'William Earle', John Gibson

As well as text and decoration, this memorial has a picture of a man reading.

Accession number WAG9843

John Gibson came to Liverpool as a young boy from Conway and eventually entered the workshop of Messrs. Franceys the town’s leading monumental masons and sculptors. With financial help from Liverpool friends he settled in Rome in 1817, studying first in the studio of Canova and then in that of Thorvaldsen, the two greatest exponents of the neo-classical style.

He quickly became the leading sculptor of the British colony in Rome, enjoying the patronage of Queen Victoria, noble collectors such as the Duke of Devonshire and particularly of the Liverpool merchant families. Unlike Chantrey he dedicated his life to following with an unswerving, almost naive loyalty the principles of Greek art.

Born of a wealthy Liverpool family, William Earle spent much of life in Italy and died in Rome at the age of eighty. Several pictures from his collection are now in the Walker Art Gallery.

Gibson shows him lost in thought about a passage he has just read in the book which he holds, presumably a bible, and the sculptor has dressed him in a cloak which hides any conspicuously modern features of his costume: it was Gibson’s view that ‘the human figure concealed under frock coat and trowsers is not a fit subject for sculpture’.