Why BANKSY loves this antique Bronze? – David Harper

14th November 2023

This bronze statuette shows Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington riding his warhorse Copenhagen.  He is dressed in civilian clothes with the reins in one hand and his top hat in the other.  The engraving on the bottom of the horse’s underbelly reads: ‘Published as the act directs by Hunt & Roskell, late Storr Mortimer & Hunt 156 New Bond Street, Nr 1951 June 1844’.

Edward Hodges Baily (1788- 1867) was born in Bristol to a family of ships’ figurehead carvers.  At 16 he moved to the studio of John Flaxman in London and also enrolled into the Royal Academy.  Baily went on to become one of the most celebrated Neoclassical sculptors of 19th century Britain, winning a gold medal at the Royal Academy and multiple commissions for public monuments.  These included the bas-reliefs on the south side of Marble Arch in Hyde Park and the statue of Nelson on Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.  He worked for Hunt & Roskell as one of their chief designers, having previously worked for the goldsmiths at Rundell & Bridge.  His work was so admired by Paul Storr, that he asked him to join his new venture in 1819.

In the 1851 Great Exhibition, the stand of Hunt & Roskell was one of the main attractions of the entire event and according to the official exhibition catalogue, it presented ‘an equestrian statuette of the Duke of Wellington, in bronze. Modelled by E.H. Bailey, Esq., R.A’ (Royal Commission, 1851, p.687).  In the 1862 Exhibition, Hunt & Roskell seem to have shown the piece again with the British antiquary John Timbs noting: ‘[…] but not only have the models been carefully executed by the artists themselves, but they have been thoroughly well finished and chased afterwards […] An equestrian statuette in bronze of the Duke of Wellington is a good and graceful work, very much better than half of our public statues.’ (Timbs, 1863, p. 229).

Other works of Edward Hodges Baily are currently exhibited in the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and the TATE Britain.  Literature: John Timbs, The Industry, Science, & Art of the Age: or The International Exhibition of 1862, (London: 1863), p. 229.  Michael Forrest, Art Bronzes (Pittsburgh: 1988), illus. p. 366.  Philippa Glanville, Silver in England(London: 1987), p. 255. The Royal Commission, Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations 1851 – Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue, Vol. II (London: 1851), p. 687.

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