William Stephen Mossop, Medallist

(b. 1788, 1827)


From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

William Stephen Mossop, R.H.A. Picture; in possession of Miss Rose Mossop.

Son of William Mossop (q.v.), was born in Dublin in 1788 and baptized on the 22nd May at St. John's church. He was educated at Whyte's Academy in Grafton Street, and in 1802 entered the Dublin Society's Schools where he studied under Francis West (q.v.). Not satisfied with his progress he placed himself as a private pupil with West, but at his father's death in 1805 he was obliged to take up the business and to commence the practice of his future profession as a medallist and seal engraver. His first work was a medal for the Society for promoting Charter Schools in Ireland, which had been begun a short time before his father's death, before he was seventeen. His next was a medal for the Farming Society, commenced in 1806, his first signed work. In 1810 he designed and struck a large medal to commemorate the fiftieth year of the reign of George III. In the same year he visited London, but his stay was short, as he was, as he himself records, so bewildered by the number of objects that surrounded him that he did not derive all the advantages that he might have done. In 1810, also, he made his first appearance as an exhibitor, sending to the Artists' Exhibition in Hawkins Street an "Impression of a medal for the Cork Institute." He continued to exhibit until 1821, showing impressions of medals and seals, wax models, cameos, and, in 1812, two miniatures. In 1813 he obtained a premium from the Society of Arts in London for a die for a school medal. This was afterwards purchased by the Feinaglian Institute and used as a prize medal. He obtained another premium in 1814 for a Head of Vulcan.

In 1816 he designed and executed a medallic portrait of Daniel O'Connell, the first issued medal of the Liberator. About 1820 he commenced a projected series of forty medals of distinguished Irishmen. He undertook this work with ardour and completed one medal, that of Henry Grattan. He designed five others and had almost finished the dies for four of them, viz.: Ussher, Charlemont, Swift and Sheridan, when, finding that his labours were unappreciated and no sale was likely to be found for his work, chagrined and disappointed he abandoned the project in despair. The Grattan medal was copied by Galle in Paris for Tom Moore, and fifty impressions were struck. Dr. Frazer, in the Journal of the Royal Historical and Antiquarian Society of Ireland, 1887, comments on Moore's "conceited ignorance and blundering stupidity" in appropriating the creation of an Irish artist and paying a French artist for aiding him in this act of plunder, whilst an Irish genius who made the work was starving for want of proper recognition. He also did a medal with portrait of G. Walker for the 'Prentice Boys of Derry Club. To commemorate the visit of George IV to Ireland in 1821 he published a finely executed medal, which for a time had a good sale. On the foundation of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1823, Mossop was one of the original members and was appointed Secretary, and at its first exhibition in 1826 he contributed six wax models. This was, however, the only time he exhibited. He cut the punches for the Dublin Goldsmiths' Company for 1804 to 1825.

The disappointments he had suffered and the intense application with which he devoted himself to his work undermined his health; his intellect became impaired, and he was gradually reduced to a state of mental imbecility which necessitated his removal to the Richmond Asylum. There, after a few months, he died of apoplexy on the 11th of August, 1827, in the 39th year of his age. He was buried on the 13th of the month at St. Andrew's church. Thomas J. Mulvany, R.H.A., in a letter to his son William, dated August 13th, 1827, writes: "I attended the funeral of my poor friend Mossop this morning; he died on Saturday last of apoplexy. I went to the Hospital (The Richmond Lunatic Asylum) where he had been for some months past, and had a mask taken; I have not recovered the depression of mind which I experienced on seeing the remains of my talented friend stretched on a straw bed and locked up in one of the cells, with no mother, wife or child to be at the bed of death, but left as a very outcast attended by the menials of the establishment."

Mossop resided most of his life at 144 Mecklenburgh Street. By his wife Elizabeth Meara, whom he married in 1813, he left three sons. He was survived by his mother, Letitia, who had always lived with him and died at the age of about 90 in 1840.

In his short account of himself (see Gilbert's "History of Dublin," II, 128), Mossop deplores his lack of early training in drawing, and his inadequate equipment for the practice of his art when he commenced his profession at the age of 16. Nevertheless he attained a perfect mastery in his art, gained by unswerving application and a knowledge and perception of form and grace which give his medals a distinction and effect in their design and execution which mark them as the work of a true artist. Like his father he made preparatory models in wax, and also used small models three or four inches high, on which he arranged the draperies. The fabric he used was fine cambric, which he steeped in starch and water, and so was enabled to arrange the most varied and intricate foldings. Many of his dies, as well as some valuable designs in plaster of Paris, were purchased after his death by John Woodhouse (q.v.).


Medal of the Incorporated Society for Promoting Charter Schools in Ireland, 1804.

Medals of the Farming Society of Ireland; the first struck in 1806, another in 1812, and a third, an oval, about 1815.

Medal to commemorate the 50th year of the reign of George III, 1809.

Medal of the Kildare Farming Society, 1813. This medal was often re-worked for similar associations, and, after Mossop's death, by Jones (q.v.).

Centenary Medal of the House of Hanover, 1814. Heads of George I, II and III. The obverse die is in the R.I.A. collection; reverse die in National Museum.

Feinaglian Institution Medal. Obtained the premium of the Society of Arts in 1813. Purchased by the Feinaglian Institution and the reverse engraved with its title in 1816.

Feinaglian Institution Medal, smaller size; used as an ordinary school medal; obverse die in National Museum.

Feinaglian Institution Medal, with different reverse.

Head of Vulcan, 1814; gained the premium of the Society of Arts. Not published. A lead impression is in R.I.A. collection.

Daniel O'Connell, 1816. Undertaken as a speculation, but totally failed, although a good likeness. The first medallic portrait struck of O'Connell.

Orange Association Medal; large size, 1817; made to replace the die made by his father, which was destroyed by rust.

Orange Association Medal, small size, 1817.

Cork Institution Medal, 1807. Impression from the die was exhibited at the Society of Artists, Dublin, in 1810.

Sir Charles Giesecke, 1818. His head in wax, in R.H.A., 1826.

Medal of the 77th Regiment, 1818.

Medal of the Rifle Brigade.

Order of Merit, 22nd Regiment.

Medal of Colonel Richard Wogan Talbot, 1820. The dies are in the R.I.A. collection.

Medal of Henry Grattan; 1821. See page 139.

Medal of Archbishop Ussher. One of the projected series of distinguished Irishmen. See page 139. Unpublished.

Medal of Dean Swift. Another of the projected series. Unpublished.

Medal of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Unpublished. The dies for these last three medals are in the National Museum.

The Derry Medal, with portrait of George Walker. This is the medal worn by the members of "The Prentice Boys of Derry Club," which meets annually in Dublin on 7th December. The portrait of Walker was taken from the picture by Kneller, presented to the Club by John Boyd of Ballymacosh, Co. Donegal, which now hangs in the Orange Hall, Rutland Square.

Visit of George IV to Ireland, 1821. Head copied from a bust by Nollekens.

Medal presented by Thomas Ryder Pepper to George IV, made from copper from his mine at Tigroney, Co. Wicklow.

Medal for the Institution of General Education.

Duke of Wellington. Large unfinished medal; die in National Museum.

Duke of Wellington. Medallet made for West, goldsmith, Skinner Row.

North-West of Ireland Society about 1822.


Chamber of Commerce, Waterford. The wax model is in the National Museum, Kildare Street.

Cork Institution or School of Art, 1807.

County of Sligo Infirmary, 1813.

Irish Medical Office.

Waterford Harbour Commissioners.

Derry Corporation.

Strabane Corporation.

77th Regiment. Similar to the medal.

Richmond Lunatic Asylum.

Officer Commanding Royal Artillery in Ireland.

Bishop of Ardagh.

Mossop designed and partly executed the silver trowel used by Francis Johnston in laying the first stone of the Royal Hibernian Academy House in Abbey Street. It was finished by W. W. Tear, and presented to Johnston by the members of the Academy in 1828, and was exhibited at the Academy the same year. The wax model was exhibited in 1826. The trowel now belongs to Colonel Johnston, Kilmore, Richhill, Co. Armagh. A head of F. Johnston, in wax, was in the R.H.A. in 1826.

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