|It is thought that this painting represents John Hamilton Mortimer, Joseph Wilton, and an unknown student drawing at the Duke of Richmond’s Cast Gallery. This collection was a gallery of plaster casts after the Antique that was made available to students between 1758 and 1762 under the direction of the eminent sculptor Joseph Wilton. Mortimer is known to have studied there as a young man, and to have closely resembled the artist with a drawing board in this picture.|
The Duke of Richmond’s Gallery offered art students the opportunity to obtain a knowledge of Antique sculptures through drawing casts such as the two depicted in this picture. The bust being carried by the student is similar to a bust of Chrysippos by Eurulides in the Vatican Museums. Benjamin Ralph noted in 1759 that it was hoped ‘the study of these most exact copies from antiques may greatly contribute toward giving young beginners of genius an early taste and idea of beauty and proportion; which when thoroughly acquired will in time appear in their several performances’.
The experience students gained from drawing from Antique models would have supplemented the training they received at the second St. Martin’s Lane Academy which concentrated on life drawing. It was only after the Royal Academy was founded in 1768 that students were able to draw both from the life and the Antique at one institution and the direct comparison of the two became a vital issue. Students at the Royal Academy Schools had to complete drawings of casts after the Antique to a high standard before they were allowed to draw from the life model, in the hope that they could improve any imperfections of the living model by reference to the perfect proportions of Classical sculpture.