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JOSEPH NOLLEKENS, R.A.

Painted by Fer M. Beechey, R.A._ Engraved by R. Gruper.

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THE

BRITISH MAGAZINE.

AUGUST 1, 1823.

MEMOIR OF JOSEPH NOLLEKENS, ESQ.

He

THE late Mr. Nollekens' life was of such a character, that, if the materials could be found, it would present most amusing details and not unsatisfactory examples. He was any thing but a common man. had successfully triumphed over such difficulties as often discourage persons of no less genius, but with less persevering courage; he worked with his own hands the path by which he climbed to fame; and he did more, he overcame propensities to enjoyment and pleasure which were stronger than those of most inen, and which seemed at one period of his life to have almost mastered his good resolves.

for

Joseph Nollekens was born in London, in the year 1737. Neither of his parents were English; his mother was a native of France, and his father was a Dutchman. The latter was an artist of more ingenuity than original talent. He gained a certain sort of reputation by copying Watteau's pictures, and imitating his style,-a thing of all others the most easy; but, as might be guessed, he failed altogether in infusing that graceful and spirituel air which makes Watteau's pictures so delightful. To look at them is like being an actor in the charming little musical or drinking parties which he loved to paint. The elder Nollekens, however, did not get rich by his labours. His son Joseph was placed under Scheemakers, who was then one of the best sculptors England possessed, and so bad that any nation might have been justly ashamed of him. Under this artist young Nollekens learned to perform the more laborious and mechanical parts of his profession. The drudgery of the tasks to which he was doomed, and the slender hopes which then presented themselves to his ambition, seem to have aided his natural inclination for pleasure, and his enjoyments were as coarse and as violent as his fate seemed unpromising. The inconvenience and necessity which resulted from his indulgences seem first to have had the effect of bringing him back to habits of industry, and, although he was still as much inclined to pleasure as before, he found himself compelled to labour. He did this with such assiduity that he began to save money, and, when the period of his engagement with Mr. Scheemakers had expired, he had acquired a sum of money which he thought sufficient to bear his expenses to Rome. He had long discovered that England was not the place in which he could hope to gain the knowledge necessary for his professional advancement; and having at this period the good fortune to obtain two premiums from the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, one for a drawing, and the other for a clay model, on the subject of Jephtha's Vow, with this addition to his finances he set out in 1760 for Rome.

The effect of his studies in that city, where the very air seems to be VOL. 1. Aug. 1823. Br. Mag.

21

favorable to the nourishment of the arts, soon became perceptible. Cavacetti, a man at that time of considerable note, behaved very kindly to him, not only in giving him the instruction and advice of which he stood so much in need, but by introducing him to the society of the artists and literati of Rome; and Nollekens justified this kindness by obtaining a gold medal from the Roman Academy-an honour then for the first time accorded to an Englishman. With that acuteness which distinguished him through life, he very soon found out that the ignorance and vanity of the greater part of his countrymen who repaired to Rome might be turned to good account, and he became a dealer in antiques, and in the modern productions of Roman art. Many reasons concurred to make his assistance eagerly sought, as well by the needy Italian artists as by the wealthy English nobility; and, while these his clients were well satisfied with his manner of dealing, he was rapidly improving his fortune, and did not neglect the prosecution of his professional studies.

The

His company was solicited by his countrymen, who found in his taste and intelligence resources which were highly serviceable to them; and he made extensive and valuable acquaintances, which, upon his return to England, kept up his importance here, as it had done on the Continent. Some of his most valuable busts were executed on the Continent. only one known of Sterne, and a very fine one of Garrick, both in the collection of Lord Yarborough, are good specimens of his ability at this period. Now that the means of indulgence were within his reach, his reason seems to have restrained him from using them frequently; although, from some stories which are told of him, and of Barry, who was in Rome with him, his early tastes seem to have remained.

Upon his return to England he found himself a rich man, and his reputation in his art was established by some works which, if they were not of the highest description, were as far better than any other English artist could then have produced as they are inferior to the labours of Flaxman, and Chantry, and Bailey. His busts, however, cannot be surpassed for correctness, and we are indebted to him for the perpetuation of the features of many men whom England may be justly proud of.

Mr. Nollekens married one of the daughters of Mr. Justice Welch-a lady who had the reputation of a blue-stocking, and whose personal beauty was a matter which could not be discreetly enlarged upon. She was, however, a sort of toast among the literary lions of that day, and even Dr. Johnson is said to have felt a tender attachment for her. This lady had no children, and died in 1817. The latter part of Mr. Nollekens' life presented nothing very remarkable. He had outlived nearly all the friends of his earlier years, and had attained an age at which most of the pleasures of the world cease to be attractive. He had, besides, contracted habits of seclusion, and of rigorous economy, which seemed hardly to belong to his character and to his extensive means. He is, however, said to have distributed considerable sums for charitable purposes. It would be invidious to doubt the truth of this fact, but the secrecy with which his donations were made must deprive him of the public credit which is really due to them. Notwithstanding all his peculiarities, he was a good deal respected by his acquaintance; and, although he was known to have no children, and an overgrown fortune, we would not seem to ascribe the assiduity with which his acquaintance was cultivated to any other motive

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