The marble bust of Elizabeth was sculpted c. 1829-31 before her marriage to the Rev. William Gaskell.
Mr. Losh told my cousins in town that he thought my bust so very like Napoleon– do you?
The artist, David Dunbar, was a student of the prestigious Sir Francis Chantrey and inspired by the Classical style of the Greeks and Romans. Many replicas of the statue were created, one by Hamo Thorneycroft was donated to Manchester University, then known as Owens College, by the Gaskell daughters Meta and Julia, where their father had established evening classes, which allowed the working people of the city the opportunity of more education.
Although she would have been in her twenties at the time the statue shows a lady of confidence and maturity, a placid countenance, someone who would hold her ground and be a loyal friend– rather how I imagine her heroine Margaret Hale.
Classical drapery on the shoulders is thrown back to reveal the slim column of the neck, head turned to one side as if to display the controlled looping of the hair about the ear and its gathering to a coronet. The pose also shows the smooth roundness yet strength of Elizabeth’s features, like those of a young Roman matron, made her appear to be a typical product of the enlightened society to which she belonged, proclaiming her in stone or plaster to be that noble-minded intelligent ingenious creature the Byerley sisters has striven to form– underneath she was a more lively being.1
1 Chapple, J. A. V. . Elizabeth Gaskell: the early years. Manchester: Manchester University Press ;, 1997. Print