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Art in Eighteenth-Century Rome


John Deare
Liverpool 1759–1798 Rome

Diana and Endymion

pencil and charcoal on paper
10 3/8 x 14 1/4 inches
265 x 362 mm



Private Collection, Florence, until 2022
Private Collection, United States

This exquisite depiction in pencil and charcoal of the Roman goddess Diana with the sleeping object of her love, the beautiful Endymion, is a characteristic work by the British Neoclassical sculptor John Deare. It is drawn and shaded in such a way as to suggest the three dimensionality of a relief sculpture, the artform in which Deare excelled. It may have been intended to woo a prospective client or as a model for his atelier to follow.

John Deare produced similar trompe l’oeil drawings such as Venus Caressing Cupid Holding a Butterfly, preparatory for a marble in the Cliffe Castle Museum as well as more sober, linear designs of which there is an important collection in the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston (PRSMG: P127).

John Deare, Explosion from Paradise, pencil and watercolor on paper pasted on card, 18.7 x 18.7 cm, Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston

John Deare was, together with his friend and contemporary John Flaxman (1755–1826), one of the greatest British Neoclassical sculptors but his career was cut short by his untimely death in 1798. Having enrolled in the Royal Academy in 1777 he was awarded a pension to study in Rome in 1785. He remained there for the rest of his life, marrying a Roman woman, producing sculptures for a largely British clientele, taking over a gap left by Francis Harwood (see cat. 21) who had died in 1783.

Deare made copies after the antique, such as the Bust of Ariadne in the Capitoline Museum, and the Faun with a Kid (Museo del Prado, E000029), for which there was a great demand from Grand Tourists. He also sculpted original compositions sometimes with classical subject matter such as the Judgment of Jupiter (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.79.37) produced in both plaster for the Royal Academy and in marble for Sir Richard Worsley in 1788 and sometimes with English historical themes such as Edward and Eleanor exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1788, but even then, in a classicizing mode. His ability to carve reliefs of such remarkable refinement lent itself to the production of decorative plaques, often incorporated into fireplaces such as that for Frogmore House commissioned by the Prince of Wales. In addition to his activity as a sculptor, Deare also acted as agent for collectors of the stature of Thomas Hope and the Earl of Bristol, buying for them works by Flaxman and Canova.

The success of John Deare in Rome as a purveyor of Neoclassical objects for British collectors was fueled by Grand Tourists who complemented their purchase of antique classical artefacts with contemporary sculptures in the same vein or modern copies of originals in celebrated Roman collections. Deare’s reputation suffered as a result of his short career, but his importance has recently been reevaluated as the J. Paul Getty Museum (98.SA.4), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Art Institute of Chicago (2001.48) have all acquired important examples by the artist.

This drawing is dated by Tiziano Casola, author of the forthcoming monograph on the artist, to ca. 1787 based on comparisons to Mercury Stealing Apollo’s Cattle in the British Museum (1973,0414.10), and a Cupid and Psyche in a private collection.❖

John Deare, Venus Reclining on a Sea Monster with Cupid and a Putto, 1787/1788–90, marble, 13 ¼ x 23 x 4 7/16 inches (33.7 x 58.4 x 11.2 cm), J. Paul Getty Museum, 98.SA.4
John Deare, Study of two nude youths for a relief of ‘Mercury stealing Apollo’s cattle’, ca. 1774–1788, pen and brown ink, 187 x 128 mm, The British Museum, 1973,0414.10
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