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The Death of Tewdric

THOMAS, John Evan (1809 - 1873)

[image: The Death of Tewdric]

Date: 1848-56

Media: bronze

Size: 167.0 cm

Acquired: 2003; Purchase

Accession Number: NMW A 25991

John Evan Thomas was born in Brecon and studied under Sir Francis Chantrey, practising as a portrait sculptor in London. He is the first Welsh sculptor to establish a significant career largely through Welsh patronage, producing statues of the 2nd Marquess of Londonderry (Westminster Abbey), the 2nd Marquess of Bute (Cardiff city centre) and the Prince Consort (Tenby). He also sculpted subjects from Welsh history, contributing a mediaevalising statue of William, Earl of Pembroke for Pugin?s scheme for the rebuilt House of Lords in 1848. This sculpture depicts the death of Teudrig Mawr, saint and King of Gwent and Morganwwg, who died at the moment of victory over the Saxons at Mathern in around 630 AD. It has been described as a piet? composition, with the dying king cradled in the arms of his daughter Marchell, while a Bard, whose figure is taken from the famous de Loutherbourg print, looks on with harp. Thomas designed the group with the assistance of his brother William, who also trained under Chantrey. The plaster cast of the group won a 70-guinea competition for 'a sculpture illustrative of Cambro-British history' at the Abergavenny Eisteddfod in 1848, which was patronised by Lady Llanover. It was then shown at the Royal Academy, in 1849. The group was cast in bronze by Elkington, Mason & Co and shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851. This cast dates from 1856.

3 comments

Amgueddfa Cymru on 9 July 2014, 09:21

Dear William,
We have added this reference to our records – which we believe refers to the original plaster. We are currently seeking to establish whether it is an electrotype or a conventional bronze casting through technical analysis. Elkington’s used both methods at this date.
Oliver Fairclough, Keeper of Art

Graham Davies on 8 July 2014, 16:29

Dear William,
Thank you for submitting your response to this artwork. I will forward this onto our Art Department to incorporate your feedback into our records.

Regards,
Graham Davies
Online Curator
Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

william gibbs on 8 July 2014, 15:59

A very early example of electrotyping rather than a cast. The picture shows the piece in reverse. Tewdric or Teudrig is holding the cross in his right hand.

When this was first displayed at the Abergavenny Eisteddfod and won first prize (there were only two entries) it was very thoroughly described by the journalist of the Hereford Times (Oct 21st 1848) who while appreciating its power and composition also made some very pertinent remarks about its composition

"The composition is altogether line and spirited the draperies are archaeologically true and executed with charming lightness and freedom the attitudes natural and the details throughout excellently produced The figure of the old bard with his long hair and loose garments floating in the wind and his keen eyes flashing in a fine frenzy is admirably conceived and wrought out. In him age has but added a wild dignity to the fervour age dignity of patriotism and the glorious rage of poetic genius He had caught his inspiration from the free blasts which howl around Cadr Idris or Snowdon from the tempests which roar through the rocky cwms of Breconshire from the ocean surges which thunder against the bleak shore of Cardigan or Pembroke. His figure had the dignity of his native mountains, his eye the kingly fierceness of their crags, his robes the floating lightness of the mists which hang around their sacred peaks. The figure of the dying monarch is little inferior to it in dignity and expressiveness but it is inferior and this remark brings us to a consideration of one of the two defects of the group The nature of the incident obviously required that the dying king should be the main figure the centre of interest The bard is but an accessory to the scene though his presence is proper and even necessary to its full realisation The eye however involuntarily rests first upon him and it may be taken as an axiom of art that that part of a composition which first seizes the eye is in reality whatever the artist may intend or the subject may demand the principal figure. Nature is in fact the foundation of true art and the artist can only succeed by following her dictates. The way in which the spectator would describe the group apart from any knowledge of the subject would be by speaking if it as a figure of a bard with his harp standing beside a dying warrior &c whereas the composition ought to have been such as that it would have been impossible to have expressed our instinctive perceptions otherwise than by putting the king first. The unsuccessful group is an instance in point. With all its defects of execution the dying monarch forms the part of the group which first seizes the eye. In another point too the group of Mr Thomas is open to an important objection. The dying Tewdric grasps the cross in such a manner that it is impossible to tell whether he is gazing upon it himself or pointing with it to some distant object such as the flying Saxons. Probably the latter is the artist's intention but if so it is by no means clearly expressed and the supposition breaks the unity of the design since the eyes of the bard seem to be directed to the cross and not in the direction to which it points"

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