Peter Turnerelli, Sculptor

(b. 1774, d.1839)


From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Peter Turnerelli. Engraving by J. Thompson, after S. Drummond, in "European Magazine."

Was born at Belfast, at the latter end of 1774. His father, James Tognarelli, was son of an Italian refugee and worked as a statuary in Belfast, and afterwards, from 1787, in Dublin. He transformed his name to "Turnerelli." Peter was educated at a school in Dublin, and was intended for the priesthood; but on his father leaving Dublin and settling in London, in 1792, his natural and inherited bent for sculpture led him to place himself as a pupil with Peter Francis Chenu, and also in the schools of the Royal Academy. He distinguished himself as a student, gaining the medal for the best model within two years of his entrance. He was employed by Lord Heathfield to model a bust of Sir Francis Drake and one of General Eliot, both from pictures; and in 1797 was recommended as a teacher of modelling to the young Princesses. He held this appointment for three years, and during that time executed busts of all the members of the Royal Family. On the termination of his engagement he was appointed Sculptor-in-Ordinary to the Royal Family, and was offered knighthood, which he declined. In 1802 he made his first appearance as an exhibitor at the Royal Academy, his contributions being, "A Nest of Cupids," a "Bust of the Princess Charlotte," and a "Bust of the Rev. Arthur O'Leary." Thenceforth he was a frequent exhibitor until 1838, and enjoyed a fashionable and lucrative practice, chiefly in portrait busts. In 1809 he modelled the Jubilee Bust of George III, now at Windsor, of which eighty copies were ordered by private persons and public bodies, and exhibited it at the Royal Academy in 1810. The following year he exhibited a statue of the King in his state robes.

About 1812 Turnerelli visited Ireland, and amongst the many commissions he obtained there were busts of "Henry Grattan," considered at the time a most faithful likeness, and of "Dr. Elrington," Provost of Trinity College, both exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1812. In 1814 he was appointed Sculptor to the Queen. In 1815 he modelled a bust of "John Philpot Curran," from sittings given in London; and the same year he exhibited his bust of "Prince Blucher" at the Academy. This was followed the next year by one of "Count Platoff," of which replicas were ordered by the Czar and the King of Prussia. The "Nuptial Busts" of "Prince Leopold" and "Princess Charlotte," executed from sittings given immediately before their marriage, were in the Academy in 1817. In 1828, 1829 and 1830 he was in Ireland, and modelled a bust of "Daniel O'Connell," of which ten thousand plaster copies are said to have been sold. He exhibited three busts in the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1828, viz., of "J. B. Logier," "Miss Stephens" and "The Duke of York"; and three the following year, of "Daniel O'Connell," "Bishop Doyle" and the "Marquess of Anglesey." In 1830 he also contributed three, "John Lawless," "Charles Kendal Bushe" and a small statue of "Henry Grattan."

He again exhibited in Dublin in 1834 and 1835. In his busts Turnerelli was the first to introduce the practice, suggested by Benjamin West, of representing his sitters in modern costume, and not in the hitherto conventional classic drapery. In addition to his portrait busts—of which his work chiefly consisted—he did some important monuments, including that to Colonel Stuart in Canterbury Cathedral, the Burns monument at Dumfries, and the Hope monument in Westminster Abbey, besides others in England and in Ireland. He worked at his profession with undiminished success until his death, and was again offered, but declined, knighthood on the accession of George IV. He died, after a few hours' illness, in his house in Newman Street, London, on 20th March, 1839, and was buried in the graveyard of St. John's chapel, St. John's Wood.

Although during his career as an artist he had earned a large income he died poor, leaving a widow and two children unprovided for. He had been twice married. His first wife, Margaret Mary, died in 1835; his second, Mary O'Connor, whom he married in Dublin the same year, a relative of the Earl of Clare, survived him and died at 11 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin, on 15th December, 1875.

A portrait of Turnerelli, painted by S. Drummond, was engraved in stipple by J. Thomson for the "European Magazine," June, 1821.

His son, Edward Tracy Turnerelli, born in 1813, studied modelling under his father and at the Royal Academy, but did not afterwards pursue the calling of a sculptor. He went to Russia in 1836 and spent eighteen years there, travelling in remote parts of the country and sketching its ancient monuments. On his return to England in 1854 he devoted himself to politics, and achieved notoriety by his "people's tribute" to Lord Beaconsfield, in 1878, of a gold laurel wreath, which however that statesman declined to accept. He died in 1896.


Henry W., 1st Marquess of Anglesey. R.H.A., 1829.

Sir Joseph Banks. [College of Surgeons, London.] R.A., 1814; done for the College of Surgeons.

Sir Joseph Banks. [Greenwich Hospital.]

Prince Blucher. R.A., 1815. Executed in marble for the King of Prussia.

Charles Kendal Bushe, Lord Chief Justice. R.A., 1830; R.H.A., 1835.

Duke of Cumberland. [Trinity College, Dublin.] R.A., 1809.

John Philpot Curran. Modelled from sittings in London in 1815.

James W. Doyle, Bp. of Kildare and Leighlin. R.A., 1829. Engraved in stipple by W. Holl, and published in 1834 as a book illustration by Keating and Brown, London.

Rev. Thomas Ellington, Provost of Trinity College. R.A., 1813.

Earl of Fingal.

Viscount Frankfort de Montmorency. R.A., 1835.

Henry Grattan. [National Gallery of Ireland.] Modelled at Tinnehinch in 1812. R.A., 1813. Formerly in the Dublin Library, D'Olier Street.

Henry Grattan. R.A., 1821.

George III. The Jubilee Bust; done in 1809 for Carlton House. R.A., 1810. The sculptor made no less than eighty replicas in marble of this bust.

George III. The National Bust; done in marble for the Bank of England, Bank of Ireland and numerous other public bodies.

Henry, 1st Viscount Melville. R.A., 1807. Engraved in mezzotint by J. Young, 1807.

Lady Morgan. R.A., 1831.

Constantine, Earl of Mulgrave, afterwards 1st Marquess of Normanby, Lord Lieutenant. R.A., 1838.

Arthur Murphy. Engraved in stipple by Scriven.

Rev. Barnaby Murphy. Etched by H. Meyer.

Daniel O'Connell. R.A., 1829. Ten thousand copies in plaster of this bust are said to have been sold in Ireland.

Rev. Arthur O'Leary. R.A., 1802.

John, Earl of Ossory, afterwards 2nd Marquess of Ormonde. R.A., 1829.

Count Platoff. R.A,, 1816. Replicas were done for Carlton House, the Tuileries, the Hermitage at St. Petersburg, and for the King of Portugal.

Rt. Hon. William Saurin. R.A., 1838.

John T. Troy, Archbishop of Dublin. R.A., 1816.

Colonel Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle. Engraved in mezzotint by C. Turner, 1809.

Arthur, Duke of Wellington. R.A., 1813.

Arthur, Duke of Wellington. For this bust the Duke sat on his return from the Peninsula in 1814. R.A., 1816. Engraved in mezzotint by C. Turner, 1815.


Lt.-Col. Stewart, 9th foot, who fell at the battle of Roleia. Monument. [Canterbury Cathedral.]

J. Willit Willit, M.P. Monument. [Camford church, Dorsetshire.]

John and Patrick Sterling. Monument. [Dumblane Cathedral.]

Sir John Hope, Bart. Monument. [Westminster Abbey.]

Robert Burns. National monument to his memory. [Dumfries.]

Rev. Thomas Betagh. Monument. [St. Michael and St. John's church, Lower Exchange Street, Dublin.]

Dr. Moylan, Bishop of Cork. Monument. [St. Anne's, Shandon, Cork.]

Altar in white marble. [Marlborough Street church, Dublin.]

St. Peter and St. Paul. Statues. [Chapel at Bath.]

George III. Statue; half life-size; done at Windsor in 1809. R.A., 1811.

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