Portrait Bust of George Gordon Byron, 6th Lord Byron (1788-1824) 19th Century
Workshop of Lorenzo Bartolini (1778-1850)
“George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, was one of the greatest English poets, and a leading figure in the Romantic movement of the 19th century”
Height (including base) 16.5 inches; 41.9 cm
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, was one of the greatest English poets, and a leading figure in the Romantic movement of the 19th century. Along with his literary fame, Byron led an infamously lascivious life ripe with affairs, debts, and self-imposed exile. He was also renowned politically for his part in the Greek War of Independence.
The original of this bust, by the Florentine sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini, came as the result of the artist pursuing Byron for a sitting. Byron wrote to his publisher John Murray, "Bartolini the celebrated Sculptor wrote to desire to take my bust - I consented on condition that he also took that of the Countess Guiccioli... The Sculptor is a famous one & as it was done by his own particular request will be done well probably."
Byron was in fact largely opposed to portrait sculpture, for he felt the endeavour to be pretentious and vain, as well as more obtrusive than posing for a painting. No bust of him by an English artist was ever made. His request that Countess Giuccioli be taken as well can thus be regarded as a justification for his own bust, lessening any possible accusations of conceit. It is also likely that Bartolini’s revolutionary zeal and association with Napoleon (he had even volunteered for the French army as a drummer) appealed to Byron, as well as the artist’s international reputation.
With Byron’s consent, Bartolini travelled to Pisa where Byron was living at the time. Bartolini cast a naturalistic impression of the poet, perhaps too much so as Lord Byron wrote again to Murray, “The bust does not turn out a very good one – though it may be like for aught I know – as it exactly resembles a superannuated Jesuit.” Nevertheless, Countess Giuccioli regarded it “the best likeness of Byron she knew of…”
The first cast in plaster was made in 1822 [Pitti Palace, Florence], and showed Byron without any drapery. A marble version showing the drapery was given to the Countess Guiccioli, and is now in the South African Library in Cape Town. A number of smaller replicas of the latter were made, including the present example and another at Harrow School.