"Religion Consoling Justice," Memorial for Sir John Bernard Bosanquet at Dingestow Church, Monmouthshire, by Joseph Edwards (1814-1882)

Many thanks to Philip Halling, who originally posted a photograph of this memorial on the Geograph Project. Very slightly modified for use on our website, it is reused here under the terms of the Creative Commons License. The portrait of Sir John Bernard Bosanquet is reused under the same license. Many thanks again. Scanned images of the memorial, captions, commentary and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images too without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Left: Memorial to Sir John Bernard Bosanquet (1773-1847) in Dingestow Church, Monmouth, Gwent, Wales. Right: Steel engraving of the memorial from "Religion," the Art-Journal, 2 (1856): following 188, by R. A. Artlett.

Religion Consoling Justice. This moving memorial in Dingestow Church commemorates Sir John Bosanquet, a judge renowned for his theological scholarship, who died in London but whose family seat was at nearby Dingestow Court. Sculpted by Joseph Edwards (1814-1882) in 1856 (see Allen), from "the finest Italian marble," this is the work that prompted the Art-Journal to proclaim that the young sculptor possessed "talents of no common order." It quoted Edwards as saying that he wished to show the allegorical figures of Religion and Justice "as the twin daughters, so to speak, of Wisdom and High Feeling" — and that Justice was "in my view of the subject, less imbued, perhaps, by faith than her sister," and felt "deep grief" because of the "stern necessity" of always having to battle iniquity (188). Hence the scene in which Religion, her eyes turned upwards towards heaven, comforts the distressed Justice. The engraving gives more detail but something of the upward gaze is lost, and perhaps the very crispness of the detail detracts from the warmth of the memorial.

Close-up of the top part, showing more detail.

It is no surprise that Edwards was selected for this work: he won an important commission in South Wales as early as 1839, when he executed a monument to the 6th Duke of Beaufort, designed by T. H. Wyatt. The Beauforts' country seat was at Troy House near Monmouth, and Edwards had done several more pieces for them. He also undertook commissions for other important South Wales families, and has monuments and memorials in various other Welsh churches (see Allen and Ellis).

Sir John himself was an eminent judge, having been made "standing counsel" to the East India Company in 1814, and then to the Bank of England in 1819 (Barker and Mooney). The Art-Journal critic wrote that Edwards' memorial to him "exhibits a profoundly religious sentiment, expressed with much poetic feeling, while the whole is treated in a truly skilful and artistic manner" (188).

Tastes change. A more recent commentator describes the work quite respectfully as an "ambitious standing wall monument set under a Gothic arch" (Newman 212), but sees Edwards as somewhat old-fashioned, still "purveying grief-racked groups" into the mid-century, and showing, in this group, "a life-size mourner slumped in the lap of Faith" (43). Perhaps it helps to understand Edwards' allegorical meaning here, and to know that the "slumped" figure is Justice, and that her grief is more than a personal one.

Sir John Bernard Bosanquet (1773-1847) © National Portrait Gallery (reference NPG D10593).


Allen, Sylvia. "Details of Sculptor: Edwards, Joseph." A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain, 1660-1851 (The Henry Moore Foundation). Web. 2 January 2014.

Barker, G. F. R., rev. Hugh Mooney. "Bosanquet, Sir John Bernard (1773–1847)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 2 January 2014.

Ellis, Megan. "Edwards, Joseph." Welsh Biography Online (National Library of Wales). Web. 2 January 2014.

Newman, John. Gwent/Monmouthsire. Buildings of Wales series. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002. Print.

"Religion Consoling Justice: From the Monument by J. Edwards." The Art-Journal, London. Vol. 2 (1856). Google Books. Free E-book. Web. 2 January 2014.

2 January 2014