Trampling gingerly

I visited a friend who lives in Sherborne, Gloucestershire, last week and came across this fine sculpture in the parish church, The Guardian Angel Tramples Death Underfoot, a monument to the local squire and his wife.

It’s carved with a beautiful lightness of touch from a marble with a remarkably pure and milky quality. But what’s most striking about it is, of course, the skeleton representing death. He seems to be experiencing quite a lot of unreasonable enjoyment from his trampling. But then ‘trampling’ may be over-doing it; rather, the angel’s shapely leg is being placed gingerly on his crotch. What might hurt him more is the look on the angel’s face: it’s as if he’s something the cat’s dragged in. But it doesn’t seem to disconcert him.

It was created in 1791 by Richard Westmacott the Elder who founded a dynasty of sculptors: three of his sons followed him, including his namesake Sir Richard Westmacott, a popular and prolific creator of monumental statuary whose work is scattered across the capital. The next generation also produced sculptors including, to increase the confusion, a third Richard Westmacott, grandson of the first.

The Elder produced other notable works, including a bust of Samuel Johnson. Whilst it admirably captures a certain sensitivity it also transforms the jibbing, shambolic sage into a poised, toga-clad patrician.

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2 thoughts on “Trampling gingerly

  1. Worm
    August 31, 2010 at 15:16

    that is a fine sculture to find in a small church!

    Im still trying to decide whether Johnson looks more like Mel Smith or Martin Bashir without his glasses on.

  2. Gaw
    September 1, 2010 at 14:00

    There was another very fine statue opposite. The local squires were a wealthy, spendthrift family called the Duttons. They had a famous deer course down the road, which is still intact and owned by the National Trust. Could be worth a post!

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