Sir George Lewis – where is he?

Can you help us track down Sir George Lewis.  He’s been reported missing. 

A recent enquiry into our website asked if we knew of his whereabouts.  It came from Steve Parlanti whose ancestors owned Parlanti Bronze Foundries in London.  Steve has been busy piecing together the history of the foundry and tracking down the bronze casts that were made there.  He’s put his findings together on an interesting website.

Of the many pieces of art made by Parlanti foundries, three are here in Cardiff, all close to each other.  There are:

Boer War memorial by Cardiff City Hall.  In his book of 1953, ‘Casting A Torso In Bronze’, Ercole J Parlanti wrote about the direct lost wax method, and mentioned how it was used for the casting in bronze of a small tree fixed in the hand of a Figure of Victory, part of the Cardiff War memorial. A real tree was used in this case, the brick-dust mixture applied to it, the wood burned out in the baking, and the molten metal run in its place. The casting was successful.

The Scott memorial plaque is in the City Hall. This was designed by a young sculptor W.W.Wagstaffe.  The tablet had a troubled creation. Cardiff donated generously towards Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic but it seems were far less generous when it came to establishing a Memorial Fund to him.  Wagstaffe claimed the tablet ended up costing him more to have made than he was paid. Delivery of the tablet was also delayed because the foundry had been ordered to temporarily suspend all artistic work for the production of vital munitions.

Morpheus by the sculptor William Goscombe John made in 1890 in the National Museum of Wales. This figure was modelled in Paris during the studentship which followed the sculptor’s winning of the Royal Academy Gold Medal of 1889. Goscombe John frequented Rodin’s studio and the pose of this figure recalls Rodin’s Age of Bronze.  At the Royal Academy in 1891 it was exhibited with the poetic caption ‘Drown’d in drowsy sleep of nothing he takes keep’.  When I tried to visit Morpheus at the museum recently I was told he’d been removed because of Covid. Here’s wishing him a speedy recovery.

Parlanti castings in Cardiff: Boer War memorial, the Scott memorial plaque and Morpheus.

What we are looking for is a fourth casting.  In the West London Observer of  31 Aug 1900 there is a list of pieces made at the Alexander Parlanti foundry including “Sir George Lewis for Cardiff”.  Given the dates the foundry existed it is believed this must have been referring to a cast made some time between 1890 and 1900.

A quick internet search throws up two people called Sir George Lewis of notoriety.

Sir George Cornewall Lewis (1806-1863). He was born in Radnorshire and later became MP for Herefordshire and held senior positions in government including Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer.  He is best known for preserving neutrality in 1862 when the British cabinet debated intervention in the American Civil War.  He is remembered in New Radnor with a striking stone monument erected in 1864.  Sir George Lewis is also remembered in Hereford with a statue which was unveiled also in 1864 some 35 years prior to the one referred to in the newspaper article so not the one we are looking for.  There is also a bust of him by Henry Weekes in Westminster Abbey.

Sir George Cornewall Lewis, the New Radnor monument and statue in Hereford.

The other Sir George Lewis (1833-1911) was a lawyer from London.  On the face of it he has no obvious association with Cardiff.  It would also be relatively unusual for a statue to be commissioned of someone still alive though one of Cardiff’s statues bucks that trend.

So where is the missing statue of Sir George Lewis?  Can you help find him please.

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