Bust of George Dance, R.A, 1827
Charles Rossi RA (1762 - 1839)
RA Collection: Art
On free display in Dame Jillian Sackler Sculpture Gallery
This bust of the architect George Dance RA was gifted to the Royal Academy by its maker Charles Rossi. Made in 1827, it was first exhibited at the British Institution Exhibition of that year. Rossi and Dance had been fellow Academicians for many years, and Rossi also sat to Dance for his pencil portrait in 1798 which was part of the series of sketches made of Members of the Academy which Dance produced over many years. Dance had died two years before Rossi carved this bust, and it had a particular relevance for the Royal Academy as Dance was the last to die of the founding Academicians.
Rossi chose to portray George Dance RA in the neo-classical herm form which characteristically is shaped to a plain squared base. There are faint horizontal lines decorating the base but otherwise there is no softening drapery present. This concentrates attention on Dance’s head and neck, which are realistically carved and convey a strong sense of the sitter’s engaging personality. Rossi produced many memorial monuments and decorative schemes, including architectural friezes, but portrait busts such as this are often considered to be his finest works. A plaster bust for the work is in Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Rossi was elected as a Royal Academician in 1802 but his original Diploma Work was lost and replaced by this sculpture at a later date. The Diploma Work he presented in 1802 was a terracotta bust of Lord Thurlow, and this was still recorded as Rossi’s Diploma Work in 1836 (when Diploma Works were still listed at the end of the Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues). The next reference to Rossi’s Diploma Work is in a list of works shown in the Diploma Gallery, probably dating from around 1876, which does not mention the subject of the bust but does refer to the work being in marble (and so certainly the bust of Dance—the only marble sculpture by Rossi in the RA collection). Between 1836 and 1876, therefore, the bust was exchanged, although no further information regarding the exchange has emerged. The most likely explanation is possible that the terracotta was broken and the artist or his family) offered a substitution of a more robust sculpture. If indeed come from the artist or his family this was no small commitment, given that Rossi was in straitened circumstances late in his life. From 1834 he frequently applied to the Royal Academy for financial support, while an obituary confirmed that Rossi ‘bequeathed to his family nothing but his fame’.
Art Union, I, 1839, p.22
500 mm x 285 mm x 200 mm
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