Statue of James II
The statue in 2015
ArtistPeter van Dievoet and Laurens van der Meulen at the workshop of Grinling Gibbons
Year1686; 338 years ago (1686)
SubjectKing James II
LocationLondon, WC2
United Kingdom
Coordinates51°30′30″N 0°07′44″W / 51.5084°N 0.1290°W / 51.5084; -0.1290
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameStatue of James II in front of National Gallery west wing
Designated5 February 1970
Reference no.1217629[1]

The statue of James II is a bronze sculpture[2] located in the front garden of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom.[3] Probably inspired by French statues of the same period, it depicts James II of England as a Roman emperor, wearing Roman armour and a laurel wreath (traditionally awarded to a victorious Roman commander). It originally also depicted him holding a baton. It was produced by the workshop of Grinling Gibbons. The execution was most likely, according to contemporary accounts,[4] the work of the Flemish sculptors Peter van Dievoet from Brussels and Laurens van der Meulen from Mechlin,[5] rather than of Gibbons himself.[6] The statue has been relocated several times since it was first erected in the grounds of the old Palace of Whitehall in 1686, only two years before James II was deposed.


The statue is executed in bronze and depicts James II as a Roman emperor. He is shown standing in a contrapposto pose and pointing downwards in "great ease of attitude and a certain serenity of air", as Allan Cunningham described it.[7] It formerly held a baton in its right hand, though this is now missing. The face is said to be an excellent depiction of the king.[8] Unusually for the time, the sculptor sought a degree of fidelity to original classical styles; James is depicted wearing a laurel wreath on top of short hair, whereas other imperial-style statues of both Charles II and James II depicted the two kings with an anachronistic combination of Roman armour and a 17th-century periwig.[9]

The statue was probably inspired by similar imperial portrayals of Louis XIV of France. One in particular, a colossal statue by Martin Desjardins of the French king wearing Roman armour with a laurel wreath and baton, is so similar in type to the figures of Charles II and James II that it may have been their direct inspiration.[10]

The plinth is inscribed with the legend JACOBUS SECUNDUS/ DEI GRATIA/ ANGLIÆ SCOTIÆ/ FRANCIÆ ET/ HIBERNIÆ/ REX/ FIDEI DEFENSOR/ ANNO M.D.C.LXXXVI,[11] which translates to: "James II, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland. Defender of the Faith. 1686."[3]


The Privy Gardens of Whitehall in 1741. The statue is visible on the right.

The statue of James II is one of three of the Stuart monarchs commissioned by the royal servant Tobias Rustat[12] from Grinling Gibbons's workshop in the 1670s and '80s, the others being of James's brother and predecessor Charles II: an equestrian statue in Windsor Castle and a standing figure at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.[11] The statue of James II was commissioned for the Palace of Whitehall, apparently at the same time as the standing Charles II, and the two works might have been intended as pendant pieces.[11] It was produced in the workshop of Grinling Gibbons at a reported cost of £300 (equivalent to about £42,000 at 2014 prices).[13] While the work was long attributed to Gibbons himself, large-scale sculptures were not his forte. Contemporary accounts attribute it to sculptors Peter van Dievoet[14] of Brussels who came to London to cast this statue, and Laurens van der Meulen[15] of Mechelen.

The statue outside the Banqueting House, Whitehall in 1897, still with the now missing baton in the right hand

The James II was erected at the Palace of Whitehall on 24 March 1686, as recorded by a contemporary, Sir John Bramston the Younger.[11] George Vertue, who found an agreement and a receipt of payment for the work, wrote that it was "modelled & made by Lawrence Vandermeulen (of Brussels) [sic] ... & Devoot[6] [i.e. Peter Van Dievoet][16] (of Mechlin) [sic] who was imployed [sic] by ... Gibbons", and that Thomas Benniere was involved in the casting.[11] A series of five drawings in the British Museum, which might be for either the standing Charles II or the James II, is attributed variously to Gibbons or to Van Dievoet.[17][12] Its artistic qualities were praised by J. P. Malcolm in his 1803 history, London Redivivum, in which he wrote:

There is but one fault in the figure, and that is the attitude. The King seems to point with a baton at the earth, to which his eyes are directed; but why? Surely this is an egregious error. However, perhaps the artist may have been commanded to model the statue thus; and if not, his mistake is more than counter-balanced by the beautiful turns of the muscles, the excellence of the features, and the true folds of the drapery.[18]

James II's statue has stood in several locations since it was first erected.[19] It originally stood in the Palace of Whitehall's Pebble Court, where it was installed on New Year's Day, 1686. It was situated behind the Banqueting House and faced the river, a position which attracted much satirical comment after James' flight from London during the Glorious Revolution of 1688; it was said that the statue's location indicated his method of escape.[7]

It was taken down after the Glorious Revolution but was replaced by order of William III. In 1898 it was moved to a location in the garden of Gwydyr House. It was taken down four years later to make room for the stands for the coronation of Edward VII.[13] It lay on its back amid grass and weeds in a state of total neglect until it was re-erected in 1903 outside the New Admiralty building.[7] It was displaced again when the Admiralty Citadel was built in 1940. During the Second World War it was put into storage at Aldwych tube station.[11] It was relocated to its present site in 1947.[19] The statue is listed by Historic England as a Grade I listed building, a status which it was granted in 1970.[1]


  1. ^ a b Historic England. "Statue of James II in front of National Gallery west wing (1217629)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  2. ^ "Outside the Gallery". National Gallery, London. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Statue: James II statue". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  4. ^ Margaret Whinney, Sculpture in Britain 1530-1830, London, 1964, p. 55 : « the James is beautifully poised, looking down towards his baton, the line of which plays a great part in the design, and would compare most favourably with any Continental work. And indeed it is Continental and not English woork ; for though it was ordered from Gibbons for £300 by Tobias Rustat, Yeoman of the Robes, and set up in the Palace of Whitehall at the end of 1686, two Flemings, Laurens of Malines and Dievot of Brussels, were employed to 'model and make' it ».
  5. ^ "Artistes, de père en fils". Site-LeVif-FR. 21 November 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  6. ^ a b Other version : Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of painting in England: with some account of the principal artists; and incidental notes on other arts; collected by the late Mr. George Vertue ; and now digested and published from his original MSS. by Mr. Horace Walpole, London, 1765, vol. III, p. 91: "Gibbons had several disciples and workmen; Selden I have mentioned; Watson assisted chiefly at Chatsworth, where the boys and many of the ornaments in the chapel were executed by him. Dievot of Brussels, and Laurens of Mechlin were principal journeymen — Vertue says they modelled and cast the statue I have mentioned in the privy-garden". According to David Green, in Grinling Gibbons, his work as carver and statuary (London, 1964), one Smooke sayd to Vertue that this statue "was modelled and made by Laurence and Devoot (sic)" ; George Vertue, Note Books, ed. Walpole Society, Oxford, 1930–47, vol. I, p.82 : "Lawrence. Dyvoet. statuarys", and ibidem IV, 50 : "Laurens a statuary of Mechlin... Dievot a statuary of Brussels both these artists were in England and assisted Mr. Gibbons in statuary works in K. Charles 2d. and K. James 2d. time, they left England in the troubles of the Revolution and retird to their own country".
  7. ^ a b c Gleichen, Edward (1928). London's Open-Air Statuary. London: Longman, Greens & Co. pp. 47–8. OCLC 7498425.
  8. ^ White, Paul William (1971). On Public View. London: Hutchinson. p. 39. ISBN 9780091090302.
  9. ^ Ayres, Philip J. (1997). Classical Culture and the Idea of Rome in Eighteenth-century England. Cambridge University Press. p. 64. ISBN 9780521584906.
  10. ^ Whinney, Margaret (1992). Sculpture in Britain, 1530–1830. Yale University Press. p. 121. ISBN 9780300053180.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Ward-Jackson, Philip (2011), Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster: Volume 1, Public Sculpture of Britain, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, pp. 291–3, ISBN 9781846316913
  12. ^ a b c Ingamells, John (2009). "James II". Later Stuart Portraits 1685-1714. London: National Portrait Gallery. p. 130. *1688(sic) Bronze statue by Grinling Gibbons and Pierre van Dievoet, all'antica, baton in right hand, left on hip. National Gallery, London, forecourt, since 1948; commissioned by Tobias Rustat and erected in Pebble Court Whitehall, 1688. A similarly posed statue in stone, believed to have been set in the facade of the Royal Exchange, is now at Creech Grange, Dorset. Five related figure drawings attributed to Gibbons, but probably by van Dievoet are in the British Museum.
  13. ^ a b Borenius, Tancred (1926). Forty London Statues and Public Monuments. London: Methuen & Co. p. 46. OCLC 3042767.
  14. ^ Drawing. British Museum : "The left half of this drawing is reproduced by Katherine Gibson in 'The emergence of Grinling Gibbons as a statuary', published in Apollo, September 1999, pp.21-9. On p.28 she argues that the style of this group of drawings (ECM 2-6) is unlike the documented drawings by him in the Soane Museum sketchbook, and suggests that they may be by his collaborator Pierre van Dievoet (1661-1729), who had come to London from Brussels to cast the bronze statue of James II that is now outside the National Gallery" Drawing, British Museum.
  15. ^ Margaret Whinney, op. cit., also George Vertue, who found an agreement and a receipt of payment for the work, wrote that it was "modelled & made by Lawrence Vandermeulen (of Brussels) [sic] ... & Devoot".
  16. ^ Antoine-Nicolas Dézallier d'Argenville, de l'Académie Royale des Belles-Lettres de la Rochelle, Vie des fameux sculpteurs depuis la renaissance des arts, avec la description de leurs ouvrages, Paris, chez Debure l'aîné, 1787, tome II, pp. 101–102 : "On compte parmi ses (de Gibbons) élèves Wartson, Dievot de Bruxelles, et Laurent de Malines: leur nom est peu connu, ainsi que celui de leur maître. Ces artistes dignes d’une plus grande réputation, se retirèrent dans leur patrie, à l’époque de la révolution d’Angleterre".
  17. ^ "Drawing". Collection online. British Museum. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  18. ^ Malcolm, James Peller (1803). Londinium Redivivum: Or, An Ancient History and Modern Description of London. Vol. 4. London: J. Nichols. p. 280. OCLC 5827713.
  19. ^ a b Matthews, Peter (2012). London's Statues and Monuments. Oxford: Shire Publications. p. 14. ISBN 9780747807988.
  20. ^ "Study for a statue, probably of Charles II or James II attributed to Peter van Dievoet". British Museum. Retrieved 2 January 2024.
  21. ^ Katherine Gibson, 'The emergence of Grinling Gibbons as a statuary', published in Apollo, September 1999, p. 28.