Sculptor Joseph Nollekens designed three distinct busts of the Whig statesman Charles James Fox, producing several copies of each. The earliest version of this, his second Fox bust, was sculpted in 1801 and exhibited at the Royal Academy the following year. Copies of Nollekens’ busts of Fox and his political rival William Pitt were often commissioned as a pair.
Charles James Fox entered Parliament in 1768, becoming the first British Foreign Secretary in 1782. In the following year he joined forces with former Prime Minister Frederick North to form a coalition, led by the Duke of Portland, which was in office from March to December. Fox briefly served again as Foreign Secretary in 1806, the year he died.
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.
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