Sculptors - Victorian

Joseph Bentley Leyland (1811-1851)

The sculptor J. B. Leyland of Halifax finds a place on these pages for his rather good effigy of Dr Beckwith in York Minster, and his portrait head of the same subject in the York art gallery. His work is indeed uncommon, and I am not aware of other public statues by him.

Effigy of Dr Beckwith, by J.B. Leyland.

Leyland was born in Halifax, son of a naturalist, and showed an early interest in sculpture. His early work included a greyhound and a statue of Spartacus, exhibited at Manchester, which attracted favourable comment, and in 1843 he sent to London a head of Satan. He went to study for a time under B.R. Haydon, a historical painter. Apart from these works, and the occasional other portrait piece, notably a portrait head carved in high relief of Branwell Bronte, he seems to have produced some few ideal works, and statues of dogs. As he does not seem to have generally had the commissions to translate his works into bronze, some of his small oeuvre has perished, notably a seated nude called 'Kilmeny' which used to be displayed in a museum in Halifax. One colossal figure by him may have survived: an over-muscular Thracian falconer, somewhere near Salford. Leyland died prematurely, back in Halifax, aged just 39, in a debtor's prison, and today, his main claim to fame seems to be as a close friend of Branwell Bronte, a painter and writer who was brother to the Bronte sisters.