Joseph Nollekens - Encyclopedia

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JOSEPH NOLLEKENS (1737-1823) British sculptor, was born on the 11th of August 1737 in Dean Street, Soho, London, where his father, a native of Antwerp, the " old Nollekens " of Horace Walpole, was a painter of some repute. In his thirteenth year he entered the studio of the sculptor Peter Scheemakers, and practised drawing and modelling with great assiduity, ultimately gaining various prizes offered by the Society of Arts. In 1760 he went to Rome, and he executed a marble bas-relief, " Timoclea before Alexander," which obtained a prize of fifty guineas from that society in 1762. Garrick and Sterne were among the first English visitors who sat to him for busts; among his larger pieces belonging to this early period perhaps the most important is the " Mercury and Venus chiding Cupid." Having returned to England in 1770, he was admitted an associate of the Royal Academy in 1771, and elected a member in 1772, the year in which he married Mary, the second daughter of Saunders Welch. By this time he had become known to George III., whose bust he shortly afterwards executed, and henceforward, until about 1816, he was the most fashionable portrait sculptor of his day. He himself thought highly of his early portrait of Sterne. Among many others may be specially named those of Pitt, Fox, the prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.), Canning, Perceval, Benjamin West and Lords Castlereagh, Aberdeen, Erskine, Egremont and Liverpool. He elaborated a number of marble groups and statues, amongst which may be mentioned those of " Bacchus," " Venus taking off her Sandal," Hope leaning on an Urn," " Juno," " Paetus and Arria," " Cupid and Psyche " and (his own favourite performance) " Venus anointing Herself "; all, however, although remarkable for delicacy of workmanship, are deficient in vigour and originality, and the drapery is peculiarly weak. The most prominent personal characteristic of Nollekens seems to have been his frugality, which ultimately developed into absolute miserliness. Mrs Nollekens died in 1817, and the sculptor himself died in London on the 23rd of April 1823, leaving a large fortune.

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