Saturday 4 November 2017

Update - Sir Thomas Bodley Monument Merton College Chapel, Oxford


This page forms part of an ongoing project suggested by Dana Josephson to update the researches of Mrs Rachel Poole and most recently by Kenneth Garlick into the portrait sculpture of the 17th and 18th Centuries at the Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera and Christchurch College. This will also include a survey of other portrait sculpture in Oxford including the 24 plaster busts by John Cheere and the Roubiliac bust of Archbishop Chichele in the Codrington Library at All Souls College, and the sculpture at St John's College.

The Monument to Sir Thomas Bodley.
Fellow of Merton College.

Founder of the Bodleian Library (formerly Oxford University Library).
The Thomas Bodley Mural Monument is in Merton College Chapel, Oxford.

He is surrounded by his books and 4 reliefs and three statues of the Seven Liberal Arts.
The reliefs of Music Arithmetic Grammar and Rhetoric

by Nicholas Stone (1586 - 1647).

Erected in May 1615.

Sir Thomas Bodley died 28 January 1613.

He was buried in Merton College Chapel with much ceremony 29 March 1613.

For an interesting and informative essay on the Iconography of this monument see -
'The Monument to Sir Thomas Bodley in Merton College Chapel' by Jean Wilson in Church Monuments 8, 1993.

I have already posted some preliminary photographs of the Bodley monument on this blog - I have recently visited Oxford to take further photographs of this and other monuments in Merton College, Magdalen College and Christ Church College Chapels.

see - The Notebook and Account Book of Nicholas Stone -Walter Lewis Spiers
Walpole Society Journal, VII - 1918/19

This link is to a very useful and easily searchable study of the life of Nicholas Stone.
Extracts below -


I include these notes in order to put the relationship between Isaac James and Nicholas Stone and of these two portrait busts of Sir Thomas Bodley into some sort of context.

Isaac James (Harrer) (d. c.1625) (originally had come to England from Brabant, in the Low Countries) described in documents as Tomb maker, was the master of Nicholas Stone, who was probably introduced to the Dutch sculptor Hendryk de Keyser on his visit to London in 1605/6.

Isaac James had been apprenticed to Richard Stevens (1541? - 1592) who arrived in England in 1567 as a Protestant refugee, Stevens settled in Southwark in the parish of St Olave in 1568 - outside the jurisdiction of the London Guild of the Masons Company.

It must be stated that there are other candidates for the Bodleian Library bust of Sir Thomas Bodley. It might easily have been from workshop of Cornelius Cure (d.1607) and his son William.

In the page above Stone mentions in 1615 " I mad Isak James a partner with me in cortisay be case he was my master three years that was two years of my prentes and on year journiman"

It is my contention that Isaac James was possibly the sculptor of the so far anonymous bust of Thomas Bodley put up in the Bodleian Library in 1605.

Nicholas Stone was apprenticed to Isaac James (of Dutch descent) before going to Holland with de Keyser.

This page shows that in November 1615 Nicholas Stone was working with Nicholas Janson (Johnson) fl. 1594 d. 1624 son of the sculptor Garret Janson - various spellings)  (c.1567 - d 1611). One of several Tomb sculptors of the same name and family - it would appear that co operation and working relationships between sculptors of the period was quite common.

see also - Jean Wilson, in Church Monuments VIII, 1993. p. 57 - 62.

This photograph from

The following photographs taken by the author

An original preparatory drawing for the Monument to Sir Thomas Bodley
Nicholas Stone.

MS. Ashmole 1137 fol.143r, Bodleian Library.

Photograph kindly provided by Dana Josephson.


Sir Thomas Bodley
Painted Plaster

68 x 60 x 24 cms

Merton College, University of Oxford.

Image courtesy Art UK.

added to this blog 6 July 2019

see Bodleian plaster bust below.


Sir Thomas Bodley.

Polychrome Plaster.

Bodleian Library.

Plaster replica of the bust of Sir Thomas Bodley in the niche in the Bodleian Library put up in 1605 by  Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon.
Possibly mid 18th century by John Cheere.


For a very interesting article on leather jerkins as seen on this bust see -

Photograph below from the Museum of London Blog

Related image


Mrs Poole says this bust was once painted green ( possibly to represent bronze). The socle is typically early/ mid 18th century

This bust is currently in store at the Weston Library, Oxford and has not been inspected - I very much hope to have the opportunity to see and photograph it in the near future.

It is my opinion that the original of this bust could not have been carved by Nicholas Stone.

Stone would have been aged about 19. A comparison with the bust by Nicholas Stone on the monument (which to my eye is fairly wooden) would suggest that the Bodleian Library bust is the product of a more competent and perhaps more mature sculptor(see my next post ....).


Monument of Sir Henry Savile (1586 - 1622).
put up by his wife Lady Margaret Savile
Merton College Chapel, Oxford.
attributed here to Nicholas Stone

Henry Savile (1549-1622) was a student at Brasenose 1561-1565, then a Fellow of Merton from 1565. He gave free lectures on geometry from 1570. He was Warden of Merton from 1585 and Greek tutor to Elizabeth I. In 1596 he also became Provost of Eton. Knighted in 1604. He built the Fellows' Quadrangle at Merton in 1608. He worked on the translation of the Authorized (ie King James) Version of the Bible. In 1619, he founded the Savilian Chairs. He helped Thomas Bodley found the Bodleian Library. He died and is buried at Eton.

In the antechapel, near the entrance, is the monument to Sir Henry Savile, who founded the Savilian Professorships of Geometry and Astronomy. This scholar was a Fellow of Merton College at the age of sixteen. He lectured in mathematics and was Warden of the college for thirty-seven years. He also helped Sir Thomas Bodley found his library.

The Painted marble wall-monument has a portrait bust of Sir Henry in a niche in the middle flanked by standing figures of St. John Chrysostom, Ptolemy, Euclid and Tacitus, Doric side-columns supporting an entablature and curved pediment with cherubs and a figure of Fame, achievement and two painted shields-of-arms. On the base are two paintings of Merton College and Eton.

The photographs of the Savile monument (below) also taken by the author included here for convenience and to show another possible example of the work of Nicholas Stone.

Merton College Chapel  - By the seventeenth century the Chapel was in need of refurbishment; the South Transept roof collapsed in 1655, smashing many of the medieval monuments below. 

Christopher Wren was employed in 1671 to fit up the interior with a new screen (costing £1,130) and stalls in the classical style. The medieval bells were also recast.

For a detailed look at the chapel see -

Sir Henry Savile.
Marcus Gheeraerts (1561 - 1636).

218 x 130 cms.
Oil on Canvas.
Bodleian Library.


Monument to Lady Margaret Savile.
St Nicholas Church.
Hurst, Berkshire.

She is in the centre, facing her third and most distinguished husband, Sir Henry Savile, Mathematician, Astronomer, Historian of Science, Translator.

Photographs from


  1. David, the oil painting of Savile that you reproduce is not the one in the Bodleian (LP 79), which is full-length.

  2. Indeed - It is the Portrait at Merton College