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John Bacon, Newman Street, to Sir Joshua Reynolds

RA Collection: Archive

Reference code

RAA/SEC/2/2/1

Title

John Bacon, Newman Street, to Sir Joshua Reynolds

Date

05 Apr 1784

Level

Item

Extent & medium

4pp.

Previous reference codes

B II 1, 1047 (members' files)

Historical Background

The statue was commissioned by the Jamaican Assembly after the Battle of the Saints, Admiral George Rodney's victory over the French under the Comte de Grasse of 12 April 1782. The letter detailing the commission is recorded in the minutes of the meeting of Council of 27 February 1784, at which it was resolved to request Bacon, Carlini, Nollekens, Tyler and Wilson to prepare models. Council minutes of 11 June 1784 record a letter from Bacon in which he estimates the cost of the statue as 2000 guineas. The finished monument depicts Rodney in the garb of a Roman general holding a baton in his extended right hand, his left hand on a sword hilt above a polygonal shield resting on a rock covered with seaweed and shells. It was eventually erected in Spanish Town, Jamaica in 1792. Bacon's design includes a relief of the surrender of the French flagship, modelled on a painting by Dominic Serres ('La Ville de Paris striking to the British Fleet April 12 1782') exhibited at the RA in 1784. A clay model featuring Rodney in contemporary uniform is in the V&A.

Content Description

The letter relates to the presentation to the Council of his model for a statue of Admiral Rodney for the States of Jamaica. The letter describes in detail the bas reliefs in the pedestal of the statue, which were too small to be fully revealed in the model. They include a depiction of Britannia in a chariot drawn by sea horses and a woman sitting on a rock in the midst of the sea representing the island of Jamaica. Bacon mentions that he had consulted Rodney himself about the design. He adds that he had intended to make different figures for the Council to choose from, and had made one design in modern dress, but would not produce it unless by order of the RA, so as not to give himself an unfair advantage over other competitors for the commission.