‘Sir John Moore & the Angel’: Artist Nicholas Goulden’s Response to the Monument to Lieutenant General Sir John Moore (1761–1809) by John Bacon the Younger, 1815
About the Artwork
Nicholas Goulden gives some background to his artwork in the video, below.
Hello, my name’s Nicholas Goulden and I’m a 24-year-old artist and model living in south-east London. As part of the 50 Voices project, my assigned monument was that of British Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore.
His statue within the cathedral displays him as being lowered into a tomb by an angel and a man who represents Courage, after he’s fallen in battle. And it wasn’t until I started this project that I realised, growing up, I’d never really seen any black angels as, typically, they aren’t a commonality in western classical painting. And when studying a bit about Sir John Moore’s past, and his colonial past, I thought about the irony of being consoled or guided into the afterlife by a Black angel, due to the plight of Black people during this era, and maybe some of his involvement.
However, I didn’t want this piece to judge Sir John Moore: but at the same time, I didn’t want the previous visual notion to absolve him of his potential sins. So, with that in mind, I wanted to portray and contrast the context of him being adorned in a Christian institution and his noble imagery with something that shows human touch and portrays the possible weight of his actions: that being the arms grasping his legs and coat, contrasted with the gentle touch of the angel.
About Nicholas Goulden
Nicholas Goulden is a 24-year-old 3D designer and multidisciplinary artist, specializing primarily in analog and digital mediums of expression and collaboration. He is also an international model.
In 2020, his work Blue Boy was shown at Tate Britain.
About the Monument
Lieutenant General Sir John Moore (1761–1809) was a Scot who joined the British army at the age of 14. He served in the American War of Independence and Ireland and was the officer responsible for the defence of the English south coast, in preparation against the threat of a Napoleonic invasion. In 1808, he took over the command of the British forces in the Peninsular campaign and he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Corunna on 16 January 1809.
There was and still is debate about Moore’s leadership and indeed the outcome of the battle. Even so, his death and burial at A Coruña caught the public imagination and were commemorated in paintings and engravings, as well as the poem ‘The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna‘ by Charles Wolfe.
John Bacon the Younger’s memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral also alludes to his simple burial next to the battle ground, showing his body being lowered into the ground without a coffin, by a brawny Courage and a female angel. A cherub looks on, holding a military standard, whilst the shield of the Kingdom of Castile indicates the location of the scene.