A Danish-born sculptor and stuccoist, he spent two decades
working in England. Stanley was born in Copenhagen on 12 December 1703 to an
English father and a Danish mother. He was apprenticed in 1718 to the Danish
court sculptor Johann Adam Sturmberg (1683-1741), who entrusted care of the
young apprentice to one of his assistants, Peter Scheemakers. Stanley worked
under Sturmberg on the elaborate stuccowork in Fredensborg Castle, 1720-22, and
on two angels at the cornice of Sturmberg’s monument to the statesman, Otto
Krabbe, (†1719) in Roskilde Cathedral.
After completing his apprenticeship Stanley visited Germany
and Holland before coming to London in 1727, where he spent a year as an
assistant to Scheemakers and Laurent Delvaux at their Millbank workshop. When Scheemakers
went to Rome in 1728, Stanley also considered making the journey south, but he
decided instead to remain in London when he received a lucrative commission
from Lord Wilmington to provide sumptuous stucco decorations in the state
bedrooms at Compton Place, near Eastbourne. Among the ornaments provided for
Wilmington was a ceiling panel with a characterised medallion portrait of the
architect Colen Campbell (Whinney 1988, 255, repr).
On 21 May 1730 he married Mrs Anne Allen, the daughter of
his landlord at Eastbourne, Sussex, where he lived whilst working on plaster
ceilings at Compton Place. She died five years later and a second marriage took
place on 2 August 1737 to Magdalene Margrethe Lindemann, the sister of the
German chaplain to the Court of St James. The couple had a son, Carl Frederick
Stanley (c1738-1813), who trained as a sculptor with his father and later had a
successful career in Denmark, where he became a professor at the Copenhagen
Shortly after 1730 Stanley set up independently as a
sculptor and plasterer in London, advised by Scheemakers, who had recently
returned from Rome. A stream of decorative commissions and a few for sculpture
followed. Working principally with the plasterer, Thomas Roberts of Oxford, he
provided rich stucco ceilings at Langley Park, Norfolk (1740), the Radcliffe
Camera (1744), Okeover Park, Staffs (c1745), Kirtlington Park, Oxon (c1745) and
probably a number of other houses. In 1738, whilst living in the parish of St
John the Evangelist, Westminster, ‘Charles Stanley … plasterer’ took an
apprentice, John Dauson, at a fee of £10 (Apprenticeship Tax Roll index).
Stanley was responsible for two major monuments for the
aristocratic Maynard family, who had large estates in Suffolk and Essex. The
towering memorial to Thomas Maynard has a life-size standing effigy of Maynard
in vigorous classical draperies, his left arm resting on an urn, while his
right hand holds a book. His head recalls Scheemakers’s work and on the
pedestal is a large relief (1). The success of this commission led to a second,
the monument to Charles, Lord Maynard and his ancestors (3). It also has a
standing effigy garbed all’antica and grouped around him are three busts, three
portrait medallions and a weeping putto. On the pedestal below is a fine
high-relief tablet of three Cardinal and Christian Virtues, each attended by
lively cherubs. Lord Maynard’s response to the sculptor’s work was expressed in
an undated letter sent to Conyers Middleton: ‘I can’t say but I place a good
deal of confidence in him’ (Maynard /Middleton).
Around 1744 Stanley also
carved, though he did not sign, the monument in Ely Cathedral to Humphrey
Smith, which has a naturalistic portrait bust of a heavy middle-aged subject,
in a foliate oval frame, attended by a weary, standing cherub (2).
In the summer of 1746 he accepted an invitation from
Frederick V to return to Copenhagen as court sculptor, a post he held until his
death. He departed hastily for Denmark leaving his affairs in a confused state.
Letters to Leeke Okeover from Joseph Sanderson, who was responsible for
building work at Okeover, relate that Stanley left ‘without settling with
several of his acquaintances’ and that he had failed to show Sanderson a bust,
a chimneypiece (4, 6) and a gilt picture frame with ribbon and flowers, all
prepared for Okeover (Sanderson/Okeover, 25.10.1746). A later letter adopted a
more philosophical tone: ‘One thing we must allow him [Stanley], is your
ceiling is well done and cheap’ (Sanderson/Okeover, 9 December 1746).
Soon after returning to Copenhagen Stanley began work on the
elegant marble group, Vertumnus, Pomona and Cupid, c. 1749, derived from
Delvaux’s group for Wanstead (Copenhagen Stat Museum).
When the Royal Danish
Academy of Arts was founded in Copenhagen in 1752 he was appointed professor of
sculpture. In his later years he continued to produce sculpture inspired by
classical mythology. He was also responsible for a number of monuments.
Stanley had many skills. Whilst in England he probably
become acquainted with the novelist Henry Fielding, a number of whose works he
subsequently translated into Danish. In addition to his literary activities,
Stanley composed various pieces of music including an oratorio. He also became
a director of the Copenhagen porcelain factory.
Literary References: Buesching 1754-7, I, 527, II, 193-9,