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A Letter To The Committee For Raising The Naval Pillar, Or Monument, Under The Patronage Of His Royal Highness The Duke of Clarence. By John Flaxman, Sculptor.

John Flaxman RA

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London:: Printed For T. Cadell, Jun. And W. Davies, In The Strand; T. Payne, Mews-Gate; And R. H. Evans (Successor To Mr. Edwards), No. 26, Pall-Mall; By G. Woodfall, No. 22, Paternoster-Row., 1799.

Physical Description

14, [2] p., frontis., plates 2, 3; 252 mm. (Quarto).


[Frontis., t.p.] - [Text] - [Plates 2, 3] - [Text (P.s. and Note)] - Explanation Of The Plates - [Colophon].

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece is signed as engraved by Blake; the other two plates are unsigned.

The printer's name is repeated in the colophon.


Royal Institute of British Architects, British Architectural Library ... Early printed books, 2 (1995), no. 1076; R.N. Essick, William Blake's commercial book illustrations (1991), no. XXXVIII; G.E. Bentley, Blake books (1977), no. 458.

A. Borg, War memorials from antiquity to the present (1991); A. Yarrington, The commemoration of the hero, 1800-1864: monuments to the British victors of the Napoleonic wars (1988); Victoria and Albert Museum, Designs for English sculpture 1680-1860, ed. J. Physick (1969); M. Campbell, 'An alternative design for a commemorative monument by John Flaxman', in Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University, 17 (1958), p. 65-73.
ESTC, T99371

Summary Note

Flaxman returned from Rome to Britain in 1794, a celebrated sculptor and draughtsman, well-placed to apply for commissions to execute the proposed monuments to British naval heroes. Here he argues that a colossus on Greenwich Hill would be better than a column or other memorial. It should represent Britannia by divine providence triumphant, and might be estimated to cost about £50,000. He attributes this idea to a suggestion of George Dance the younger.

The plates show: [1] (Frontispiece) 'A Colossal Statue 230 feet high, proposed to be erected on Greenwich Hill'; 2. six alternatives, '1 Obelisk, 2 Column, 3 Meta, 4 Arch, 5 Pharos, 6 Temple'; 3. 'A View of Greenwich Hospital with the Statue of Britannia on the Hill'.

In January 1800 the architect Alexander Dufour in his Letter to the Nobility composing the Committee for raising the Naval Pillar accused Flaxman of trying to influence the Committee against triumphal arches and pillars. But drawings surviving at Princeton confirm that Flaxman did seriously consider a gigantic arch, surmounted by a seated Britannia and adorned by naval trophies.

In 1801 Flaxman exhibited at the Royal Academy a sketch for a statue of Britannia. The Colossus was never executed. Flaxman did, however, sculpt monuments to Lord Nelson and Earl Howe for St. Paul's cathedral; and he used a very similar design to his Colossus for his monument to Lord North (second earl of Guilford) in the church at Wroxton, Oxfordshire.

Flaxman's original drawing for his Britannia colossus is held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London - and his model, at the Soane Museum, London.


An electronic reproduction was published in 2003 (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale). A microfilm version was published in 1986 (Woodbridge CT: Research Publications).


Recorded in RAA Library, Catalogue, 1802.

Binding Note

20th-century half calf, brown cloth-covered boards; gilt-decorated spine lettered 'Tracts' and 'R.A.'

Name as Subject


Monuments, British - National monuments, British - War memorials - Statues - Sculpture, British - Colossi - Outdoor sculpture - Public sculpture - Site-specific works - Great Britain - London - Greenwich - History - 18th century
Art commissions - Government policy - Art and state - Great Britain - 18th century
Designs - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 18th century


Thomas Cadell the elder, publisher
William Blake, engraver
George Woodfall, printer

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