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Nollekens And His Times: Comprehending A Life Of That Celebrated Sculptor; And Memoirs Of Several Contemporary Artists, From The Time Of Roubiliac, Hogarth, And Reynolds, To That of Fuseli, Flaxman, And Blake. By John Thomas Smith, Keeper Of The Prints And Drawings In The British Museum. Second Edition. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. (II.)

John Thomas Smith

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London:: Henry Colburn, New Burlington-Street., 1829.

Physical Description

2 vols.; 222 mm.

General Note

Vol. I: x, 393, [1] p., frontis. (port.) - Vol. II: vi, 494 p.


Vol. I: [Frontis., t.p.] - Preface - Contents Of The First Volume - [Text]. - Vol. II: [T.p.] - Contents Of The Second Volume - [Text].

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece portrait of Nollekens in Volume I is signed as 'Engraved by William Bond from a Drawing by John Jackson Esq. R.A.'

It carries the publisher's imprint, 'London, Published by Henry Colburn, New Burlington Street, Octr 1828'.

The printer is named on the t.p. versos and on the last pages of text of both volumes: 'London: Printed By S. And R. Bentley, Dorset Street, Fleet Street.'


J.T. Smith's A book for a rainy day, or recollections of the events of the years 1766-1833 was republished edited by W. Whitten in 1905 (first edition 1845). See also F. Owen, 'John Thomas ('Antiquity') Smith: a Renaissance man for the Georgian age', in Apollo, 140 (1994), p.34-6; J.B. Nicholls, 'Biographical memoir of the author', in J.T.Smith, The cries of London (1839), p.ix-xv.

Summary Note

The author had been a studio-assistant of Nollekens from 1779 to 1781. Commercially unsuccessful as a draughtsman and engraver of London views, he took the post of Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum in 1816; and in 1828 published the first edition of this biography. His account is less an appreciation of the sculptor than a 'warts-and-all' biography, with anecdotes of the London art-world at the end of the eighteenth century. (A supplementary account of Nollekens was published by A. Cunningham in 1830.)

The text records Nollekens's training in London under P. Scheemakers, W. Shipley and W.H. Spang and in Rome under Cavaceppi (1762-1770), where he produced his portrait-busts of Garrick, Sterne and Piranesi, and his career in London (1771-1823). In London his admired portrait-busts of George III, Samuel Johnson and Charles J. Fox and his funeral-monument to Lady Henrietta Williams-Wynn (1771) brought him many commissions.

Most of the second volume (pp. 85-494) is taken up by 'Biographical Sketches And Anecdotes Of Several Artists And Others, Contemporary With Nollekens' - who were Roubiliac, Scheemakers, Rysbrack, Liart, Ceracchi, Locatelli, Procter, Zoffany, Sherwin, Gainsborough, Bacon, Wilton, Banks, Carlini, Dr. Burney, Ware and his companions at Old Slaughter's, 'public characters sometime inhabitants of St. Martin's Lane', Strange, Vivares and Woollett, Zuccarelli, Laroon, Macklin, Patterson the auctioneer, Cussans, Opie, Reynolds, Keate, Deare, Major, Morland, Wilson, Hogarth, Hayman, Barry, Legat, Humphrey, West, Hall, Cosway, Harlow, Fuseli, Flaxman and Blake.

Nollekens became a Royal Academician in 1772, soon after his return from Rome, and Council minutes record his conscientious attendance. He is included in Zoffany's 'The Academicians of the Royal Academy' (Royal Collection). The Academy holds his bas-relief of 'Cupid and Psyche'. Other examples of his work may be seen in London at the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, Westminster Abbey and at Windsor Castle in the Royal Collection. His 'Judgment of Paris' group may be seen at the Getty Museum, Malibu, USA; and his bust of Fox at the Hermitage, St Petersburg.


A new edition of Smith's Nollekens, edited by W. Whitten, was published in 1920.

Binding Note

19th-century green cloth-covered boards, upper and lower coveres blind-stamped with ruled borders and central rococo cartouche; spines lettered, 'Nollekens And His Times - Vol. I. (II.)'.

Name as Subject


Sculptors - Artists - Portraitists - Sculpture - Great Britain - London - 18th century - 19th century
Biography - Memoirs - Anecdotes - Art history - Great Britain - 19th century


Henry Colburn, publisher
William Bond, engraver
John Jackson RA, draughtsman
Richard Bentley, printer
Samuel Bentley, printer