Samuel Percy, Wax Modeller

(d. 1820)

Wax Modeller

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

A native of Dublin where, as well as in London, he worked as a modeller of likenesses in coloured wax. He received instruction in the Dublin Society's Schools, and he made his first appearance as an exhibitor in 1772, when he sent to the Society of Artists in William Street an "Alto-relievo in wax, Abraham offering Isaac." In the following year he exhibited "Likenesses in wax," and a "Model in clay." Subsequently he went to London and passed the rest of his life there, varied by occasional visits to his native city. He was in Dublin in 1779, and heralded his arrival by a newspaper announcement: "Likenesses in coloured wax. Mr. Percy intends being in town the 15th of December, for one month only (as his engagement in this country obliges his return). From the very short stay he makes he requests the commands of such of the nobility and gentry as intend employing him may be left at Mr. Moore's, No 1 Capel Street. From his great improvement he flatters himself his pictures are equal to any done in this way. He engages his likenesses to please, the ease of sitting, shortness, cheapness and similitude to the human face give them the preference to any method attempted in the miniature way. He makes these in profiles, whole-lengths, and groups, likewise bracelet size, and repairs such as have met with accidents. N.B.—Mandarine figures repaired; being the only person in these kingdoms who first attempted copying them, and who alone knows their texture."

This was followed by a further advertisement: "Mr. Percy is now in town, and will take likenesses in coloured wax at one guinea and a half. His pictures are executed on a much smaller scale than any hitherto practised, and protected from accidents in a manner quite new. Dead wax likenesses done, bracelet size, after the manner of the Roman coins, at only one guinea each, and are quite the style in France and Italy. To be seen at 1 Capel Street or No. 4 Exchange Street" ("Saunders' Newsletter," April, 1780).

His stay in Dublin appears to have been short; but he was back again in the following August, as appears from another announcement: "Likenesses in coloured wax. Mr. Percy being now arrived requests such of the nobility and gentry as mean employing him will be so obliging as to leave their commands at No. 46 Dame Street. From the extreme shortness of his stay (being only one week) he is obliged to take this method of acquainting his friends. His likenesses are engaged striking, and prices amazingly moderate. Profiles, figures and groups executed in the most fanciful manner. Masks taken from the dead face on the shortest notice, and likenesses finished from them" ("Saunders' Newsletter," August 2nd, 1780). These advertisements show the kind of work he was doing. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1786, 1803 and 1804; among his contributions were portraits in wax of Fox, Pitt, Lord Stanhope and members of the Royal Family. Percy was a prolific worker; his portraits were in high relief, finely modelled and full of force, coloured to resemble life, and generally full face and not in profile. He was, at his best, one of the ablest exponents of wax modelling in England. The "Annals of the Fine Arts," in announcing his death, refers to him as "well known for his exquisite models in miniature size." Sir Walter Gilbey possesses some coloured portraits in relief by him; the portraits of Fox and Pitt belonged to Mr. J. L. Propert in 1887, and over a hundred examples of his work were dispersed at the Alton Towers sale in 1857. A miniature bust of "Richard Reynolds of Bristol," was engraved by H. Meyer for the "European Magazine," May, 1817.

Percy died suddenly of apoplexy in 1820.

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