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Figure of a Mourning Woman: M.1-1969

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Figure of a Mourning Woman
(Study for the monument to Nicholas Rowe (1676-1718) in Westminster Abbey)


Sculptor: Rysbrack, John Michael




Figure. Terracotta.


History note: Cyril Humphris. Christie's, 18 June 1968, Important Medieval and Renaissance Works of Art, p. 16, lot 56.

Legal notes

Purchased with the Cunliffe Fund, with contributions from the National Art Collections Fund, the Pilgrim Trust, Dr E.M. Forster through the Friends of the Fitzwilliam, and grant-in-aid from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Measurements and weight

Height: 44.5 cm
Width: 35.5 cm

Place(s) associated

  • London ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bought (1969-05-01) by Christie's


18th Century, second quarter#
George II
Production date: AD 1740 : Signed and dated 1740


Leaning heavily on her elbow, head on her hand, eyes downcast and clutching a handkerchief to her face, the female figure speaks of the universal feelings of pain and grief at the death of a loved one. Figures of this kind were commonly used as mourning motifs in sculpture throughout the 18th century. However, the final version of Rowe’s monument depicts an older woman with less idealised features, presumably those of Rowe’s widow, Anne Devenish. The last lines on the monument seem to invite us personalise the woman’s sorrow, ‘To these, so mourn'd in Death, so lov'd in Life! / The childless Parent & the widow'd wife, / With tears inscribes this monument Stone, / That holds their Ashes & expects her own.’

This terracotta is a study for the mourning figure in the marble monument to Nicholas Rowe (1674–1718) in Westminster Abbey. Rowe was a highly regarded playwright and poet, who published the first critical edition of Shakespeare in 1709–10, and was appointed Poet Laureate in 1714, four years before his untimely death in 1718. The monument was commissioned by Rowe’s second wife, Anne Devenish, as a joint memorial to him and their only child, Charlotte Fane, born six months before Rowe’s death; she died October 1739, aged twenty-two. In 1742, the monument was erected in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey, close to where Nicholas was buried, near the memorial to his beloved Shakespeare.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted


  • Sculpture UK


  • Sensual Virtual

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Hand-modelling : Terracotta

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: Mich. Rysbrack 1740
  • Location: At back at top left side (right when viewed from front)
  • Type: Signature

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.1-1969
Primary reference Number: 29781
External ID: CAM_CCF_M_1_1969
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 18 December 2023 Last processed: Monday 18 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Figure of a Mourning Woman" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-06-23 20:03:27

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{{cite web|url= |title=Figure of a Mourning Woman |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-06-23 20:03:27|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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