Wednesday 28 February 2024

Hewetson (Part 28) John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor

John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor, FRS, FSA (c. 1753 - 1821).

Christopher Hewetson.

Marble bust.


This bust was probably at Gelli Aur (Golden Grove), Carmarthenshire.

Sotheby's, London, 4 December 2018, lot 108.

Essay here from Hampel's the auctioneers website -

Christopher Hewetson executed a bust of John Campbell when he first visited Rome in 1784. The first version is kept at Cawdor Castle in Nairnshire, Scotland (Roscoe, p. 611). This other almost identical version is characterized by the absence of the signature, but of similarly good quality. We know from Hewetson that he executed busts several times and then did not necessarily sign them, as is guaranteed for the bust of Pope Clement XIV. The marble bust of Mrs. von Kniphausen is also unsigned.

John Campbell, who later became the first Baron Cawdor of Castlemartin, was an Italophile and traveled to Italy several times in his life and became, for example, the first British patron of Antonio Canova. He ordered some of his most excellent works from the sculptor, such as “Cupido and Psyche” (Louvre, Paris, inv. no. MR 1777) or “Hebe” (Chatsworth, Trustees of the Devonshire Settlement).

By the early 19th century he was one of Britain's largest landowners, owning both the vast estates of Stackpole Court and Golden Grove in Wales and Cawdor Castle in Scotland. However, Campbell suffered from financial worries and in 1800 was forced to sell much of his art collection, including the Lante Vase, now in Woburn Abbey. 

Canova spoke of Campbell in a letter to Mengs in June 1787: “My head is still full of the good times that the Colonel [Campbell] gave me, God bless him, and I will never forget him, come what may. If it is true that friendship and gratitude can lift a man's spirits, then when I pick up my chisel to work for the colonel, I will work better than I have ever worked, and perhaps better than I will ever work for anyone else” (quoted in Davis, p. 50).

Campbell first visited Rome in 1784, and it is believed that Hewetson created the first version of his portrait at this time, as Campbell attended an event with Thomas Giffard, whose portrait was created the same year. In 1786-1787 he returned to Rome. It seems logical that Campbell could have commissioned the present bust on this second visit.


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