Day and Night - Night

WAG 7504


This artwork has been identified as having links to a person connected with transatlantic slavery. This research is part of the Walker Art Gallery’s ongoing work to be more transparent about the collection’s relationship to Britain's colonial past. 'Night' is part of pair 'Night' and 'Day' by the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770 - 1844) and was originally modelled in Rome in 1815. 'Night' and 'Day' were once in the Sandbach family collection at Hafodunos Hall, near Abergele in North Wales. The Sandbach family were part of the Sandbach, Tinne & Co. dynasty. They were shipowners, merchants, bankers, politicians and plantation owners. They exported sugar, coffee, cotton, timber, molasses and rum from the Caribbean. The company were prominent in Demerara, Berbice, and Essequibo in British Guiana, now known as Guyana. The Sandbachs became extremely wealthy through the enslavement, trafficking and forced labour of many tens of thousands of people. The family were also awarded large claims in compensation after the Slavery Abolition Act (1833). ‘Night’ is represented by a winged female crowned with poppies and bearing in her arms two children who symbolise Sleep and Death. An owl hovers beside them. ‘Day’ is represented scattering flowers and carrying a winged boy with a flaming torch. The reliefs were first modelled in 1815 and they became Thorvaldsen’s most popular designs. The influence of these reliefs can be seen in works by John Gibson (1790 - 1866), for example ‘Cupid Pursuing Psyche’ (about 1854), which is also part of the Walker Art Gallery collection. These reliefs were probably executed by Thorvaldsen’s studio assistants. Other marble versions are at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.