'The Nicholson Family'

There is a standing figure who is crying and a  keeling figure in a similar pose. Both of these are on a plinthe containing writing.

Chantrey was the most popular and successful of 19th century British sculptors, admired both for his portrait busts and his monuments. He believed in studying directly from nature rather than from ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, and his treatment of flesh, hair and clothing is often strikingly naturalistic.

William Nicholson (died 1832) lived in Springfield House in Everton, at a time when that district was still an area of prosperous mansions and villas. He is shown leaning against an urn, mourning the death of his six children.

The suggestion of deep sorrow in the man’s pose is made more touching by the fact that his face is hidden, but in this Chantrey was perhaps making a virtue of necessity: Nicholson himself died in June 1832, only four months after ordering his children’s monument, and the sculptor may well have missed the opportunity to record his features from life.

At first sight the kneeling female figure might be taken for William’s wife, Hannah, but in view of her youth and her idealised features she is more probably a symbolic representation of ‘Grief’ or ‘Resignation’. Chantrey reproduced exactly the same figure on his monument to Sir Richard Bickerton (also dated 1834) in Bath Abbey; such duplication was not an uncommon practice at this date. Here the figure holds a broken lily, a popular emblem on 19th century monuments, signifying youthful innocence cut off in the bloom of life.