Bust of a Man
Bust of a Man
Black limestone on a yellow marble socle
Overall: 28 × 20 × 10 1/2 inches (71.1 × 50.8 × 26.7 cm)
This remarkable bust may be a portrait: details such as the small scar on the man’s forehead and the subtle depressions in the skin around his temples, nose, and eyes suggest close study of an individual sitter. However, the sculptor Francis Harwood, who was based in Italy, specialized in making copies of classical statues for sale to English Grand Tourists, and so it is also possible that this is a copy or adaptation of an Antique model. A third possibility is that the bust was made as an allegorical image of “Africa.”
A passage from Joseph Baretti’s Guide through the Royal Academy (London, 1781) suggests that, by 1781, Harwood’s Bust of a Man—or something very similar—had entered the cast and sculpture collection of the Royal Academy. Though we cannot be sure that Baretti is referring to the sculpture on display here, his description suggests that works like it may have been difficult to categorize even in the eighteenth century:
AFRICUS. For want of a better, I give this name to a Head of a Blackamoor, which is in the Niche of this Room. A Friend of mine would have it called Boccar, or Boccor, an African King named in one of Juvenal’s Satires. But, as it has no ensigns of Royalty about it, I imagine it to be a Portrait of some Slave, if not a fanciful performance intended to characterise the general Look of the African faces. Whatever it be, I think it a fine thing of the kind.
In the nineteenth century, Harwood’s bust was mistakenly believed to be a portrait of an athlete named Psyche in the service of the first Duke of Northumberland. Another version of this sculpture, which bears Harwood’s signature and the date 1758, is now at the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection