Desk Bust of Admiral Lord Lyons, 1856
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Height: 25cm (9.8in)
Marble portrait bust of Lord Lyons, senior commander in the Crimean war, and Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, wearing Vice-Admiral’s uniform, and Knight Commander’s neck badge of the Guelphic Order and the breast star of a Knight Grand Cross of the Military Division of the Order of the Bath. Inscribed to the reverse ‘Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons’. Signed and dated ‘M. Noble. Sc. 1856’.
The present bust recognizes Lyons’s contribution to the successful outcome of the Crimean War.
A close friend of Lord Raglan, Lyons was responsible for the capture of British base port of Balaclava. He supported the army on land, where he led assaults, including the Kerch operation. His friendship with Lord Raglan enabled the coordination of navy and army, the officers of which were endeared to his charisma. In June 1855, Lyons lost Raglan to dysentery and his own son, Captain Edward Moubray Lyons, R.N. (1819–1855), who had been severely wounded in a night attack on Sevastopol. After the fall of Sevastopol, Lyons led a successful expedition to capture Kinburn on 17 October 1855, which opened up the Bug and Dnieper rivers for allied operations.
As a young man Lyons, with his white-blonde hair and slight physique, liked to think he bore a passable physical resemblance to his hero Admiral Lord Nelson and was ever ready emulate his gallantry. In 1811 he led a heroic night attack on a Dutch fort during the British capture of Java, that won him widespread acclaim. His career as a whole was distinguished by his ‘bravery, spirit, and commitment’ in operations which often defied or lacked the approval of his immediate superiors, whose authority over him he would often refuse to acknowledge. Experience gained while attending the British ambassador at Constantinople in the 1830s caused Lyons was to be the only senior British officer with first hand knowledge of the Crimean theatre. In spite of his issues with authority, Lyons attended the allied Council of War at Paris in January 1856 and advocated increased aggression. On his return to London he was dined at a Grand Banquet at the Mansion House, awarded the Freedom of the City of London and lauded for his enthusiasm, energy, and leadership. Nevertheless the Foreign Secretary, Lord Clarendon, whom he had disobeyed, described Lyons as ‘irritable and one of the vainest men I ever knew’. Lyons’s life-size statue also by Matthew Noble stands today in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Matthew Noble (1817-1876) 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). In the same year he was chosen to produce the statue of the Duke of Wellington for Manchester's Piccadilly. Other well known public works are his Albert Memorial in Albert Square, Manchester (1862-67), his London statues of Sir James Outram on the Victoria Embankment, and Lord Derby in Parliament Square.