Portrait Bust of Cecil John Rhodes, 1901
Portrait Bust of Cecil John Rhodes, 1901
Portrait Bust of Cecil John Rhodes, 1901
Portrait Bust of Cecil John Rhodes, 1901
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Portrait Bust of Cecil John Rhodes, 1901

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Height: 19cm (7.5in) 

Cast bronze head and shoulders bust. Attributed to Sydney March. A larger version of the present bronze measuring 45cm (17.75in) high, by Sydney March and similarly unsigned is in the National Portrait Gallery, Primary Collection (NPG 4151). The present bust derives from a series of sittings Rhodes gave to the 25 year-old Sydney March in 1901, shortly before Rhodes left England for the last time. 

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Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902) was the fifth son of a clergyman and suffered ill health as an adolescent. A week before his seventeenth birthday and with the expectation that his heart might give out, his doctors prescribed a sea voyage to warmer climes. His parents sent him to join an older brother cotton farming in Natal, and it was here that Rhodes began to develop his belief in the strength and mission of British colonialism in South Africa. Reports of successful gold and diamond mines enticed the Rhodes brothers to Kimberly where Rhodes built his fortune by investing in mining, railroads, and other lucrative schemes. He devoted part of each year to continuing his education and for eight years travelled back and forth between South Africa and Oxford University’s Oriel College. In 1877 he wrote ‘Confessions of Faith’, in which he promoted the expansion of the British Empire and advocated the supremacy of the British race. In 1888 he founded Rhodes De Beers Consolidated Mines and established himself as one of the wealthiest men in Africa. Political success followed financial success. As Prime Minister of Cape Colony (1890-96) his government restricted the rights of black Africans by changing the laws on voting and land ownership. He was a controversial figure in Britain and was reviled by some British politicians, thinkers, and writers. His most notorious moment was backing the Jameson Raid of 1895 in which a small British force tried to overthrow Paul Kruger, the Afrikaner President of gold-rich Transvaal Republic. Rhodes's career never recovered; his heart was weak and after years of poor health he died in 1902. By his will he created the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship for graduate study at the University of Oxford. Recipients of the scholarship include Ntokozo Qwabe, one of the founders of the Rhodes Must Fall movement.

Sydney March (1876–1968) was the second of nine children, eight of whom became artists;  Edward (1873-1941), Percival (b.1878), Frederick (b.1881), Dudley (1881-1962), Elsie (1884-1974), Walter (b.1889) and Vernon (1891-1930). Originally from Yorkshire the March family moved to London around the turn of the century when Sydney was enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools and where he was awarded the first prize medal for a model of a statue or group. Between 1906 and 1932, he exhibited thirteen times at the R.A., primarily portrait busts, statuettes, and equestrian statues. The March siblings established their own sculpture studio at Goddendene, Kent, in 1901. Sydney’s public works include statues of Colonel Bevington (Tooley Street, London Bridge, 1911) and Lord Kitchener (Calcutta, 1914; Khartoum, 1921, removed to Royal School of Military Engineering, Chatham, 1958). He also executed a number of war memorials including Bromley Parish Church (1921), Lewes, East Sussex, the Diamond War Memorial, Derry (1925), the United Empire Loyalists Memorial (Hamilton, Ontario, 1929). Following the death of Vernon March in 1930, Sydney and his siblings completed the Canadian National War Memorial at Ottawa.