Charles Alfred Stothard d. 1821

Phillip.Lindley | November 21, 2012

Charles Alfred Stothard d. 1821: the greatest ever draughtsman of monumental sculpture?

Charles Alfred Stothard died, ironically enough, when he fell from a ladder inside the church of Bere Ferrers in Devon, smashing his head on the fourteenth-century monumental effigies in the chancel.  For most of his short life, he had been publishing his own superlative etchings of monumental effigies, twelve at a time.  He planned that they should all be bound together, with texts he was writing, to make a book of 144 etchings, at the end of the series.  His death meant he could never finish the project, but his widow and brother-in-law, between them, dragged the book to publication over a decade later.

Recently, I have been investigating Stothard’s superb work and (with advice from my friends Richard Knowles and Philip Lankester), have been able to publish a paper which traces the painfully slow completion of the project, and assesses Stothard’s achievement.

He had also planned to produce a second book, looking at post-medieval effigies, which sadly never came to completion.  It is fascinating that neither Stothard nor his great predeccesor Richard Gough, ever did manage to publish a systematic series of prints of Tudor monumental sculpture, although both men planned to do this.  If they had ever achieved their objects, then the study of later-sixteenth-century sculpture would have been given an initial impetus which it never achieved, and the often unhelpful division between ‘medieval’ and ‘early modern’ sculpture in England would have been bridged from the start.

For my first paper on Stothard, see my article (with one of the longest titles ever!), ‘THE ARTISTIC PRACTICE, PROTRACTED PUBLICATION AND POSTHUMOUS COMPLETION OF CHARLES ALFRED STOTHARD’S MONUMENTAL EFFIGIES OF GREAT BRITAIN’ in the Antiquaries Journal, 92 (2012), 385-426.  This constitutes the first of what I hope will become a series of papers on Stothard.

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