The Government Art Collection recognises its responsibility to artists, colleagues and all our audiences to represent the diversity of the UK and to embed anti-racist and equitable practices throughout our work. We are taking action to address inequality in the Collection and its interpretation.
This bust of Cromwell and another depicting the politician Francis Hastings, 10th Earl of Huntingdon (GAC 273) were acquired by the Government Art Collection at the same time and from the same source. This would suggest that they are the versions commissioned by Huntingdon and displayed in the ‘Gothick Hall’ of his family seat at Donington Park, Leicestershire. This Cromwell bust, which is signed but not dated, therefore pre-dates a similar version in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (signed and dated 1762). It is almost certainly the version exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1761 and dates from the mid-to-late-1750s.
Joseph Wilton was born in London; the son of an ornamental plasterer. He was educated in Hertfordshire before training in France under Flemish sculptor Laurent Delvaux and French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. In 1747 he moved to Rome, where he sold casts and copies of antique sculpture. He moved to Florence in 1751. After his return to England in 1755 he supplied casts and copies to the Duke of Richmond’s academy of art in Whitehall and he and Italian painter Giovanni Battista Cipriani became the academy’s directors. In 1760, Wilton won a competition to design a monument to Major-General James Wolfe for Westminster Abbey. He served as Sculptor in Ordinary to King George III and Keeper of the Royal Academy. Wilton died in London, aged 81.
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