Bust of a Man / Harwood
Bust of a Man
Francis Harwood
English, Florence, Italy, 1758
Black stone (pietra da paragone) on a yellow Siena marble socle
H: 27 1/2 x W: 19 3/4 x D: 10 1/2 in.
Questions for Teaching

• How would you describe this man's character? What clues does the artist use to tell us about his personality? (Strong, proud, dignified. The position of his head above his chest, his musculature, and his unguarded expression lead to this interpretation.)

• What elements in the man's face and body lead us to believe that this is a portrait of a particular individual rather than a generalized portrayal of an historical or mythological figure? (The unusual use of colored stone. The natural, realistic features: eyes, small scar on his forhead, and small ears.)

• How does Harwood emphasize the sitter's strength in this portrait? How does the artist focus your attention on the man's musculature? (The artist cuts the bust directly under the man's pectoral muscles, which draws attention to his broad, strong chest.)

• The artist chose a black stone for this bust, rather than the traditional white marble. How would the impact of this portrait be different if it were sculpted in white marble? (It would be less striking, the light would not reflect off the surface as well, and it might look more like a timeless figure from mythology than a contemporary sitter.)

• This portrait is different from other depictions of Africans made at this time. It is not a stereotypical depiction of a minority as would have been found in other European works of sculpture and painting. How does this portrait reflect changing views of Africans in the 18th century? (It shows that minorities were gaining more respect as individuals in Eurocentric society. Society was beginning to view them as equals rather than exotic possessions.)

Background Information

With noble bearing, this man proudly holds his chin high above his powerful chest. The sculptor, Francis Harwood, chose a black stone to reproduce the sitter's skin tone. The surface of the sculpture reflects light, which emphasizes the shape and form of the figure. Harwood also chose an antique format for the bust, terminating the nude chest in a wide arc below the man's pectoral muscles. This format emphasizes the strong, muscular physique. Harwood may have deliberately used this elegant, rounded termination, which includes the entire, unclothed chest and shoulders, to evoke associations with ancient busts of emperors.

Harwood was familiar with antique sculptures from time spent in Florence reproducing and copying them. This bust is unique among his works in that it appears to be a portrait of a contemporary sitter. It is also of great historical importance, being one of the earliest known sculpted representations of an African individual in western European art since antiquity. Although the identity of the sitter is unknown, the robust musculature and particularized features—seen in the bags under the eyes, the small ears, dignified expression, and scar on his forehead—suggest that this is a portrait of a specific individual. These characteristics distinguish Harwood's sculpture from the decorative and generalized busts of Africans in exotic costumes, which were more commonly produced in the 18th and 19th centuries.

About the Artist
Francis Harwood, Active 1748–1783

Nothing is known of Francis Harwood's birth or training. His first recorded work, a bust of Faustina at Castle Ashby, England, is dated 1748. Later establishing himself in Florence, Harwood became one of the major providers of sculpture for English aristocrats visiting Florence on the Grand Tour—a journey through Italy to visit and study ancient Roman sites. Most of his known work consists of copies after antique sculptures; his own compositions were also created in a classicizing style. He also produced decorative sculptures, such as vases in colored marbles. One sign that his work was appreciated in Italy was that in 1758 he was commissioned to execute sculptures for a monumental arch in Florence.