Anne Seymour Damer display at Strawberry Hill House

October 19 2021

Image of Anne Seymour Damer display at Strawberry Hill House

Picture: Stawberry Hill House

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Strawberry Hill House, the former home of Horace Walpole, has installed a new display dedicated to the artist Anne Seymour Damer (1748-1828). The display will include a recently rediscovered bust of a Niobid and John Downman's portrait of Damer loaned from a private collection (pictured).

According to their website:

The central object in the new display is Damer’s marble bust of her mother, Caroline Campbell, Lady Ailesbury, probably made in the late 1780s. The bust – today owned by a private collector, was until recently on display in New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Campbell’s serene and composed expression evoke the ideals of ancient sculpture, a connection further echoed by Damer’s dual signatures in Latin and Greek. On the reverse, is a personal dedication of the work to her ‘friend and mother’. Damer kept this bust throughout her life and carved another version in Portland stone for her mother’s tomb in Saint Mary’s Church, Sundridge, Kent, where Damer herself is buried. 

A second marble bust, a Niobid, which was until recently thought to be lost, can be seen at Strawberry Hill for the very first time. In Greek mythology, Niobid was one of Niobe’s daughters, who were slain by Apollo and Artemis after Niobe boasted of having more children than their mother, the goddess Leto. In his Book of Visitors, Walpole reported this was the first marble bust ever sculpted by Damer: “Bust of Niobe in marble. Her first attempt”, which is confirmed by the inscription on the back of the bust, ‘Opus Primum’, first work. 


As part of the In Focus display, there is a chance to see a rare portrait of Anne as a sculptress, by John Downman (1750-1824). In his drawing, on loan from a private collection, we see her working on a bust of the Polish Prince Lubomirski, as the young Bacchus (the bust is today held at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford). Downman’s portrait, dated 1793, represents Anne at the age of 43 and is the most detailed representation of her while at work.

The display will last until 3rd January 2022.

Update - A reader has been in touch with the following information about the origins of the Niobid:

Sorry to be a pedantic pain but Niobid is not the name of a daughter of Niobe. A niobid is a common noun referring to any and all of the children of Niobe. According to the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, pp. 131-2 she had six sons as well as six daughters and all twelve were killed by Artemis/Diana and Apollo her brother in revenge for Niobe’s hubris in taunting their mother Leto for having had fewer children than herself.  The subject gets quite complicated. The Wikipedia page on the Niobids lists their names and all the variations.

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