“Enriqueta Rylands” by John Cassidy
Enriqueta Rylands

Enriqueta Rylands (1843-1908), by John Cassidy (1860-1939). Unveiled 1907. Marble. The life-size figure of Mrs Rylands faces that of her husband across the long, nave-like Reading Room of the John Rylands Library, Manchester, which she founded and built as a memorial to him and to house his priceless collection of theological books. She looks more formidable than her husband, and was evidently a striking woman of great character. Her background was unusual and in some ways exotic: she had been born in Havana. the daughter of a partner in a Liverpool trading firm, who died when she was still small. Her mother remarried, and her new step-father was Polish, a pianist and a friend of Chopin's. Enriqueta herself was educated in New York, and attended finishing schools in London and Paris (see Farnie), before marrying the twice-widowed John Rylands in her early 30s. Her new husband was already 74 by then. Despite the great difference in their ages and backgrounds, the two were apparently similar in their ideas, especially in their philanthropic leanings. In her elaborately lace-trimmed robes, in the way she holds her head here, and indeed in her whole stance, Cassidy's Enriqueta looks every inch the wealthy dowager. Yet, despite its firmer set, her expression has something of the same thoughtful, benevolent cast as her husband's. Mrs Rylands had chosen "the relatively young and inexperienced" Cassidy (Wyke 68) for sculptural work in the library against the advice of Basil Champneys, her architect here (see Archer 101), but Cassidy has aquitted himself well in this instance — more so, perhaps, than in his allegorical group in the entrance hall.

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Archer, John H. G. "John Rylands Library," In Manchester,” by Clare Hartwell. Pevsner Architectural Guides. London: Penguin, 2001. 96-101. Print.

Farnie, D. A. "Rylands, John (1801-1888)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 10 August 2012.

Wyke, Terry, with Harry Cocks. Sculpture of Greater Manchester. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2004. Print.

Last modified 10 August 2012