Raffles' Bust



Raffles’s Bust, a marble portrait of Sir Stamford Raffles, was originally designed and cast by Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey in 1817. The original was believed to have been destroyed with the sinking of the ship, the Fame in 1824. Copies were however made for the London Zoological Society and the Singapore Institution. For a period, the bust also sat in the Raffles Library.1 

Chantrey’s Original
In 1812, as the Lieutenant-Governor of Java, Stamford Raffles helped revive the Batavian Society of Arts and Science, the oldest learned society in Asia.2 When he resigned as President upon leaving Java in 1816, members of the society asked if a bust could be made of him to be placed in the Hall of the Society. Originally, the bust was to be that of their Patron, the Earl of Minto, but he had suddenly passed away on his return to England.3

In 1817, a year after his return to England, Raffles sat for Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey (b.1781 – d.1841) and paid 126 pounds in cash for the marble bust, “an image of the recently knighted Raffles resplendent in youth and vigour”.4

When Raffles returned to Sumatra in 1818, he realised that he was not truly welcomed by the Dutch colonial authorities. He had carried with him the marble bust by Chantrey but gave it to his wife, Lady Sophia Raffles, for safe-keeping. It was believed that the original bust sank with the ship, the Fame, on 2 February 1824.5 The passengers and crew had managed to escape to the lifeboat, and drifted along the coast till they were rescued the next day.6

Copy at London Zoological Society
Fortunately, Chantrey had kept a plaster copy of the original and at least two models were commissioned using this plaster copy. One was used for E. Roscoe Mullins’ (b. 1849 – d. 1907) marble bust presented by the Reverend William Charles Flint to the Zoological Society of London in 1877. This marble copy came to be regarded as the original and it was used to make the 1929 bronze model for the 150th anniversary of the Royal Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences, but in effect this was a copy thrice removed.7

Copy at Singapore Institution
Lady Sophia Raffles also had a copy made of Chantrey’s plaster copy and had it presented to the Singapore Institution around the 1830s. On 1 January 1836, sponsors were informed that the bust would be placed in a conspicuous spot in the completed building, with inscriptions in English, Latin, Chinese and Malay.8 According to Buckley, however, the inscriptions were never made.9 The bust remained with the Raffles Museum and Library until 1906 when the then principal of Raffles Institution, R. W. Hullett, presented the bust to the Singapore Municipality on his retirement. It sat in the Municipal Offices but no record of it was found in 1942 among the objects brought for safe-keeping during the war years. It is believed to reside now in the Singapore High Commission Office in London, although how it reached London, no one knows.10



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. Archer, M., & Bastin, J. (1978). The Raffles drawings in the India Office Library, London. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, pp. 10–14. (Call no.: RSING 741.959 ARC)
2. Archer, M., & Bastin, J. (1978). The Raffles drawings in the India Office Library, London. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 741.959 ARC)
3. Archer, M., & Bastin, J. (1978). The Raffles drawings in the India Office Library, London. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 741.959 ARC)
4. Archer, M., & Bastin, J. (1978). The Raffles drawings in the India Office Library, London. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 741.959 ARC)
5. Archer, M., & Bastin, J. (1978). The Raffles drawings in the India Office Library, London. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 741.959 ARC)
6. Bastin, J., & Weizenegger, J. (2016). The Family of Sir Stamford Raffles. Singapore: National Library Board, Singapore & Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 130. (Call no.: RSING 959.57030922 BAS)  
7. Archer, M., & Bastin, J. (1978). The Raffles drawings in the India Office Library, London. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 741.959 ARC)
8. Archer, M., & Bastin, J. (1978). The Raffles drawings in the India Office Library, London. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 741.959 ARC)
9. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
10. Archer, M., & Bastin, J. (1978). The Raffles drawings in the India Office Library, London. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 741.959 ARC)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Arts>>Sculpture
Busts--Singapore
Raffles, Thomas Stamford, Sir, 1781-1826--Statues
Arts>>Visual Arts>>Sculpture
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators
Sculpture
Colonial administrators
Colonial administrators--Singapore