About this artwork

A great politician and statesman, William Pitt the Younger became Britain’s youngest Prime Minister at the age of twenty-four. Except for a short interval of three years, he remained in office until his death. During his leadership he dealt with problems of the expanding British Empire, the King’s mental illness and the effects of the French Revolution. After Pitt’s death, money was raised for a monument to be placed in the Senate House of the University of Cambridge, for which Pitt had been a Member of Parliament. The commission went to Nollekens, who worked from Pitt’s death mask and an oil portrait by John Hoppner to produce a full-length statue. Nollekens capitalised on the success of the statue by producing a series of 74 marble busts, of which this is a signed example.

Joseph Nollekens

Joseph Nollekens

Joseph Nollekens was the son of a Flemish painter who had settled in London. He was apprentice and assistant to the sculptor Peter Scheemakers. In 1761 he went to Italy where he spent nine years, mainly in Rome. He learnt to restore and copy antique statues and these objects were very popular with Grand Tourists as were his portrait busts; he also worked as a dealer. On his return to London, he became the leading sculptor of the day. He achieved lasting notoriety through his pupil, J.T.Smith's famous biography of 1828 'Nollekens and his Times' which painted a picture of the sculptor as a miserly, grasping character.