Left: Lt-Col John Nugent by John Bacon, Senior 1791. Marble. St. Thomas's Cathedral, Bombay, Click on images to enlarge them.
Lt-Col John Nugent was born in 1735 and was probably a junior member of the Irish aristocratic family with strong military and naval traditions. He joined the Bombay Artillery (relatively late) as a Cadet in 1759. Thanks to a relatively peaceful period he had to wait for promotions and only reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1789 after 30 years. He served in Madras and Bengal in 1765 and Persia in 1797-98. He was Commandant of Artillery from 1789 to 1792. He was present at the seige and capture of Tannah (modern Thane) in 1774 when the East India Company seized the Island of Salsette and the Fort of Karanja as well as Thane itself.
Commentary by Barbara Groseclose
Of the handful of monuments in India with seated female mourners, none is earlier or lovelier than that to Lt. Col. John Nugent (d. 1792) in St. Thomas's Cathedral, Bombay, by John Bacon, Sr., who completed the work in 1794. The obelisk-shaped monument, made of gray-veined marble overlaid with a now-damaged gray stone, posts a flaming lamp above the once-polished figure. Seated, leaning her classical profile toward the inscription medallion that she holds in her right hand, the figure drops her left hand, in which she fingers a branch of holly, behind her. In this manner Bacon draws attention to the emblems, unexpectedly placed below her chair - a grapevine entwining a medallion of clasped hands. The former is a symbol of immortality and the latter stands for fidelity, references drawn from the standard repertoire of sepulchral motifs but made all the more touching with the knowledge that the monument was commissioned by Nugent's friend, Edward Russell Howe, Esq. Each of the monument's details appears dainty and robust simultaneously, the individually carved, pearl-like grapes on the dynamic vine offering one instance of Bacon's often successful stylistic contradictions. The pyramid of cannonballs in the trophy at the base of the monument brings the viewer notice of Nugent's thirty-three years of "faithful and approved service" with the Company at the same time as it concludes a sharp, lively, rhythmic reiteration of circles within the relief's linear pattern. 
Sir Edward Russell Howe was a baronet and barrister at Lincoln's Inn. He lived at No 6 Fitzroy Sqaure in London and at Sunninghill, Windsor.
Photographs and text by the author. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. — George P. Landow]
Groseclose, Barbara. British Sculpture and the Company Raj. Newark; University of Delaware Press, 1995.
Spring, Colonel FWM. Bombay Artillery List of Officers. Naval and Military Press, 2005. 69-70.
Last modified 7 September 2020