Uncommon ALS by John Flaxman, English Sculptor and Friend of William Blake

Signed by John Flaxman

Item: 20876
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FLAXMAN, JOHN. (1755-1826). English sculptor, illustrator, and close friend of William Blake. ALS. (“John Flaxman”). 1p. 4to. London, April 28, 1823. To British landowner ROBERT LOVELL GWATKIN (1757-1843).

“I was favored this morning with your letter relating to the intended Monument for the Revd. Archdeacon Mousley which I am very much concerned has been so long delayed, not however by neglect or carelessness, but by one of those visitations which at some time is experienced in all families.

I have undertaken agreeable to the wish of Robert Alexander Esq. to execute the work within a year for the sum of about 350 and I am now preparing drawings which in a few days shall be sent to that Gentleman for the choice of the Committee…”

In 1770, Flaxman, whose father produced plaster casts, began his studies at the Royal Academy, of which the esteemed painter Joshua Reynolds was president. Flaxman worked for English potter Josiah Wedgwood while perfecting his skills and became a prolific sculptor of funerary monuments, especially bas-reliefs inspired by his close study of Greek Classicism.

During the 1780s he worked and studied in Rome, refined his style, and illustrated works by Homer, Dante, and Aeschylus for which he became famous. Despite recognition as an illustrator, Flaxman continued to create church memorials and teach sculpture at London’s Royal Academy.

In November 1820, a committee for erecting a monument to Anglican priest and first archdeacon of Madras (modern Chennai) John Mousley (1772-1819), commissioned Flaxman to provide “two or three designs of a neat and chaste moral monument to be placed in St. George’s church” in Madras to honor Mousley, (The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register, June 1820). Flaxman had already supplied several memorial sculptures to St. George’s Church, which had been designed and constructed by East India Company personnel in 1815, and consecrated the following year, becoming the cathedral of Madras in 1835. Flaxman’s monument to Mousley, a commemorative tablet is described as “visually platitudinous” by Barbara Groseclose, author of British Sculpture and the Company Raj: Church Monuments and Public Statuary in Madras, Calcutta, and Bombay to 1858.

Gwatkin operated an estate in Cornwall where he built Killiow House and a church in the Cornish parish of Kea for which his wife, Theophila Palmer, the niece of painter Joshua Reynolds, provided interior paintings, and who, prior to her marriage to Gwatkin, was the subject of many of her uncle’s paintings.

Flaxman, who knew Reynolds as president of the Royal Academy, designed a Wedgwood portrait medallion of the great painter as well as the Statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Written on the first page of a folded sheet with some evidence of prior mounting along the edge of the address leaf, which is intact but for some slight paper loss from the wax seal. In fine condition and uncommon.

Uncommon ALS by John Flaxman, English Sculptor and Friend of William Blake

Signed by John Flaxman

$550 • item #20876

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