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French School

William III garlanded by Victory early eighteenth century

Bronze | 90.2 cm (Height) (including base/stand) | RCIN 35463

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  • Dressed in Roman armour but with a contemporary wig, William III is borne on a rearing horse over a prostrate enemy, while the winged figure of Victory descends to garland his head with laurels. This impressive bronze is one of approximately twenty known variants representing several European rulers and princes in almost exactly the same way, with variations confined to the heads, the costume and in some cases the prostrate figure. The majority represent Louis XIV; others the elector Max II Emanuel of Bavaria, Charles XII of Sweden and George I. This is the only one to portray William III, and to have a pedestal in this form. The reliefs probably depict William’s Landing at Torbay on 5 November 1688 and his victory over his father-in-law, James II, at the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July 1690.

    These equestrian groups probably depended on initial designs by the Flemish-born sculptor, Martin Desjardins, for an unexecuted monument to Louis XIV intended for Aix-en-Provence. Differences in quality between the various examples suggest that the groups were cast at different times and in different places, making use of models passed between founders, probably of Flemish origin, who collaborated with Desjardins in France. One example, representing Max Emanuel (Munich, Bayerisches nationalmuseum), is signed by the Munich court sculptor, Wilhelm de Groff, and dated 1714, and a second, of Louis XIV (New York, private collection), bears the date 1707 and the signature of Roger Scabol, a founder who worked with Desjardins on several projects.

    The origins of the William III bronze, which is one of the finest in the series, remain obscure. It is possible that it belonged to the King himself but it is more likely to have been created at some time after his death in 1702. In the second quarter of the eighteenth century the memory of William III was honoured in several prominent ways: in 1734-6 the cities of Hull, Bristol and Glasgow all erected large equestrian monuments to him (respectively by Scheemakers, Rysbrack and an unknown sculptor), all based loosely on the renowned statue of Louis XIV in Roman armour by François Girardon. In 1735 a bust of William (by Rysbrack, 1726) was included in the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe as having ‘preserv’d the Liberty and Religion of Great Britain’. Although this political context might also have prompted the production of this bronze, the style of the mounts to the pedestal suggest an earlier date. Bronzes of this kind were rare in early eighteenth-century England and it may be significant that among the ‘ancient and modern bronzes’ sold by the auctioneer Langford on 23-25 February 1755 from the collection of a Mrs Kenyon was ‘A fine equestrian figure in bronze of King William, on his coming to the Crown, triumphing over a figure representing tyranny.’

    Text adapted from The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy 1714 - 1760, London, 2014

    In the Royal Collection at Kensington Palace by 1812. In March 1812 it was despatched to Charles Brandt (Jutsham Dels I p.110), who restored the pedestal and rebronzed the group at a cost of eight guineas. On its delivery to Carlton House on 25th April 1812 it was placed in the Ante Room Principal Floor where it appears in a watercolour of c.1817 (RCIN 922182). On 13 December 1828 it was sent to Windsor Castle (Jutsham Dels II p. 193).

  • Medium and techniques



    90.2 cm (Height) (including base/stand)

    54.6 cm (Height) (excluding base/stand)

  • Category
    Object type(s)
  • Alternative title(s)

    William III crowned by Fame