Wednesday 19 June 2024

Oedipus before the Temple of Furies at Colonus. by William Tyler - former Assistan to Roubiliac


Oedipus before the Temple of Furies at Colonus.

From Sophocles.

Previously misidentified as a Relief with Diogenes.

by William Tyler RA. London. 1728 - 1801.

I cannot claim any responsibility for the excellent research into the Tyler terracotta.

see the instagram post from Libson Yarker -

I have posted here in order to shed a little more light on the known assistants working with Louis Francois Roubiliac.

These men included possibly John Adkins, Flaxman the Elder, James Lambert, Christian Carlsen Seest (Siste) d. 1768 from 1756 to 1759, Nathaniel Smith from 1755 - 61(father of JT Smith the engraver and author of Nollekens and his Times, 1828), and Nicholas Read from 1756 who took over Roubiliac's workshop and business in St Martins Lane after his death in 1762.

The Danish national economist , Professor Martin Hübner, who met Seest in London 1754, found him "bien habil" , and George Vertue says of Seest that "he is an Ingenious man draws very well & models in good manner and Taste"

The bust of Vertue mentioned in his journal (Vertue III) now missing was sculpted by Seest (Siste).


Lambert exhibited a bust at the Society of Artists (untraced) in 1763. and was a member of the St Martin's Lane Academy (Pyne - 1 - 1823.)


William Tyler.

Tyler studied at Westminster School, adm. (aged 9) May 1737; BB 1741; left 1743; a contemporary at Westminster of David Murray, 2nd Earl of Mansfield) and  appears to have commenced his working life as an assistant to Louis Francois Roubiliac at his studio workshop at St Martin's Lane.

It is not known when he left the Roubiliac studio

Dated 1765.

 Currently with London Dealers Libson Yarker.

Sold Sotheby's 5 July 2022. Lot 225.

 Signed and dated: W Tyler Excu. 1765.

 48 by 65cm., 19 by 25½in.



 Cyril Humphris, London;

His sale, Sotheby's, New York, 10-11 January 1995, lot 74. as Diogenes.

English private collection, to 2023.

Anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, 4th July, 2023, lot 52 as Diogenes.


Oedipus before the Temple of the Furies between his Daughters Antigone and Ismene.

Anton Raphael Mengs (1728 -79).

c. 1760 -61.

Mengs was born in Bohemia son of a Danish painter.

Mengs left Rome for Spain in 1763 returning to Rome in 1777.

Pen and wash over Graphite.

Sheet: 7 1/2 × 8 3/4 in. (19 × 22.3 cm)

Metropolitan Museum. New York.

According to an inscription on the verso of Mengs’s drawing now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and identified here as being in the hand of the dealer Thomas Jenkins, states that the drawing was specifically made: ‘as an imitation of the antique in order to be engraved, Pichler accordingly copied it for me, who procured the drawing of Mengs himself in 1763 upon a fine onyx. Ld Montagu has its companion, Priam at Achilles’s feet, drawn by Mengs & engraved by Pichler.’

This drawing is based on a gem carved by Pichler

Tyler was a founder member of the Royal Academy in 1768. Though nominated to the Royal Academy as an architect, he was usually represented at its exhibitions by busts and low reliefs.

Tyler married in 1750, aged 22, and is said to have initially lived in Dean Street, Soho according to Nollekens.

His address is given  as Vine Street from 1763 until 1784, Gower Street from 1785, and Caroline Street, Bedford Square until 1801where he died on 6 September. He was interred in the family vault at Tottenham.

Vine Street was also the address of the sculptor Peter Scheemakers d. 1781.

For my blog entry on Tyler and Oxford Sculpture see -


The Pichler Gem.

This plaster impression from -

Harvard Arts Museum.

4.1 x 4.5 x 1 cm (1 5/8 x 1 3/4 x 3/8 in.)

Inscriptions and Marks -

Signed: lower edge: [pi iota chi lambda epsilon rho] [=PICHLER]

inscription: lower edge, relief, Greek, in artist's hand: [epsilon pi omicron iota epsilon iota] [=made]

I have adjusted this image in photoshop in attempt to make it clearer.

Johann Anton Pichler. Gem-engraver, born at Brixen in Tyrol, on 12. April 1697, died at Rome, on 14. September 1779.

Cristiano Dehn (1696 - 1770) of the Via Condotti (his shop was later in the Via Babuino, then in the Corso in Rome) included an impression of the Pichler gem after Mengs’s design in a tray of impressions of antique gems and ‘antique’ designs. 

As Steffi Roettgen has pointed out, the subject Mengs treats, the blind Oedipus, led by his daughters to the temple of the Eumenides at Colonus was iconographically unique; it appears to be the first time a modern artist treated the subject of Sophocles’s play.


Tray J from a cased cabinet of 18 Drawers containing 1350 plaster casts of Antique gems by Cristiano Dehn.


The drawing of the Pichler Gem by Angelica Kaufman.

Probably drawn in Rome - 1762 - 66.

From the collection of G. Vallardi, Contessa Imeretinsky, B. Ceccato, and Vit. Mandl. 

One of a collection of  137 drawings most of which were likely given or sold by Kauffman to Giuseppe Vallardi in 1800, when the artist was living in Rome towards the end of her long and eventful life. 

Vallardi, a print dealer in Milan who was an active patron of neoclassical art, pasted the various sized drawings into a bound volume. After passing through the collections of the Countess Imeretinsky, B. Ceccato, and Vit. Mandl, the volume was sold to the Victoria and Albert Museum by F.R. Meatyard in 1927.



For a good potted biography of William Tyler by Greg Sullivan see -

 A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain, 1660-1851

  I have lifted the following from the above website.


Tyler was an accomplished monumental sculptor and architect and a founder member of the Royal Academy. From references in Joseph Farington’s Diary his date of birth can be fixed as being between 1727 and 1729. Tyler’s family background is obscure although he described himself as the ‘son and grandson of a citizen [of London]’ (CLRO MSS 5.18 quoted in Roscoe 1997 (2), 181), and it is known that his mother died, aged 88, in January 1795. His family must have been well-to-do, as Tyler was sent to Westminster School, and was subsequently placed with the leading sculptor of the day, Louis François Roubiliac, with whom he studied for ‘many years’ (ibid).




Tyler married when he was 22 and Joseph Nollekens RA later recalled that in about 1760 he ‘lived in Dean Street nearly opposite Anne’s Church, where his wife kept a shop and sold watch springs or something of the kind’ (Farington, vol 4, 1316). Tyler must already have had an established business as a sculptor by this time for in the early 1760s he applied for two of the most lucrative commissions of the day. In 1760, in competition with his former master, (Roubiliac) he submitted a design for the monument in Westminster Abbey to General Wolfe (5) and in January 1762 he offered himself as a candidate for the statue of George III in the Royal Exchange. In both cases the commission went to Joseph Wilton RA.



Tyler played a role in all the fledgling art institutions of the capital. In 1760 he was one of the  sculptors involved in the programme of arts connected with the Foundling Hospital, and he exhibited at the Society of Artists exhibitions from their inception in 1760. In 1765 he became one of the Society’s directors, and in December 1768 he was one of the 40 artists whose names appear on the ‘Instrument of Foundation’ of the Royal Academy. The only other sculptors to achieve the latter distinction were Wilton and Agostino Carlini.



From 1763 to 1784 Tyler had premises in Vine Street, Piccadilly. His earliest known work is a very competent multi-figured relief of Diogenes, carved in several gradations (72). He appears to have specialised in monuments of a modest size, sometimes working in collaboration with the architects Robert Adam (10) and Henry Keene (27, 41). Working to Keene’s design he carved the remarkable rococo monument to the 3rd Earl of Lichfield which has two urns in a recessed oval niche, set in a convex frame of yellow marble and surmounted by a white marble oak tree (27).


Several of his earliest known monuments have expressive portrait busts in the manner of Roubiliac, for instance the memorials to Joseph Smith, Samuel Vassall and Thomas Jones (2, 12, 18). His use of multi-coloured marbles and lively putti suggests he was also influenced by Sir Henry Cheere and Sir Robert Taylor. Elements in Tyler’s compositions were sometimes repeated: cherubs decorating an urn with garlands appear on the monuments to the 4th Earl of Lichfield and the 2nd Viscount Ashbrook (41, 50) and were later used by Nollekens. The detailing and finish of Tyler’s monuments is always of a very high standard.



He also sent out chimneypieces, including one to a design by Sir William Chambers for Milton Hall, 1772 (67). At this time Tyler’s business must have been in difficulties, for Chambers wrote to Lord Fitzwilliam enclosing Tyler’s bill and adding ‘If it is convenient to your Lordship, Mr. Tyler will, I believe, be very thankful for the money as he told me in confidence he was as poor as could be’ (Chambers’s Letter-Books, BL Add MS 41133).


In another letter Chambers passed on Tyler’s thanks to Lord Fitzwilliam for looking after Tyler’s man, who had fallen sick when working at Milton (ibid). In about 1773 Tyler embarked on a tour of Derbyshire and Yorkshire with the painter Francis Cotes and the author Theodosius Forrest. An anonymous account of the tour records that Tyler used the trip to find business, securing a commission for a chimneypiece from Lady Rockingham at Wentworth Woodhouse (68).



Some time after 1779 he appears to have gone into partnership with his former pupil, Robert Ashton I, with whom he signed several monuments (47, 48, 56, 57). Their greatest achievement together is the monument to Dr Martin Folkes (56), which has a full-size seated statue of the dignified scholar leaning on his publications.



In the 1780s Tyler practised increasingly as an architect, designing the Villa Maria at Kensington for the Duchess of Gloucester (now demolished), and making alterations to a house in Hampton Court for the Duke, for whom he also acted as an ‘agent’ (Farington, vol 3, 796, 14 March 1797). He worked on two gaols, Maidstone and Dorchester, and designed the town hall in Bridport. Colvin believed his finest work as an architect was the Ordnance Office in Westminster, 1779-80, which was demolished in 1805. Tyler may also have worked on a project in Derby, where he travelled with Sir John Soane in 1796. Nollekens told Joseph Farington that Tyler was appointed mason or bricklayer to the Board of Ordnance by Lord Amherst (Farington vol 4, 1316), for whose family Tyler also produced two church monuments (51, 58).



Tyler was a prominent member of the Royal Academy in the 1790s, despite suffering from fevers, rheumatism and diabetes. He played a role in the attempted removal of Sir Joshua Reynolds as president in 1790 and contributed many reminiscences to Farington’s projected history of the progress of the arts in England. In 1796 he and his friend George Dance (whose portrait of Tyler hangs in Burlington House) became the Academy’s first auditors. They put the financial affairs of the Academy onto a more professional footing and several of their reforms are still in force. In 1799 Tyler was presented with a silver cup for his efforts. He wrote a short account of his own life for the first volume of Dance’s Portraits of Academicians in 1798.



Tyler died in his house in Caroline Street, Bedford Square, on 6 September, 1801. In his will he requested to be buried in the family vault in the churchyard of Tottenham High Cross. He left £1,000 in shares to pay for the apprenticeship of his son William Jackson, who was then ten years old and lived with his mother Mary Jackson at Overton, near Ellesmere, Salop.


Despite early financial difficulties, Tyler’s practice in sculpture and architecture had ultimately been profitable: he left property in Upper Seymour Street, Portman Square, Gower Street and Bedford Square, and a sum of £2,450 in named and numbered gifts, including £100 to Robert Ashton II. He also left provision for his sister, Mary.


On seeing the press report of the death of his ‘worthy friend,’ Farington, wrote a brief tribute in his diary to a ‘cheerful’ and ‘good-humoured’ man whose ‘convivial and social turn of mind’ had done much to bring harmony to an often factious Royal Academy (Farington, vol 5, 1618).


The reactions of other contemporaries were less generous, for Tyler’s artistic abilities were not felt to be equal to his status as an Academician. Nathaniel Marchant said he ‘was no artist,’ whilst King George III, in conversation with Benjamin West after Tyler’s death, was baffled as to how such ‘an odd man’ came to be an Academician at all (Farington, vol 3, 827; vol 6, 2214).



The short notice of Tyler in the DNB (1885-1900) dismissed him as a sculptor of little ability, and Whinney has subsequently called him ‘relatively unimportant’ (Whinney 1988, 269).


Gunnis however felt that Tyler’s busts were ‘extremely well modelled’ and that his monuments had ‘great charm’ (Gunnis 1968, 404).


More recently Malcolm Baker has provided a new biography for the ODNB and he concludes that Tyler’s monuments are stylistically progressive? and show a high quality of execution, whilst Tyler himself deserves recognition for his role in the institutions which shaped sculptural practice in the late-18th century. (Inf. Roger Smith).


 Literary References: Mortimer 1763, 28; Farington, passim; Builder 1859, 849; Graves IV, 1905-6, 50; Graves 1907, 262; Gunnis 1968, 403-4; Hutchison 1986, 28, 56, 245; Whinney 1988, passim; Colvin 1995, 999; Bindman and Baker 1995, 170, 221, 336; ODNB (Baker)

Archival References: Forrest’s Tours, fols 22-56.



Miscellaneous Drawings: Denison of Ossington Papers, Notts Univ library, MSS and Special Colls, De 2 P/14-16, proposed designs for the monument to William Denison with an estimate of £412 (unexecuted).



For his Will: PROB 11/1363/619, 19 September 1801.


 Portraits of the sculptor: Johan Zoffany Life Class at the Royal Academy 1771-2, oil on canvas (Royal Coll); George Dance, Royal Academy, Library.


William Tyler.

Drawing by George Dance.


Royal Academy.

by Charles (Cantelowe, Cantlo) Bestland, after Henry Singleton

stipple engraving, published 1802 (1795)

11 1/2 in. x 15 in. (292 mm x 381 mm) plate size; 13 1/2 in. x 19 1/2 in. (343 mm x 494 mm) paper size.

A List of Sculptural Works by William Tyler.

This needs to be verified.

Memorial with bust to Joseph Smith at Queen's College, Oxford (1756).

Monument to Thomas Spencer at Guisborough (1759)

Monument to Francis Gastrell in Oxford Cathedral (1761)

Monument to Ann Wyndham in Earsham (1762)

Monument to Thomas Crosfield in Northallerton (1765)

Memorial with bust to Samuel Vassall in King's Chapel, Boston USA (1766)

Memorial with bust to Thomas Marriott in Finchingfield (1766)

Memorial to Thomas Carew in Crowcombe (1766)

Memorial to Richard Smith in Chichester Cathedral (1767)

Monument to Charles Holland in Chiswick Parish Church (1769)

Monument to Sir John Cust, 3rd Baronet in Belton church (1770)

Memorial to Robert Dinwiddie in Clifton Parish Church (1770)

Memorial to Thomas Jones (1729-1762) in Southwark Cathedral (1770)

Monument to Francis Colman in St Mary Abbots in Kensington (1771)

Monument to George Lee, 3rd Earl of Lichfield in Spelsbury Parish Church (1772)

Monument to the actor Barton Booth in Westminster Abbey (1772)

Memorial to Mrs Thomas in Bletchingley (1772)

Monument to Lady Cust in Belton Church (1772)

Memorial to the Countess of Rochford in St Osyth, Essex (1773)

Monument to Anne Yorke in Marchwiel Church (1773)

Memorial to Dr Zachary Pearce in Westminster Abbey (1774)

Memorial to General Stringer Lawrence in Westminster Abbey (1775)

Memorial to General Stringer Lawrence in Dunchideock Church (1775)

Memorial to Bishop Smyth in Lincoln Cathedral (1775)

Monument to William Pym in Sandy, Bedfordshire (1775)

Monument to[Richard Astell in Everton, Bedfordshire (1775)

Memorial to the Robert Lee, 4th Earl of Lichfield at Spelsbury (1776) to a design by Henry Keene

Monument to John Harris at Georgeham in Devon ((1776)

Monument to Sarah Boteler in Eastry, Kent (1777)

Monument to Thomas Lewis in Old Radnor

Monument to Charles and Mary Long in Saxmundham (1778)

Monument to George Perrott in Laleham (1780)

Memorial to General William Amherst in Sevenoaks, Kent (1781)

Monument to Beeston Long in Saxmundham (1785)

Memorial to General Lord Jeffery Amherst in Sevenoaks, Kent (1797


Annoyingly I missed the Sotheby's sale - mid Covid - I was involved in a serious house restoration project.

but I will catch up here and in my next post.

Lot 232 was a very interesting terracotta maquette.

see -

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