Skip to main content

Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Samuel Joseph (1791–1850)

Sculptor born in London and trained under the wax-modeller Peter Rouw I. His first Royal Academy exhibit in 1811 was of a young member of the Rouw family, and it has been suggested that it was to his close contact with this family of wax-modellers that he owed the naturalism which was to distinguish his portraiture. It was in 1811 that he entered the Royal Academy Schools, where he won silver and gold medals, but failed to secure a travelling scholarship to Rome. His 1815 gold medal was for a group, Eve Entreating Forgiveness from Adam, but thenceforth virtually his entire output consisted of portraiture in the form of medallions, busts and statues. Between 1822 and 1828 he lived and worked in Edinburgh, where he was closely involved with the Edinburgh Phrenological Society. In 1824 he sculpted a bust of the author Walter Scott, with a more animated expression than the 1820 portrait of Scott by Sir Francis Chantrey. He participated in the debates which resulted in the setting up of the Scottish Academy of which he became a founder member in 1826. After returning to London, he maintained his contacts north of the border, and in the 1840s sculpted a number of commemorations of the Scottish painter David Wilkie, including a funerary monument in the church of Cults in Fife, and a full-length portrait statue, now in Tate Britain. Today, Joseph is best remembered for his extremely characterful seated statue of the slavery abolitionist, William Wilberforce, in Westminster Abbey (marble; 1838–40). Despite some significant public commissions, such as that from the Gresham Committee of the City of London for a statue of the early 17th century Lord Mayor, Sir Hugh Myddelton, for the exterior of the new Royal Exchange, which was completed in 1845, Joseph became bankrupt in 1848. Between then and his death from cancer two years later, he survived on a pension awarded by the Council of the Royal Academy.

Bibliography: T. Friedman, ‘Joseph, Samuel’, ODNB, 2004; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009, pp. 678–82; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 212, 317, 318, 320, 321, 323–24.

Philip Ward-Jackson, May 2024