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Richard Sheepshanks (1794-1855)


Object connections:

Collection Sculpture
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleDepiction: Sheepshanks, Reverend Richard

Object details:

Object ID ZBA1713
Description Marble bust of Richard Sheepshanks (1794-1855), signed and dated 'J. H. FOLEY. R.A. Sculpt. LONDON 1856'. It is possibly the 'posthumous bust in marble' exhibited by Foley at the Royal Academy in 1857. Sheepshanks was the fourth son of the wealthy Leeds clothier Joseph Sheepshanks and brother of John, the noted art patron. Intellectually brilliant, he was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was elected a fellow there in 1817, was called to the bar in 1825 and also took holy orders. However, financial independence after his father's death allowed him to pursue his scientific interests and he became Secretary of the (Royal) Astronomical Society from 1829 and FRS in 1830. As an astronomer he worked privately (from his own small observatories), with George Airy in 1828, and determined the exact longitudes of a number of cities including Antwerp, Brussels, Liverpool, and towns in Ireland. He had a private passion for fine instruments and in 1838 presented an exceptional 8-inch equatorial telescope to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, as well as devising an effective clockwork tracking mechanism for such telescopes. His main work, however, was in relation to official standardization of weights and measures. From 1844 he completed the work of Francis Baily on the reconstruction of the standard of length, embodied in an Act of 1855. As Secretary of the Astronomical Society, he came into rapid antagonism with its president, James South, and successfully supported the great instrument maker Edward Troughton in his long financial and legal dispute with South in the early 1830s. Foley (1818-74) was a very successful Irish sculptor, who won early prizes both in Dublin and at the Royal Academy Schools after he moved to London, where he also assisted Willam Behnes. His imaginative work was highly regarded and he executed many portraits, statues and other public commissions. His best known works are his sculptures for the Albert Memorial, though his gilt-bronze statue of Prince Albert himself was completed after his death by his leading assistant, Thomas Brock.
Date made 1856

Artist/Maker Fontana, Bill
Foley, John Henry
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials marble
Measurements Overall: 830 mm x 600 mm x 260 mm x 105 kg
  • Richard Sheepshanks (1794-1855) (ZBA1713)
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