Mrs. Huskisson, another devoted friend, gave him a commission for a third, to be erected in the open area surrounding the building. The second marble statue is now at Lloyd's, Royal Exchange. While he was in England he was publicly entertained at Glasgow on the occasion of the erection of his statue of Kirkman Finlay [q. v.] in the Merchants' Hall, and he received the command of the queen to execute a statue of herself, and her permission to present a bust of her to Liverpool, to be placed in St. George's Hall, where is also his statue of George Stephenson. In the statue executed for the queen he for the first time ventured to introduce a little colour, tinting the diadem, sandals, and borders of drapery with blue, red, and yellow. For this departure from modern practice, the subject of much dispute then and since, he claimed the example of the Greeks, and at this time (1846) he wrote: ‘My eyes have now become so depraved that I cannot bear to see a statue without colour,’ and ‘Whatever the Greeks did was right.’
Gibson remained in Rome during the political agitations of 1847–9, not without personal danger. On the approach of the French army he retired with his brother Benjamin to Lucca, returning in time to see the pope re-enter the city. In 1850 he came to England to model the statue of the queen for the houses of parliament (prince's chamber), which with its noble figures of Justice and Clemency was in hand for five years. He also took five years to complete for Mr. Preston the celebrated statue of Venus, known as ‘The Tinted Venus.’ This was a replica of a statue (uncoloured) which he had executed for Mr. John Neeld, shortly after his return from Lucca to Rome. He describes it as ‘the most carefully laboured work I ever executed, for I wrought the forms up to the highest standard of the ideal. The expression I endeavoured to give my Venus was that spiritual elevation of character which results from purity and sweetness, combined with an air of unaffected dignity and grace. I took the liberty to decorate it in a fashion unprecedented in modern times. I tinted the flesh like warm ivory, scarcely red, the eyes blue, the hair blond, and the net which contains the hair, golden.’ He became almost as enamoured of this statue as Pygmalion of Galatea. ‘At moments,’ he wrote, ‘I forgot that I was gazing at my own production; there I sat before her, long and often. How was I ever to part with her?’ He was at last compelled to give her up, by the remonstrances of Mrs. Preston, four years after the statue was completed. This ‘Venus,’ with Lady Marian Alford's ‘Pandora,’ and Mr. Holford's ‘Cupid,’ all coloured, were exhibited at the International Exhibition of 1862.
On 13 Aug. 1851 Gibson lost his youngest brother Benjamin, who died at Lucca, aged 40. The two brothers had long lived together, and Benjamin, from his superior education, had served as ‘classical dictionary.’ Benjamin Gibson wrote several monographs on classical subjects for English antiquarian publications (see Gent. Mag. 1851, ii. 552). In 1853 Gibson won a new friend in the American sculptress, Miss Hosmer, whom he instructed gratuitously. He was amply repaid by her ‘bright and helpful companionship.’ He spent many summers at Innsbruck, and of later years in England and Switzerland, or the Tyrol. In his journeys he was absolutely dependent on some devoted companion. Living in the heaven of his art, he had no time to devote to sublunary matters, and was as guileless, and in many things as helpless, as a child. He forgot invitations, posted letters without addresses, got out at wrong stations, lost his luggage. Once when asked why he took with him three packages, one of which was never opened, he replied, ‘The Greeks had a great respect for the number three—yes, the Greeks, for the number three.’ Miss Hosmer said, ‘He is a god in his studio, but God help him out of it!’
Gibson was consulted about the Albert Memorial, which of course he wished to be entirely ‘classical,’ and declined to execute the ‘Group of Europe,’ as he could not winter in England. His subsequent offer to execute it in Rome came too late. In 1862 he modelled a bas-relief of ‘Christ blessing little Children’ for Mr. Sandbach, his first and only subject from the scriptures. He persevered in spite of misgivings as to his power of expressing the divine through the human, and succeeded better than might have been expected. For some years before his death his health had failed, and his pure and happy life came to an end at Rome on 27 Jan. 1866. This life cannot be better described than in his own words: ‘I worked on all my days happily, and with ever new pleasure, avoiding evil, and with a calm soul—making images, not for worship, but for the love of the beautiful.’
Gibson may be said to have been the last and one of the best of the ‘old school’ of European sculpture, based on the teaching of Winckelmann, and carrying out strictly the ‘purist’ view of sculpture as the embodiment of abstract ideas in beautiful form. He was not, and did not wish to be, original. ‘It is the desire of novelty that destroys pure taste,’ he said. He studied from nature incessantly, but ever strove to treat her in the manner of the Greeks. He once expressed an opinion