[Domett, the original of Waring in Browning's poem, recorded two visits to Thornycrofts in his diary entries of April 1 and May 10, 1873.]
Thomas Thornycroft's Boadicea. [Click on this and other thumbnails for larger images.]
[April 1, 1873] Thornycroft, (sculptor of the group representing Agriculture, one of those flanking the Albert Monument, &c) shewed us his studio. His large group of Boadicea with her daughters beside her driving her chariot into battle, with the expression of one of the faces, looking forth into the 'hurly-burly' with a kind of daring awe, seemed very fine. Pity they don't find a place for the group on the top of one of our tame abortive-looking park porticoes or arches not very 'triumphal'. We saw too the plaister model of his group for a new drinking-fountain in Park Lane; the poet-figures, Shakespeare, Milton & Chaucer” by Thornycroft Senr., the gilded Fame surmounting it,” by his son. 
[May 10, 1873] Called on the Thornycrofts, Wilton Place. Found Mr. T. at work on a model of the horse for an equestrian statue of Lord Mayo he had been commissioned to make for Calcutta. He was modelling his horse without sketch or other original as a guide. Said he had made so many he did not require any. When he wanted to study a horse, he used to go & walk in the Park, Rotten Row, where his living models were in plenty.
He never exhibits at the Royal Academy, nor sends his works there as lie does not belong to it. Does not care to belong to the Academy now though when he was young it would have been of use to him.
Talking with Mrs. Thornycroft and praising her beautiful and simple statues of the Queen's children (which every one out of England knew partly from the Illustrated News or Graphic) she said the Queen had had copies of them made to send to several of the Royal Families of Europe. With respect to the Drinking Fountain, I asked if Milton's face did not wear too suffering an expression, and quoted his sonnet (about his blindness) to Cyriac Skinner. She justified it, if I remember, on the desirability of shewing he was blind and the difficulty or impossibility of doing so otherwise in Sculpture; though even in painting, for the matter of that, the same difficulty would arise, according to Milton's own account of the appearance of his eyes.
Speaking of the Elgin Marbles, Thornycroft said he preferred the bassi to the alti relievi.
Left to right: The fountains in Trafalgar Square and the Charles James Napier by George Gamon Adams that Thornycroft disliked.
I asked him who was the sculptor of the horse, with its elephantine neck & shoulders so out of keeping with its staglike hindquarters, which George IVth, with his legs dangling without stirrups seems to be taking to water (at the Fountains, probably, with their green-horse-pond jets) in Trafalgar Square? To my sur- prise he said the horse was done” by Chantrey. He (T.) dislikes the statue of Sir Charles Napier there, as it represents him as such a big and muscular man, whereas he was comparatively a slight man. Thornycroft I should think is right. A statue should be an image of a man as he actually looked when living, although no doubt a small looking statue has something insignificant in appearance at first sight. Yet who could endure a statue of Napoleon or Nelson as big and tall and brawny as an Irish porter? Yet this is the rule our sculptors seem to follow — witness the recent statue of Lord Palmerston, looking at least as wellfitted to cut a figure at Donny brook as in the House of Commons. Surely the statue ought to be a correct representation of its original; the sculptor making it his business and the test of his genius and success to disguise the littleness or shortness of stature when necessary,” by a judicious arrangement of accessories and choice of its locality and position. [82-83]
The Diary of Alfred Domett, 1872-1885. Ed. E. A. Horsman. London: Geoffrey Cumberledge/Oxford University Peress, 1953.
Last modified 3 December 2010