles James Fox (1749-1806) politician
Painted terracotta bust1 December 1798
About the work
This bust of politician Charles James Fox is not be all it seems. In September 1806, sculptor Lawrence Gahagan advertised for sale reproductions of his bust of Fox, ‘the last portrait ever taken from that beloved Patriot’. The busts were available from his home at 5 Bentinck Street, Soho; priced at three guineas for plaster casts or 60 guineas for marble versions.
However, five years later, Gahagan was involved in a court case against a Mr Cooper, whom the sculptor alleged had pirated his Fox bust, altering it to add drapery and shoulders. This bust is intriguing. Not only does it not show Fox in clothing and with shoulders, but it is dated 1798 on the shoulder and appears to be faintly dated 1797 on the reverse of the base. The curls of Fox's hair are also carefully modelled at the front but far more crudely represented at the back of the head. A more successful version of Gahagan's bust, without the drapery or shoulders, and also without the teeth seen on this version, is in the collection at Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. The version at Athelstan Museum represents the artist's unchanged design.
About the artist
Sculptor Lawrence Gahagan [Geoghegan] was born in Dublin. His brother, Sebastian, was also a successful sculptor. Gahagan changed his name from Geoghegan, before moving to London to specialise in the production of small, bronze portrait busts. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1798 to 1817 and at the British Institution in 1809. Among the works shown were busts of William Pitt, Horatio Nelson and lawyer and politician Sir Samuel Romilly. Gahagan was commissioned to make designs for Castle Howard in 1801. In 1806 he submitted a proposed design for the monument to William Pitt to be located in the Guildhall, London, but failed to win the commission. Gahagan’s son, Lucius, and daughter, Sarah, were pupils and assistants to their father.
- Charles James Fox (1749-1806) politician
- 1 December 1798
- Painted terracotta bust
- height: 59.00 cm, width: 47.50 cm
- Presented by Sir Phillip Sassoon, 1938
- signed and dated on verso of right shoulder: L. GAHAGAN. / Decb,r ,1st. / 1798; initialled and dated on verso of base: L C[?] / 1797
- GAC number