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Portrait Art, John Gower, Medieval British Poet, by Richardson, Antique Bronze, 1844


Edward Richardson (1812-1869)
John Gower
English: 1844
Patinated bronze figure
Titled in Base: Gower
Inscribed verso: John Gower 1340-1408, Edw. Richardson Sculpt. 1844
20 inches high, 5.25 x 4.5 inches, base

Patinated bronze small statue of John Gower (c. 1330-1408), a major British poet of the Middle Ages. He is shown standing in full figure in a long robe, pointing to a page in an open book. The figure stands on a rectangular bronze plinth inscribed “Gower,” as issued. Edward Richardson perhaps based the face and robe of the statue on the effigy of Gower at his tomb at Southwark Cathedral. Richardson’s sculpture reflects the growing popular interest among 19th century Britons in medieval arts and culture, as part of the Gothic Revival.

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John Gower was a poet and close friend and contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer. Gower’s major works included Vox Clamantis in Latin, Mirour de l’Omme in French, and Confessio Amantis in English, the latter written at the command of King Richard II, who wanted more books to be written in English. Gower also achieved a reputation beyond England, and Confessio Amantis was translated into Portuguese and Spanish in the early 15th century. After his death, 15th century poets considered Gower, along with Chaucer and John Lydgate, as the founders of the English poetic tradition. Shakespeare drew upon his works and included him as a character in Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

Gower’s reputation was eclipsed by Chaucer’s, and there was no full printing of his work after 1554 until 1810. By the mid 19th century, more editions of Gower’s work had appeared. This may be attributable in part to the Gothic Revival in England, a movement which encompassed architecture, literature and theology. Horace Walpole was a seminal figure in the movement, initiating the revival style of literature with his novel The Castle of Otranto in 1765, and of architecture with the remodeling of his home at Strawberry Hill along Gothic lines, completed in 1777. The architectural Gothic Revival solidified into a theoretical movement when A.W.N. Pugin published Contrasts in 1836, where he advocated the life and art of the Middle Ages as models worth following, especially with regard to architecture. Meanwhile, in the Church of England, the Oxford Movement also looked back to pre-Reformation styles of worship as a way to revitalize their religious practice.

Edward Richardson was a British sculptor known for his portrait busts. He exhibited in London from 1829 to 1866, notably at the Royal Academy from 1835. In later years he was in demand for commissioned monumental works, mostly in relief, including military memorials such as the monument in Canterbury Cathedral to the 16th Queen’s Lancers at Sutlej (1848) and the monument to the Battle of Boomplaats at the Cape Town Cathedral in South Africa (1852). Richardson also restored the effigies of the Knights Templars in the Temple Church, and the effigy of the Earl of Powis at Welshpool. He was an active member of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light wear, minor abrasions, scratches, natural oxidation to original patinated finish.


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Benson, L.D. “John Gower.” The Geoffrey Chaucer Page, Harvard University. (16 August 2005).

Echard, Siân. “John Gower.” University of British Columbia. (16 August 2005).

“Gothic Revival.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. 2003. (16 August 2005).

Hsy, Jonathan H. “John Gower: Life, Work and Times.” “Gower’s Tomb.” Department of English, University of Pennsylvania. 3 June 2004. and (16 August 2005).

Langham-Carter, R.R. “Arthur Murray and the Battle of Boomplaats.” Military History Journal. June 1969. Online at The South African Military History Society. (16 August 2005).

Redgrave, Samuel. A Dictionary of Artists of the English School: Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers and Ornamentists. London: Longmans, Green, and Col., 1874. p. 340.

Speel, Bob. “Canterbury.” Victorian Art in Britain. (16 August 2005).

Viau, Robert. “A Gothic Overview: Architecture, Design, & Much More.” Georgia College & State University. (16 August 2005).

Additional information


19th Century