Consigned for sale at statuary specialist Summers Place Auctions on March 29 as part of a London office redevelopment project, it doubled the mid-estimate to take £72,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).
Hodges Baily was the prolific sculptor responsible for numerous public monuments, portrait busts, statues and exhibition pieces as well as works in silver. His statues of public figures include Horatio Nelson on top of Nelson’s Column and Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, on Grey’s Monument in Newcastle upon Tyne.
This 4ft 9in x 12ft 4in (1.46 x 3.76m), two-section frieze depicts the closing moment of the battle on February 14, 1797 when the Spanish Admiral Don Francisco Xavier Winthuysen (1747-97) lies dying on a gun carriage of the deck of the San Josef. Watched by sailors and British officers, he weakly hands his sword to Nelson who takes it with his left hand. The precise details of its commission are unknown but it appears to have been planned as part of a neoclassical triumphal arch commissioned by George IV.
The project was aborted but a scaled-down version became Marble Arch and other elements of a massive Grecian-style frieze used in the facades of both the National Gallery and Buckingham Palace. The panel featured here was last sold in 1995 at a Sotheby’s house sale at The Manor of Littleton, Shepperton.
A year later it was used as part of the Triton Square development in Euston, in the form of a rather bizarre free-standing structure on stilts installed when British Land demolished the Euston Road Thames Television building (why it ended up there is a mystery).
The two sections were conveniently already professionally packed in two bespoke wooden crates ready for shipping to the buyer based in the UK, who bid via thesaleroom.com.
Great and the good
Portrait busts by Hodges Baily of the great and the good of Georgian and Victorian society appear for sale occasionally, their appeal typically dependent on the subject matter.
A version of his popular marble figure Eve at the Fountain, a design first created in the workshops of the jeweller Rundell and Bridge as a finial for a soup tureen, sold at Sotheby’s in 2011 for £18,750.