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Bust of the Duke of Wellington, 1852
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Bust of the Duke of Wellington, 1852

Measurements: Height: 26cm (10.25in)

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Patinated cast bronze head and shoulders portrait bust of the Duke of Wellington, wearing the Waterloo medal, raised on a turned socle and further mounted on a turned marble base. Inscribed `Wellington` on the back of the shoulders, and ‘By / M. Noble / 1852’ to the reverse. Overall height: 35cm (13.75in).

The present bust of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), Field-Marshal & Prime Minister, derives from a monumental marble bust by Matthew Noble. The marble was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1852 and is thus believed to have fallen under the gaze of Wellington himself when he visited the Royal Academy exhibition on 28 July 1852.

This reduced scale bronze version belongs to a group of castings by Noble produced after the Duke’s death on 14 September 1852 at Walmer Castle. One of these is in the U.K. Government Art Collection and is currently on display in the British Embassy in Paris.

Matthew Noble (1817-1876) was a leading provider of Victorian statuary for Manchester and surrounding areas. He was apprenticed to his father, a stonemason, and then came to the notice of the local landowner, Sir John Johnstone of Hackness Hall. Johnstone sent him to London to study. As a pupil of the sculptor John Francis, Noble lived up to his patron's expectations, and started exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1845. His first important public work was the statue of Tory Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel for St. George’s Hall, Liverpool (1853).

Noble however fulfilled many important commissions. He was well regarded in Tory circles and consequently developed a following amongst the party’s supporters, some of whom no doubt displayed busts such as the present  example in their libraries or on their desks. The best known of which are his Albert Memorial in Albert Square, Manchester (1862-67), his statues of Outram on the Victoria Embankment, and Lord Derby in Parliament Square. He also has work in both Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral. In 1855, Noble had married John Francis's granddaughter Mary, and they had four sons. One died in 1874 at the age of sixteen, and another at the age of nineteen in a train accident in 1876. Noble, a kindly and generous man by all accounts, had never been robust, and these dreadful blows seemed too much for him. He died later in 1876, before turning sixty, and was buried in Brompton Cemetery.

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