Joseph Gott (1786-1860)

Joseph Gott’s family came from the vicinity of Leeds. He studied in London from 1798-1802, under John Flaxman – a remarkably early start – and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1805, winning a silver medal in 1806. He went to Rome in about 1822, encouraged and sponsored by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Rome was to be Gott’s base for the rest of his life, sending works home to be exhibited in the Royal Academy. There is no evidence that he knew the two best known British sculptors also living in Rome at that time – John Gibson and R J Wyatt – but he did stay with Joseph Severn. Gott found patronage in the family of his rich second cousin, Benjamin Gott, a woollen manufacturer based back home in Yorkshire, and in another wealthy Yorkshireman, George Banks.

Gott’s work includes a variety of rustics and shepherds, animals – especially dogs – and many portrait busts and medallions, typically in Roman costume. Among his ideal figures, the most characteristic are girls, lightly draped, with Greek foreheads and noses, but their softer faces and chins putting them firmly in the early part of the 19th Century. He was known for his cherubic children, and the naturalness of his dogs, though to readers of these pages, the girls are by and large preferable.

Many of Gott’s works remain in private hands. However, several pieces are in the collection of the Leeds City Art Gallery, and a monument is close by in Leeds Parish Church. A good group of Greek Wrestlers is in Nottingham, and a statue of Ruth in York. A Dying Spartacus is in the John Soane Museum. He did several funerary monuments, and we may mention the monument to William Sharp in Bradford Cathedral, as a conventional but well done composition of a semidraped girl lounging on a pillar bearing a portrait of the deceased. Also worth mentioning are the plaque to the 5-year old Emily Cadogan in Durham Cathedral and the tiny but characteristic maquette of Little Red Riding Hood which for some time has been on show in the sculpture rooms at the V&A.

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