[William Theed the younger English sculptor.] First part of Autograph Letter [to James Silk Buckingham], written from Rome, describing work on his bust and two commissions from Queen Victoria.

William Theed the younger (1804-1891), English sculptor who studied in Rome under Thorvaldsen and Tenerani, and worked on the Albert Memorial [James Silk Buckingham (1786-1855), MP and journalist]
Publication details: 
9 Vicolo dell'Incurabili [sic], Rome; 12 December 1846.
SKU: 21518

An interesting letter from a leading Victorian sculptor, describing his methods while executing a bust of the recipient of the letter - the author, orientalist and editor and founder of the Athenaeum magazine James Silk Buckingham - and also describing work on a commission 'for the Queen'. The background to the letter is as follows. Theed had gone to Rome in 1826. He is believed to have studied there under Thorvaldsen and Tenerani, as well as John Gibson and Richard James Wyatt. In 1844, after nearly 20 years in the city, he received a commission from Prince Albert, then the prince consort, who had asked John Gibson to send designs for statues to be placed in Osborne House. Two designs by Theed were accepted, the 'Narcissus and Psyche' referred to in the present letter. Theed would return to London in 1848 and would soon establish a thriving professional practice. In the same year he exhibited at the Royal Academy the 'Bust of J. Silk Buckingham, Esq.' referred to in the present letter, giving his address as 12A, Henrietta Street, Cavendish Square. 2pp, 4to. The first leaf of the letter only and so lacking the signature. Fifty-two lines of neatly-written text. In fair condition, aged and worn. Begins: 'I hope ere this reaches you, that Mrs. Buckingham & yourself will have arrived safe and well in England, & that you may have been gratified with the rest of yr. journey in the same proportion as Rome. I hope also that you have received yr. pictures, Cupid & Augustus in good condition'. He has forwarded the 'Minerva Inedica & little Psyche' by the Montrose, and is grieved to hear the report 'that it will be the last trip of these Steamers running from Italy to England'. He gives a report about the ship he has heard from 'some, informed in these matters'. He continues: 'I left no time in proceeding with yr. Bust, & altho' disappointed on two occasions, I am now happy to say on the third attempt, that I have obtained as fine a Block of marble as can be desired, this is very gratifying to me as without offering you an “Incensato” yr. Bust has more intellectual character, & noble expression than any I have ever had the good fortune to model'. He will 'take the greatest pains in its execution in Marble', and hopes that 'when done it will fully meet with the approval first of Mrs Buckingham & secondly that of yr. friends'. 'Numerous people recognise it daily who visit my Studio among others his Grace the Duke of Devonshire saw it three days since, he said he thought the likeness excellent, & that he knew you very well'. He is sending 'by this same Post No. 6 of the Roman Advertiser, in which some of my works are reviewed […] A trifling mistake occurred in saying that “Sappho” was for the Queen – it is the full sized “Narcissus & Psyche” that are for her Majesty – I am now engaged in making the 5th!!! attempt for the “Narcissus” & trust that my marble will at last do to proceed with – these failures have been of much disappointment as well as considerable loss'. As the letter breaks off, he is explaining that 'Rome has just been in great tribulation, in consequence of Father Tiber rising to an unnatural height, it has not been higher since 1805 – all the Corso was under water & in my Street it was in some places 3 feet deep – much damage has been done in the Campagna, & in Getto the poor Jews have […]'.