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Royal Victoria Park
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Colossal Head of Jupiter

Zeus (Ζεύς) in Greek, or Jupiter, in Roman mythology
god of sky and thunder and the father of all gods
(Wikipedia: Zeus and Jupiter)
John Osborn
1831

Bath /  Colossal Head of Jupiter   Bath /  Colossal Head of Jupiter

Description

Colossal bust of Jupiter, of c. 1 m high and weighing 6 tons. The head was announced for sale by subscription in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of 16 June 1831 and it was shown in a public exhibution in November 1831. After the sculptor's death in 1838 the head, his widow and family were without means, and the idea rose to buy the head for the Victoria park, as recorde in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of 5 September 1839:

The colossal head of Jupiter, sculptured from a block of Bath stone, weighing upwards of six tons, by the late Mr. Osborn, a native of Bath, (...) has, we rejoice to learn, been offered and accepted by the Victoria Park Committee. This colossal head, which exceeds in dimensions that of Memnon in British Museum, a very striking achievement. The features are strictly ideal; the expression is sublime. The severe grandeur, majesty, and placid character of the physiognomy remind us of the statues of Jupiter as represented by the Greek sculptors in the purest period of art; but we are assured, on good authority, that this remarkable work is not a copy. The artist, whose death we lately recorded, was at great expence in working out his bold conception, which was executed under circumstances of difficulty which would have crushed the spirit of enterprise in any common mind. After the accomplishment of his wishes, a long and most afflicting sickness entirely exhausted his means. His widow and family are left destitute, but for their sole possession, this colossal bust. We trust that by securing this noble ornament for the Park, the generous public will subscribe a sum that will preserve the artist's widow and family from immediate want. Mr. Barker, whose classical knowledge and correct taste are universally acknowledged, has given the design for a pedestal which could not tail to be eminently satisfactory. A subscription will be immediately commenced for defraying the expence, which, in the present state of their finances, the Park Committee cannot afford to incur. Anxious, however, to afford a testimony of their desire to secure for the city this appropriate embellishment, they have subscribed, as a body, ten pounds, and they will individually subscribe to the fund, and facilitate the object by every means in their power. Whatever sum is collected beyond the expence of erecting the bust will be appropriated to the benefit of the sculptor's family. An estimate will be immediately obtained, and as the season for working stone is already far advanced, it is desirable that the work should proceed forthwith. The massive blocks of stone which will be required to place the bust at an elevation of thirty feet, according to Mr. Barker's admirable design, will involve a considerable expence. We trust, therefore, that our fellow citizens and the visitors of Bath will prompt and liberal.
Already on 25 September 1839 the foundation stone for the plinth was laid by the sculptor's son John Osborn 'a very modest, clever lad, about 14 years of age.'

According to Historic England, a new plinth was designed in 1861 by James Wilson and carved by H. Treasure, but maybe this is errenous. In 1861 plinths for another sculpture, the Goddess of Sculpture, by Osborn and for a vase by Pieroni were made by them.

Sculptor

Sources & Information

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Location (N 51°23'19" - W 2°22'34")

Item Code: gbsw090; Photograph: 22 March 2019
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