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, Frame for Edward Burch RA 'Neptune'

Neptune, 1771

Edward Burch RA (1730 - 1814)

RA Collection: Art

The standing figuree of Neptune, god of the see ‘resting on his trident after having crowned the British navy with victory’. Richly set in a gold frame, inscribed with a date (1770) and signed BURCH RA, this intaglio celebrate, with little doubts, the victory of the British Royal Navy over the Spanish fleet during the Falklands crisis in 1770.

This masterfully engraved cornelian, a brownish-red semi-precious stone, was Edward Burch's diploma work, the work of art presented to King George III, Academy's royal patron and founder, upon his election as Member. In 1769 Burch had resigned as director of the Society of Artists to enrol as student in the newborn Royal Academy the following year. Soon he was made an associate, and in 1771 became a full academician, among the first group of elected members.

At the time Burch joined the Academy he was already the foremost gem engraver in Britain. As a self-taught, he reached the peak of excellence having developed a great sense of anatomy and mastering and original modelling technique. His gems were shown regularly at the Royal Academy exhibitions as the where also found in the best collections of Europe, including the of Wales (later George IV), his brother the Duke of York, 4th Duke of Marlborough, Catherine the Great and the King of Poland.

He took a lively part in academy affairs and its social life, and was popular though he was remembered as 'often coarse in both manner and expression'. By the end of the century the originality of his work, not conforming to the neo classical canon, together with a failing sight and a decline in demand for engraved gems left him in penury. From 1794 he was appointed librarian to the Royal Academy, a post traditionally given to indigent artists.

Object details

Edward Burch RA (1730 - 1814)
Object type
Engraved gem

66 mm x 40 mm x 5 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by Edward Burch RA accepted 11 June 1771

Associated works of art

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