Memorial to William Earle

WAG 9843


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. This is a memorial to a man whose family were embedded in the British slave trade for four generations. With two of his brothers, he received compensation for freed enslaved African people under the Slavery Abolition Act (1833). The inscription on the plinth of this large, marble memorial does not record this. Instead, beneath the figure of the elderly William Earle, who Gibson shows deep in thought with his hand on a bible, it reads: SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF WILLIAM EARLE ESQUIRE / WHO DIED IN ROME. THE X. JANUARY MDCCCXXXIX. IN THE LXXX. YEAR OF HIS AGE / THE BENEVOLENCE OF HIS HEART AND THE INTEGRITY OF HIS CHARACTER / SECURED FOR HIM THE LOVE AND CONFIDENCE OF ALL WHO KNEW HIM / IN HIS DOMESTIC CIRCLE HE WAS THE OBJECT OF THE TENDEREST AFFECTION / AND THE REMEMBERANCE OF HIS MANY VIRTUES WILL BE EVER DEAR TO HIS CHILDREN / WHO HAVE RAISED THIS MONUMENT AS A TRIBUTE OF RESPECT / TO HIS MEMORY Earle was a Liverpool merchant and shipowner who co-owned a plantation in British Guiana (now Guyana). With his wealth, Earle became an important art collector and patron of British and Italian artists and there are several artworks from his collection now in the Walker Art Gallery. The sculptor of this monument was the successful, Welsh-born, neo-classical sculptor John Gibson (1790 - 1866). Gibson spent time in Liverpool before moving to London, and then to Rome, where he taught many British artists. Several of Gibson’s works were commissioned by people who were involved in the transatlantic slave trade and were responsible for the enslavement of many African people.