Benjamin Spence
The Angel's Whisper

The Angel's Whisper
Benjamin Spence (1822-1866)
The Angel's Whisper
Circa 1857
Marble group
H. 68; W. 72; D. 63 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski


The Angel's Whisper
Le murmure de l'Ange
The Angel's Whisper

Le murmure de l'Ange [The Angel's Whisper]


The Angel's Whisper was sculpted after a poem by Samuel Lover, which recounts an Irish belief that when a baby smiles in his sleep he is talking to an angel.
The sculptor, Spence, was an admirer of Neoclassicism. He lived in Rome and worked with the greatest English sculptor of the time, John Gibson. From Gibson he borrowed the treatment of the bodies and precisely defined volumes smoothly enveloped by the light. But he tempered the rigid aspects of his master's work with a taste for sentimentality and readily took subjects not from Greek mythology but from Shakespeare, romantic English literature, as here, or the Bible.

The group accentuates the play of curves and counter curves: the angel is bending in a fluid movement, and the network of folds and the child's gently crumpled bed delicately emphasise the subtly modelled flesh. The whole is discreetly accentuated in several places, such as the angel's hair and crown of flowers, which are particularly carefully worked.

An important Liverpool merchant commissioned the work in Italy and exhibited it among other sculptures in a gallery built for the occasion.




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