JOHN GIBSON RA (1791-1866)
Bust of a Nymph (England, c.1835)
White marble on sockle
Inscribed I. GIBSON FECIT ROMAE
Description / Expertise
John Gibson was the most respected English neo-classical sculptor in the first half of the nineteenth century. He worked in Rome and was a pupil of both Canova and Thorvaldsen. He referred to marbles of this type as his 'fancy busts' and often took the compositions from his more successful full-length statues, or alternatively, he made original designs; both to create refined sculptures for private collectors visiting his Roman studio.
Nymph relates closely to the Nymph untying her Sandal (1831), one of Gibson's most important early commissions, made for the Earl of Yarborough and exhibited at the Royal Academy. In this bust, however, Gibson has restyled her hair so that graceful ringlets escape from the bejewelled hair-net which imprisons her locks. Other examples in this genre are his bust of a Naiad from the group of Hylas and the Naiads, Tate Gallery, and the bust of Aurora from the statue in the National Museum of Wales.
Gibson admired the ideal heads of Canova and wrote: 'there is a dignity in the female heads of the antique but in Canova a sweet tender loveliness is the most predominant [feature]; in the antique the edges of the nose are more sharp, Canova softens that part like nature.' `Ideal' and `fancy' busts were made by many of the leading nineteenth century sculptors in Rome including Pietro Tenerani, R. J. Wyatt and Hiram Powers.
Nymph combines classical imagery and detailing - particularly the hair-style - with soft, child-like features that would have appealed to Victorian patrons. Other versions are in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and the Henry Huntingdon Library and Art Gallery, California.