Sir John (1815-70) first pursued a naval career before becoming a Liberal Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight in 1837. He was photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron, and was a friend of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who wrote the poem In the Garden at Swainston following Sir John’s death. It goes in part: “Three dead men have I loved, and thou art last of the three.”
The sculpture, now available at Chorley’s auction on September 18-19, is the work of Thomas Woolner (1825-92), one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Woolner was the only sculptor among the original members of the group, which also included William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rosetti. The bust is estimated to take £3000-5000.
Made in bronze in 1872, it shows Sir John facing forward with upright posture and an impressive full beard.
Today, Sir John is largely remembered for his religious conversion. He became a Roman Catholic in 1851 and resigned his seat in Parliament believing, in the words of his biographer, “that he had no right to suppose [voters] to be indifferent to the change he had made”. However, he was elected again in 1865 and served for a time as the only Roman Catholic MP representing and English seat.
Most of Woolner’s living was made by depicting Sir John and other such famous men. Among these are Tennyson, Prime Minister William Gladstone and the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle.