Nymph Untying Her Sandal. John Gibson, RA 1790-l866. 1824-30. Plaster. Sculpture shelf on the Sackler Wing Landing, Royal Academy, London. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

This sculpture is also known as Nymph at the Bath, or simply Nymph. Gibson himself described it as a portrayal of "A nymph sitting, and whilst arranging her sandal, her attention is drawn off, which gives a momentary suspense to her occupation. Her form is slender and very youthful" (qtd. in "John Gibson"). Writing in the early 1860s, the influential critic Francis Turner Palgrave was not impressed, listing it among works which he considered emptily pretty (see Read 19). One of the works of which Palgrave did approve was by Thomas Woolner. Compare Gibson's Nymph to Woolner's The Lord's Prayer, for example. Does Gibson's nymph look a little vacuous, a little too "suspended" from reality beside Woolner's group? Or does she exhibit grace, poise and dignity in the midst of a simple daily task? Is such a comparison fair? Palgrave wrote forthrightly, "There is but one standard for Sculpture, — the look of the real thing" (qtd. in Read 19). Clearly, there was a change in the offing, one that would produce the New Sculpture of the later Victorian period.

Other Images of This Work and Related Material

Photographs and text Jacqueline Banerjee, 2010. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one]


"John Gibson, RA, 1790-1866" (Royal Academy Collections site). Web. Viewed 27 July 2010.

Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven & London: Yale, 1982.

Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven & London: Yale, 1982.

Last modified 7 May 2017