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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

James Sherwood Westmacott (1823–1900)

Son of Henry Westmacott and nephew of Sir Richard Westmacott, under whom he trained as a sculptor. In 1844 he showed in the Westminster Hall exhibition figures of Alfred the Great and Richard I Planting the Standard of England on the Walls of Acre. The following year, he won a gold medal from the Dresden Academy for a figure of Victory. In 1863, a reviewer for the Illustrated London News compared the ‘descriptive propriety’ of J.S. Westmacott’s drapery to that of contemporary German sculptors, so it may be that he trained there also. In 1848 he made two of the series of Magna Carta barons for the House of Lords – Saher de Quency, Earl of Winchester, and Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Gloucester – and in the following year travelled to Rome. In 1861, he accepted a commission (completed 1863) to produce a statue for the Egyptian Hall of the Mansion House, City of London, his chosen subject, Alexander the Great, as portrayed by John Dryden in his poem, ‘Alexander’s Feast’. Several of his ideal figures achieved great popularity at the mid-century, in particular The Peri at the Gates of Paradise, which was exhibited at the Paris International Exhibition of 1855. He also produced architectural sculpture, including figures of Galen, Cicero and Aristotle (1869) for Sir James Pennethorne’s headquarters building for the University of London, Burlington Gardens, plus some religious sculpture, and a number of church monuments. For the high altar reredos of the Cathedral of St Nicholas in Newcastle-upon-Tyne he sculpted 35 figures, including Christ in Majesty, saints and angels (1857), all set under an elaborate Gothic canopy. He was a member of the Institute of British Sculptors, c.1856–c.1861, but in 1866 was unsuccessful in that year’s ballot for election to the Royal Academy of Arts despite being a regular contributor to the annual exhibitions (67 works, 1846–85).

Bibliography: J. Bryant, Magnificent Marble Statues. British Sculpture in the Mansion House, London, 2013, pp. 118–20; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. xvii–xviii; Mapping Sculpture; B. Read, Victorian Sculpture, New Haven and London, 1982; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009, pp. 1351–54; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 244, 254–55.

Philip Ward-Jackson, 2003; revised Terry Cavanagh, May 2024

Westmacott, James Sherwood

James Sherwood Westmacott, albumen carte-de-visite by Elliott & Fry, 1860s, NPG Ax28953 (photo: © National Portrait Gallery, London)