Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Philip Ward-Jackson for his guidance and for his generous sharing of research, and to the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford; Carisbrooke Castle Museum; the Royal Collection; Tate Images; and Westminster Library, for assisting me in my inquiries, and also to Jacqueline Banerjee for her help and support. Images © Caroline Hedengren-Dillon, who has been granted reproduction rights from many different sources. They should not be reused. Click on the images for larger pictures.
Monument to Princess Elizabeth by Baron Carlo Marochetti, 1856, at St. Thomas Minster, Newport, Isle of Wight.
Among the prestigious commissions given by Queen Victoria to Baron Marochetti, the Monument to Princess Elizabeth (also called "The tomb of Princess Elizabeth") remains as popular now as when it was erected in December 1856. Websites and blogs relating to the Princess and her funerary recumbent effigy correspond nowadays to the vogue for stereoscopic photographs depicting the monument at Marochetti's time. Besides, just as Victorians were rushing to St Thomas Church in Newport, on the Isle of Wight, to discover the monument, the tomb of Princess Elizabeth is now a place of worship, honoured with flowers and candles, which constitutes a danger for the sculpture itself. A huge candlestick, standing on the right side, has certainly been responsible for a big spot of wax on the hair of Princess Elizabeth's statue. Measures should be urgently taken to prevent such damage.
One of the numerous stereoscopic views of the monument, photographer unknown, from a private collection.
Marochetti was at the peak of his fame in 1856. Four of his monumental works were exhibited on 9 May, standing in the centre of the Crystal Palace for the Peace Fête celebrating the end of the Crimean War. Two of them were unveiled during the ceremony: a facsimile of the Scutari monument — the Crimean War Memorial, the aesthetic design of which was well ahead of its time; and the Peace Trophy (untraced), in which the sculptor experimented with polychromy. 1856 was indeed a successful and very creative year in Marochetti's career.
Princess Elizabeth (Elizabeth Stuart)
The daughter of Charles I of England, Princess Elizabeth (1635-1650) was imprisoned, together with her young brother Henry, Duke of Gloucester, after the execution of their father. From Penshurst Place, the children were sent in August 1650 to Carisbrooke Castle, where Elizabeth immediately fell ill and died on the 8 September. She was buried in the old St Thomas Church, Newport. A plain stone engraved with her initials, E. S., was the only indication of her burial place beneath the chancel. In 1793, workers, who were digging a grave, discovered her vault with her coffin bearing the following inscription: "ELIZABETH, 2nd daughter of the late King CHARLES, deceased September 8th, MDCL." A brass plaque was then placed on the stone covering the vault below the main altar. On the rebuilding of the church, Queen Victoria signified to the Mayor that she would erect a monument to the memory of the Princess Elizabeth "if an appropriate place could be found in the new Church" (Isle of Wight Observer, 5 August 1854: 4).
The Commission and Its Background
On 24 August 1854, Prince Albert laid the foundation stone of the new church of St Thomas and at approximately the same time Marochetti received the commission from the Queen for the monument to Princess Elizabeth. The sculptor sent a grateful response on 1 September 1854. At that time, he was totally involved in the completion of the bronze statues at Kingston Lacy in Dorset, one of them being a seated Charles I. It is tempting to see a correlation between both commissions for expiatory monuments. The choice of a sculptor with a French background seemed all the more convenient (see Ward-Jackson 266).
In fact, Marochetti had started to work on his statue of Charles I in July 1841. Probably taking advantage of this project, which would really take shape from 1853 onwards, he proposed to the blooming French market of small bronzes, an equestrian statuette of Charles I, edited by Susse in 1842. Maybe a first thought for the statue of Charles I, which William John Bankes intended to erect at Kingston Lacy?
Concerning the Monument to Princess Elizabeth, Marochetti, at an early stage (November 1854), intended to include some explicit elements symbolising the execution of Charles I and the assassination of Henri IV, the Princess's grandfather, as well as her own captivity. Nothing remains of this project in the final work, which means that Marochetti's proposal was not approved. Marochetti's letters to Colonel Phipps, Keeper of the Privy Purse, show how involved Prince Albert was in the realisation of this monument. As for the payment, Marochetti suggests a sum equivalent to what he had been paid for the funerary monument of Lord Brownlow, i.e. £1000 (Ward-Jackson 276).
Two Sitters and Two Projects
Janet Duff Gordon (1842-1927), whose mother's cousin Henry Reeve was a good friend of Marochetti's, had been asked to model for the sculptor. She recorded:
While staying with Mr and Mrs Tom Taylor at Eagle Lodge, Brompton, in the early spring of 1856, I went every day to the studio nearby. I could not have believed that it was so tiring to lie flat on one's back in the same attitude for hours, and in spite of the great charm of Marochetti's conversation, and the kindness of the Baroness, I found it very tiresome. [Ross, 1891: 59-60]. She added later:
The statue took a long time, as the Baron had not been told the shape of the place destined for it. As is known, the daughter of Charles I died whilst reading her Bible, and Marochetti made a beautiful kneeling figure with the head bowed down on the book and one arm hanging over the front of a prie-dieu. When the Queen came to see it, she said it would not do, as the statue was to go under an arch and must be lying down. So, the whole thing had to be done over again. [Ross, 1912: 39]
According to Janet Ross (born Duff Gordon), Marochetti would have changed his project in the early spring of 1856. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert happened to visit Marochetti at his studio on 7 March 1856 (Morning Post, 8 March 1856: 5). Was it on that occasion that Queen Victoria informed Marochetti of the shape of the niche? It is hard to guess since it is not quite clear whether Janet sat for both projects or for the final one only. In April 1855 Marochetti was recorded to be "carrying out the Queen's design. The monument will consist of a statue, representing the unhappy Princess in her last moments, having in her hand the bible given to her by her father. The statue will be placed in a niche in the church" (Daily News, 9 April 1855: 4). This description is vague enough to fit both projects.
However, it is quite sure that the sitting took place in 1856. Janet had had scarlet fever during the winter and had her long hair cut off. As soon as she had recovered, Marochetti had asked her father to let her sit to him. Two portraits of Janet by G.F. Watts represent her short haired.
Two portraits of Janet by G.F. Watts. Source: Ross 1902, facing 40 & 49.
Although the second one recalls the oval of the effigy's face, it seems that Janet modelled for Marochetti more because of her figure — she was fourteen, the same age as Princess Elizabeth when she died — than for her features, unlike Julia Jackson (1846-1895). Marochetti is indeed said to have taken Julia "for a model ... for a monument to the Princess" at the time when he sculpted a bust of her (Stephen 32). She was then only ten, but her striking beauty has certainly inspired the face of Marochetti's idealized princess.
Left to right: (a) Close-up of the funerary effigy. (b) Julia Jackson c. 1856 or 1860. Photograph attributed to Julia Margaret Cameron and/or Oscar Gustav Rejlander. Source: Leslie Stephen's photograph album. Smith College Libraries. (c) “Photograph of Angelica with a bust of Julia Jackson by Marochetti at Charleston House” by Vanessa Bell. M02886 © Tate, London 2018. Vanessa Bell, Julia's daughter, has photographed her daughter Angelica beside the bust to underline the strong family likeness (Milroy 30).
Two years after accepting the commission and three months only before the reopening of the church (21 December 1856), Marochetti sent "a rough sketch" of the monument, indicating that the niche was "a mere copy" of an old monument in Westminster Abbey (qtd. in Ward-Jackson 276). Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, gave the sketch in August 1898 for the opening of the Battenberg Museum — now Carisbrooke Castle Museum — apart from the letter, dated 30 September 1856, which remained in the Royal Archives. The niche has been clearly inspired by the altar tomb of George Fascet in Westminster Abbey. In the final work, a more stylised version has been chosen. "The only addition is the iron bars which may be of some effect showing that she died in captivity" added Marochetti. At that time there was no iron grate but a stone coffin on the tomb of Abbott Fascet, as shown on the engraving.
Original sketch for the Monument to Princess Elizabeth by Baron Marochetti, 30 September 1856, NETCC:P.1986.1083 ©Carisbrooke Castle Museum.
Left: Tomb of Abbott George Fascet, Chapel of St John the Baptist, Westminster Abbey © Dean and Chapter of Westminster. Right: Westminster Abbey. View in the Chapel of St John the Baptist. On the right, the tomb of Abbott Fascet. Source: Brailey, facing 184.
The neogothic niche, made of Caen stone, in which fictive bars are carved on the back and sides, imitates a cell, in front of which hangs from the arch above an actual iron grate with bars irregularly broken. Marochetti acknowledged he was "particularly pleased with" its execution (Hampshire Advertiser, 27 December 1856: 7). The recumbent effigy in white Carrara marble represents a beautiful young girl lying on a chest bearing an inscription indicating that Queen Victoria erected this monument to the memory of the second daughter of Charles I "as a token of respect for her virtues and of sympathy for her misfortunes." The young Princess, wearing a dress of the Stuart period, is represented at the time of her death, her left cheek and long curls resting on a Bible, open to the words from Matthew 11, 28: "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest". One arm is bent, the hand upon her waist; the other is extended by her left side, with the hand half open.
The Gospel of Matthew was not Marochetti's choice; in early December 1856, just before the re-opening of the church, the biblical quotation was still being discussed (see Ward-Jackson 276). The attitude of the young deceased is very close to a painting exhibited in 1855 at the Royal Academy, Death of Princess Elizabeth (or Royal Prisoners) by Charles West Cope. Marochetti's effigy has most likely been inspired by Cope's painting representing the Princess as she was found dead.
Charles West Cope, Royal Prisoners, 1855, oil painting on canvas, 91x74cm, NETCC: P.1986.2082 © Carisbrooke Castle Museum.
The sculptor had certainly seen the painting at the R. A. Exhibition and thought how effective the pose of the Princess would look in sculpture. Moreover, in the letter to Colonel Phipps quoted above, the sculptor added: "the front part of this sort of cage would be open in front." Taking up the symbol of the open cage treated as a detail in the painting, Marochetti turns it into a major item, emphasizing the tragic destiny of Princess Elizabeth, and suggesting two levels of reading: death releases the young girl from captivity and the soul from the body considered as a prison. The supination of the left hand expresses by itself the tragedy of the scene, the very moment when the young girl died. The plaster model for it has been recently discovered in the sculptor's family castle.
It must be stressed that in November 1852, Marochetti had lost his only daughter Jeanne, aged 16. On an emotional level, Carlo Marochetti, may have conceived this monument as a memorial for his own daughter. At least his wife Camille must have had that feeling; indeed, she kept a photograph of the monument inside her prayer book.
Left: Plaster model for the left hand of Princess Elizabeth. Right: Photograph of the monument kept by Camille Marochetti in her prayer-book.
The beautiful face the sculptor has carved for this effigy is neither a likeness of the Princess herself, who suffered from rickets and great deformity according to the unofficial medical examination of her remains made in 1856 while the coffin was taken out of the vault (Pall Mall Gazette, 10 December 1898: 3), nor a portrait of Janet or Julia, the models. A simple comparison with the bust he made of Julia is telling: on one side, you see the portrait of a blooming little girl, considered a likeness by Julia's family (Stephen 32 and caption), on the other a representation of ideal, ethereal beauty, which may have some resemblance with the portraits that, later, Julia Margaret Cameron, made of her niece Julia, precisely because they also reach some ideal dimension. This aesthetic search is particularly remarkable in the treatment of the effigy's magnificent hair, spreading in serpentine waves over the open Bible, while leaving the beautifully curved neck bare. Marochetti will go deeper in this search for beauty, characteristic of the Pre-Raphaelites, and anticipating the Aesthetic movement, with his Monument to the Viscounts Melbourne (1862). In sculpting an idealised Princess, Marochetti presented to his contemporaries a moving image of the human condition as well as a poetical portrait of a dying young girl. No wonder this monument turned into a popular shrine.
Poems were inspired "by the beautiful monument, by Marochetti" (Portsmouth Times and Naval Gazette, 19 August 1865: 7), one of which — "The Death of the Princess Elizabeth" — ended with these words: "Go ... And see the tomb of Charles's child wet with Victoria's tears" (Daniell 52). However, the accessibility and popularity of the monument by no means undermine the artistic value of a work which can be considered as one of Marochetti's masterpieces.
Six months after the unveiling of the monument, the press related a "curious dispute" between a certain "Mr Charles Delpeck [sic], of Little Crescent Street, Euston Square" and "Baron Marochetti, the eminent sculptor": "the Baron had been engaged to prepare a statue of the late Princess Elizabeth, for her Majesty. He executed a model of an existing statue, and subsequently made a contract with the defendant for him to reduce the model." Although the defendant's name has been mangled, it is easy to recognise the Frenchman Charles Delpech, who specialised in reducing sculptures (some of his reductions were executed in Parian ware by Copeland as prizes for the Art Union of London from 1855 onwards). Marochetti, dissatisfied with the reduced copy, refused to pay Delpech who, in return, did not return the model. After several summonses and appearances in court, both parties agreed. "Baron Marochetti said he was willing to pay the defendant any reasonable claim. All he wanted was the restoration of the model" (West London Observer, 27 June 1857: 3).
The model in question is most probably the recumbent statuette displayed at Carisbrooke Castle Museum (NETCC: 1985.5110), presented to the museum” by Princess Beatrice of Battenberg in 1923 and formerly kept at Osborne House. A bronze reduction is kept at the Ashmolean Museum (WA 1893.1). The comparison between the plaster's length (46 cm) and the bronze's (32.8 cm) is telling.
Several months after Marochetti's death, the plaster model for the reduction was exhibited on loan among others” by Baron Marochetti, at the South Kensington Museum (Athenaeum, No. 2191, 23 October 1869, qtd. in Ward-Jackson's Carlo Marochetti catalogue).
Plaster model for the reduction of the monument, NETCC: 1985.5110; close-up of the upper part, © Carisbrooke Castle Museum. Air bubbles can be seen on the surface and edge of the Bible.
Left: Bronze reduction of the recumbent effigy, WA 1893.1 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. Right: John Wesley Livingston (1835-1897), Windsor Castle inventory photograph, c.1872/1875, RCIN 2400424, Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2018.
The bronze was bequeathed in 1893 to the Ashmolean Museum” by a George Wyatt of Newport, who had died on 8 October 1892. His will indicated that it had been "executed by the Baron Marochetti and presented to [him]” by the Baron himself." In George Wyatt's correspondence, Joseph Henry Standen — his nephew” by marriage and heir — had come across further information about the bronze and informs the curators: Only two of these bronzes existed, "one at Potsdam, presented” by the Queen to the Crown Princess of Prussia, and this. They were made” by Baron Marochetti, reduced copies of the tomb of Princess Elizabeth." Victoria, Princess Royal, had just married Prince Frederick of Prussia when, in February 1858, Marochetti was paid £35 "for a 'copy' of the monument which had been supplied to the queen before Christmas" (Penny 125). This fact allows us to date the reduction to 1857. Queen Victoria had certainly presented the "Potsdam bronze" (untraced) to her daughter for Christmas 1857 or for her wedding (25 January 1858). Just as when he was commissioned the statuette of Richard I (RCIN 44114), which was presented to Prince Albert for his birthday on 26 August 1853, Marochetti produced two bronze reductions, the second one probably initially intended for his own collection. Why did he finally present it to George Wyatt?
George Wyatt, born in Oxford, was the younger son of James Wyatt, famous patron of artists, "many of whom, Millais among the number, were personal friends" (Isle of Wight County Press 15 0ctober 1892: 8). Widower of a native of Newport, he was totally involved in the life of this city and had been, according to the same report, "actively associated in the successful efforts ... for the re-building of the parish church." On the parting dinner given on 22 December 1856 to the workmen engaged in the re-building of St Thomas's Church, George Wyatt, "the indefatigable Secretary to the Church Building Committee," had praised "one of the most exquisite monuments” by "the celebrated Baron Marochetti" and proposed to drink his health (Hampshire Advertiser, 27 December 1856: 7). This, and above all the friendship with Millais who was already on good terms with Marochetti at the time he was working on the monument, could explain the bronze present. The friendship between both artists increased as the years went” by, just as Millais remained very close to the Wyatt family. As for George Wyatt, who has left in his will many valuable works by Millais to John Guille Millais, the artist's son (Millais 42), he contacted Marochetti and had "a personal interview with the Baron in London" about Prince Albert's memorial tablet to be erected in St Thomas's Church (Hampshire Advertiser, 5 April 1862: 11).
Has the bronze been cast in Marochetti's foundry? It is what George Wyatt's letter might imply. However, we still don't know whether the foundry, well-known for the casting of monumental bronzes, lent itself well to the making of small pieces. As for the reduction itself, had Charles Delpech finally produced a satisfying copy, or had Marochetti turned to another maker, or did he decide to purchase a machine of his own to reduce his works? Those questions remain unsolved.
Besides the Ashmolean's bronze, there are two plaster casts in the Royal Collection (RCIN 2111, plaster & 2231, bronzed plaster), the dimensions of which coincide with the bronze’s. However, when in 1872 an inventory was made of the sculpture then at Windsor Castle, two photographs were taken of works no longer in the collection, one of which (RCIN 2400423) depicts a stone model of the monument with a bronzed plaster effigy of the Princess; the other one (RCIN 2400424) might be the very finely executed original model (now at Carisbrooke Castle Museum, NETCC: 1985.5110) assuming that, at the time when Livingston took this photograph, the model was at Windsor. Convincing arguments strengthen this hypothesis: the length of the plinth, which the 1872 inventory mentions as being 20¾ inches, while the Carisbrooke Castle Museum indicates that it is 53.2 cm. Moreover, in both cases (NETC: 1985.5110 & RCIN 2400424), the left hand's fingers are partly broken, and the figure lies directly onto the wooden base, whereas plaster casts 2111 & 2231 both have a plaster plinth before the wooden base.
Reception of the Work
Illustrated Times, 10 January 1857: 28. Source: British Newspapers Archive.
Ten days before the re-opening of the church (21 December 1856), Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, the Princess Royal, and the Princess Alice inspected the building. On 15 December, they visited the church to inspect the monument. Marochetti had arrived on the 13th. While Queen Victoria expressed her satisfaction in her Journal - "the face is beautiful with long curls, & the whole is very touching" — the local press mentioned the "poetical beauty" of "this beautiful piece of statuary" (Hampshire Advertiser 20 December 1856: 8). In the following weeks, the press spoke highly of the monument. An extensive article was dedicated to "St Thomas's Church, Newport, and the new monument to the Princess Elizabeth," the source of which, engravings included, was a book written” by Samuel Benoni Beal and published for the re-opening of the church. Before detailing "the full charms of this exquisite production," Beal exclaimed: "Right nobly has the famous Italian sculptor (Baron Marochetti) fulfilled our gracious Queen's behest, entrusted to him, and his fame will achieve a new triumph from this life-chiselling" (Beal 23). An accurate description of the dress was followed” by a more personal confession: "The face is almost Grecian in its pure and classic features, leaving us at a loss which most to admire – the sweet beauty and regularity of every line – the delicate nostrils, thin, parted lips, and slender chin – or the calm serenity of that still brow, and repose of the closed eyelids" (Illustrated Times, 10 January 1857: 28).
However, in 1856-7 there was little critical response to the monument which, on the other hand, enjoyed an extreme popularity, "attract[ing] thousands to see and admire it" ("Elizabeth, the fair prisoner of Carisbrook").
Yet, a few years later, the recumbent effigy of the Princess Elizabeth, in which William Holman Hunt saw "grace" (Hunt 236), was praised by a short-lived journal published in New York by the Society for the Advancement of Truth in Art, which was spreading the aesthetic principles of John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelite movement:
Our churches do not often afford space for the noble altar-tomb, and this effective and entirely appropriate form of memorial can hardly be used in the cemetery.... Yet, when this chance is given, and we may indeed use the altar tomb, let us do it gladly. The invention, tenderness and sympathy of the greatest sculptor are needed and will be fully displayed in the disposition of one of those reposing forms. Baron Marochetti has never, to our knowledge, shown so much of his great ability as in that most charming figure of the Princess Elizabeth, on the tomb erected by Queen Victoria. [The New Path, March 1864: 143].
The French poetess Louise Colet would certainly have approved of this statement: she considered the tomb of the Princess as "the Island's eternal poetry" — "la poésie éternelle de l'île" (Colet 229).
- Camille Marochetti
- Jeanne Marochetti
- A Review of Ben Downing's Queen Bee of Tuscany: The Redoubtable Janet Ross
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Created 9 March 2018