Hubert le Sueur's statue of Richard Leveson, d.1605.
The utterly splendid statue of Vice Admiral Richard Leveson, d.1605, is by the important sculptor Hubert le Sueur in St Peter's Collegiate Church, Wolverhampton. Once there was a whole memorial, but most was destroyed during the Commonwealth, and today we have the bronze statue, two reclining cherubs, which may have been on a pediment above, or on the sides, a coat of arms with a knight’s helm on top and on top of that a goat’s head, and a panel recording details of his life, in Latin.
The reclining cherubs, and the Latin inscription.
Leveson stands erect, one hand on his hip, elbow out, the other holding a thin scroll, which may be a replacement for some larger object, and one foot slightly forward, the back one raised at the heel, as if he had just drawn himself up self-importantly to his full height. He wears armour, which is richly traced with ornament (Le Sueur was the son of an armourer), and below, wears pantaloons tucked into his tall boots, which have slightly incongruous little bows to tie them. He stares straight ahead, his head framed by copious wavy hair, and has a fine moustache and short, trimmed beard. Altogether a figure of magnificence and a high degree of swagger.
The shield of arms, with goat's head.
The little cherubs, naked reclining figures, are mirror images of each other, and are finely modelled in a Renaissance manner. The coat of arms and trophy are an elegant, Baroque group, and the goat’s head forms a fine silhouette (if you like goat sculpture, see this page). We can only regret the rest of this monument does not survive, and be grateful that some of it has. An inscription in English has perished too, but was recorded, and though it is absolutely not the custom of this website, concerned with sculpture and other arts, to quote epitaphs, this one is irresistible:
‘Here lyeth the bodye of Perfection’s glorie;
Fame’s owne worlde wonder, and the ocean’s story;
The right protector, rightful scourge of wrong,
In peace a dove, in war a lyon strong;
Vertue’s embracer, Vice’s opposite,
Time’s chiefest ornament, true Valour’s Knight.
The all-just Heaven, regarding high desarts,
Bereav’d the earth of his diviner parts;
Leaving here nought of him but slimy dross,
And a continual grief for such a loss.'
There are rather few surviving statues by le Sueur, the most famous being his Charles I (le Sueur’s patron) in Trafalgar Square. The statue of Leveson is typical of his portrait sculpture: rather mannerist, staring straight ahead, with something of a rotundity to the features and similarly, the limbs appearing almost tubelike, with little indication of the musculature. But nevertheless, extremely skillful in its parts, and the details of the hands, and above all the armour.
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Introduction to Wolverhampton sculpture // St Peter's Church, Wolverhampton // St Bartholomew's Church in Wednesbury // Birmingham // Sculpture in some towns in England // Sculpture pages // Introduction to church monuments
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