John Gibson, RA 1790-l866
c.1833-7; exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1838
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
This was one of the "highly finished marbles in the neo-classical style" for which Gibson was renowned (museum information plaque). It was commissioned by the wealthy MP, philanthropist and art collector Joseph Neeld during a visit to Rome, and is signed on the little tortoise at the statue's feet, "OPVS JOANNIS GIBSON ROMAE." The title of the piece means "Venus, Turner of Hearts," and it certainly turns the gaze: "The work, with its softly modelled face and elegant curves, depicts a paragon of female beauty, a match for the classical statues that the sculptor so ardently admired. And yet Gibson strove to suggest a beauty beyond the physical" ("John Gibson"). Neeld's commission was the original from which several later versions were executed, amongst them the famous Tinted Venus now at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool.
Neeld installed a number of such ideal sculptures in his grand house Grittleton in Wiltshire, which was rebuilt with an eye to accommodating them. The resultant "coherent collection" illustrated "what in the first half of the century the sculptor's ideal could express, should the patron's taste and pocket allow" (Read 141). Interestingly, the collection was only broken up in 1966.
Other Views and Related Material
Photograph and text by Jacqueline Banerjee 2010
With thanks to the Fitzwilliam Museum for permission to photograph outside the collection rooms