A Moment of Peril, by Sir Thomas Brock, K.C.B., R.A. (1847-1922). 1881. This bronze group shows a Native American poised to strike an enormous muscular-looking python, which has coiled itself round the rear quarters of his mount, and is rearing its head to strike the rider himself. It is indeed a moment of peril. The work belongs to the Chantrey Collection of the Tate, but is sited in the garden of Brock's close friend, Frederick Leighton, at Leighton House in Kensington. There is also a replica at Kongens Have ("The King's Garden"), a public park in central Copenhagen. As shown on the right above, this acclaimed work was featured in the Magazine of Art 9 (1884): 88.

In Chapter 4 ("Leighton and Millais") of Frederick Brock's biography of his father, we learn that the group was "undoubtedly the piece of sculpture of its year" (40). It is certainly a moment of terrific tension, with "the horse tightly reined in, but on one side only, being wrenched in that direction by the rider as though he would thus make more certain the success of his impending stroke" — an action that not only tells a dramatic story at its cliff-edge, but produces a certain "restraint and therefore a harmony not easy to find in other works of this description" (40).

Note: When Brock created this work in 1881, he would have had no contact with any Native Americans and could not have known that the stereotyped ‘feathered headdress Indian’ depicted here is considered offensive by many. — Caroline Jarrett (daughter of John Sankey, who contributed so much of our material on Brock).

Photographs and text (apart from the note) by Jacqueline Banerjeein 2022, the photographs having been taken on the occasion of the re-opening of Leighton House, after substantial improvements, that October. Scan by George P. Landow in 2013. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose, as long as you credit the photographer or the person who scanned the image, and link your document to this URL in a web document, or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. In the case of the scan, please also credit the Internet Archive and the University of Toronto Library.

Link to related material


Brock, Frederick. Thomas Brock: Forgotten Sculptor of the Victoria Memorial. Ed. John Sankey. Bloomington, IN.: Ian Thompson/Author House, 2012. [Review]

“A Moment of Peril.” Magazine of Art 9 (December 1892-November 1893): 88. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library. Web. 11 September 2013.

Created 26 September 2013

Last modified 14 October 2022