Nollekens and His Times/Volume 2/Ceracchi


During the time I was under the tuition of Mr. Nollekens, Signor Giuseppe Ceracchi, a Roman, often visited the studio. He came to England in 1773, with letters of recommendation from Nulty, a Sculptor at Rome; was employed by Carlini; and, when he first exhibited at the Royal Academy, his residence was stated to be at that artist's house, in King-square Court, now Carlisle-street, Soho-square.[1]

Mr. R. Adam, the architect, employed Ceracchi to model a basso-relievo, fourteen feet in length by six feet in height, of the Sacrifice of Bacchus, consisting of twenty figures, in Adams's composition,—a mixture of cement with oil, which is now called mastic, and similar to that used on the columns of the Theatre in the Hay-market,—for the back front of the house of Mr. Desenfans, in Portland-road; at whose decease it was sold by auction to the proprietors of Coade's Artificial Stone Manufactory in that part of the New Road called "Tottenham Court;" and it is very tastefully modelled. The bust of Sir Joshua Reynolds, sold by the figure-casters, Mr. Northcote informs me, was also modelled by Ceracchi. Baretti, in his "Guide through the Royal Academy," when describing the Strand front of Somerset House, thus speaks of him: "The two figures nearest the centre, were made by Signor Carlini; the two at the extremities, by Signor Ceracchi, an Italian Sculptor, who resided some time in London, whose abilities the architect (Sir William Chambers) wished to encourage and keep among us; but the little employment found in England for Sculptors, however excellent, frustrated his intentions." Ceracchi had, when I was taken to see him, very extensive premises at No. 76, Margaret-street, Cavendish-square; he was a short thin man, with a piercing black eye, and a very blue beard. He was the Honourable Mrs. Damer's master in Sculpture, as that lady declared to me herself.[2]

Ceracchi, highly gifted as he certainly was, met with so little encouragement in this country, that after disposing of his property in Margaret-street, he quitted England for Rome, where he continued to practise as a Sculptor until the breaking out of the French Revolution, when he became so violent a partizan and so desperate, that he was condemned to death as the leader of the conspirators connected with the infernal machine contrivance, and was guillotined at Paris in 1801. Ceracchi continued so frantic to the last, that he actually built himself a car, in which he was drawn to the place of execution in the habit of a Roman Emperor. David, the French Painter, with whom Ceracchi had lived in intimacy, was called to speak to his character; but he declared he knew nothing of him beyond his fame as a Sculptor.

  1. Soho-square was at one time called King's-square; and it is a curious fact, that King's-square-court, now Carlisle-street, was once called "Merry Andrew Street," as appears in a rare little view of Soho-square, in the possession of William Packer, Esq. of Great Baddow, Essex,—in which Monmouth House is to be seen.
  2. He modelled a statue of his pupil, which, since the decease of Lord Frederick Campbell, has been carved in marble, and placed in the Hall of the British Museum.