Thomas Kirk, British, 1781-1845
Title: Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), Dramatist and Politician
Date: 1824
Medium: Marble
59 x 48 x 28 cm
Signed: Thos. Kirk. R.H.A. Fecit. 1824.
Credit Line: Purchased, 1943
Object Number: NGI.8000
DescriptionBorn in Dublin, Sheridan spent many of his early years in Bath, before eloping with the beautiful Elizabeth Linley in an attempt to save her from an arranged marriage. Early success as a playwright provided Sheridan with the means to buy the Drury Lane Theatre. He was interested in politics, and entered Parliament to work with Charles James Fox. He was a confidant of the Prince of Wales, and led a profligate lifestyle. When his theatre burned down in 1809, he was rescued from the debtor's prison only by a public subscription. On his death, he was honoured with a huge funeral and buried in Westminster Abbey. Thomas Kirk, who produced this posthumous bust, was an accomplished sculptor whose works included the statue of Admiral Nelson which once stood in O'Connell Street in Dublin.
Label TextKirk executed this bust eight years after Sheridan’s death. He would have based it on existing portraits and on the testimony of Sheridan’s friends. As is typical of posthumous portraits, the subject’s appearance is idealised. Kirk presents the sitter in classically-inspired attire, thus implying the enduring nature of Sheridan’s talent. Although Sheridan died in penury, he was accorded a grand funeral in Westminster Abbey.