A plaster portrait bust of Lord Nelson after Anne Seymour Damer


c. 1802




Height 14.75 inch. Width 9.50 inch. Depth 6.00 inch.

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This bust of Admiral Lord Nelson was almost produced by Bartholomew Papera after the 1798 marble bust by Anne Seymour Damer. The reverse is impressed, ‘Anna S. Damer Fecit’ and ‘Pub. As the Act Dir’. Incomplete paper label on the integral black base. An advert placed in the Oracle and Daily Advertiser on the 11th of December 1805 states that “casts from the original bust of Lord Nelson executed in marble by the Honourable Anne Seymour Damer and presented by her to the City of London, are to be had at B. Papira’s, Plaster-Figure maker to Her Majesty, No. 16 Mary-le-bone-Street, Golden-Square-N. B. The above portrait is perfectly original, and the only one executed in sculpture for which Lord Nelson ever sat”.

English, circa 1802.

The Hon. Anne Seymour Damer (1748-1828) was a sculptor and author who later inherited Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole’s famed Gothic villa in Twickenham. A friend of Sir William and Lady Hamilton, she probably met Nelson in Naples in 1798, afterwards offering a bust of the Hero to the City of London. On his return to London in 1800, Nelson gave Damer a sitting during which he presented her with his uniform coat worn at the Battle of the Nile. Although Damer’s monumental bust in marble was only delivered to the City in 1803, artist authorised copies in plaster, probably by the plaster figure maker Bartholomew Papera (c.1749-1815), were already circulating. Damer presented Napoleon Bonaparte in person with an example in plaster on her visit to Paris in 1802, whilst another reached the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. The Wedgwood factory purchased a plaster copy of Damer’s bust from Papera in 1802 (for 12 shillings), possibly for an unrealised scheme to reproduce it in basalt pottery as a companion to their popular portrait medallion of the admiral.

The Papera family of plaster figure makers enjoyed considerable acclaim in London and their clientele was an exceptional one. The National Portrait Gallery’s list of bronze founders and plaster figure makers contains an extended biography of the family. Amongst their clients were aristocrats like Lord Delaval, Lord Harcourt and Lord Egremont and the Duke of Richmond, actresses such as Sarah Siddons and even “Mr Chippendall”-likely to be Thomas Chippendale the Younger. As “Figure maker to Her Majesty” from 1795 onwards, Papera also had connections to the Royal family as well as to the London artists of the day to whom Papera both supplied casts and and took casts from their own works. He is mentioned in the biography of Joseph Nollekens and he was also known to hire out casts to artists on a fee paying basis. Papera also had links with the gem engraver Nathaniel Marchant and with Josiah Wedgwood as mentioned earlier, placing him right at the heart of the artistic movement in England at this time.

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