Peter Scheemakers

Peter Scheemakers or Pieter Scheemaeckers II or the Younger (1691[a] – 12 September 1781)[2] was a Flemish (Belgian) sculptor who worked for most of his life in London. His public and church sculptures in a classicist style had an important influence on the development of modern sculpture in England.[3]

Peter Scheemakers
Andreas Bernardus de Quertenmont - Portrait of Peter Scheemakers.tiff
Portrait of Scheemakers by Andreas Bernardus de Quertenmont
Born1691, Antwerp
Died12 September 1781(1781-09-12) (aged 90), Antwerp
Known forSculpture
Notable work
Tomb monuments and garden statuary
Patron(s)William Kent

Scheemakers is perhaps best known for executing the William Kent-designed memorial to William Shakespeare which was erected in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey in 1740[4] as well as that to John Dryden in the same church.[5]


Shakespeare memorial in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.

He was born in Antwerp and followed in the footsteps of his father, the sculptor Pieter Scheemaeckers. He served his formal apprenticeship in Copenhagen in Denmark where he studied for four years with the court sculptor Johann Adam Sturmberg (1683–1741).[6]

In 1715 he allegedly walked from Copenhagen to Rome (over 1500km) where he studied both classical and baroque styles of sculpture. In 1716 he sailed to England and settled in London where he befriended Laurent Delvaux (who had also studied in Rome).[7] He and Delvaux worked there with another Flemish sculptor Pieter-Denis Plumier on a funeral monument to John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, which they delivered in 1722 after the death of Plumier.[6] Scheemakers and Delvaux entered into a formal partnership and set up a workshop in Millbank, south of Westminster in London, in 1723. Their workshop produced many sober classical monuments and garden statuary in the Antique style. The partners sold their stock in the partnership and travelled to Rome in 1728. Scheemakers stayed there for two years to study both antique and recent masterpieces. Upon his return to England in 1730 Scheemakers restarted the Millbank workshop (in St Martin's Lane) on his own.[6] His 'ideal' classical sculptures became very popular with the landowning class and the city merchants. He moved his workshop a few times: first to Old Palace Yard in 1736 and then in 1740 to Vine Street, where he remained active until his retirement in 1771. On retiral he returned to Antwerp where he died at the age of 90.[6]

He worked for a time with Francis Bird,[7] and was the teacher of Henry Cheere and Charles Cope Trubshaw, amongst others.[2] Joseph Nollekens joined his studio in 1747 and served his apprenticeship here, before leaving for Rome in 1762.[1]

Scheemakers' brother, Henry Scheemakers, and his son, Thomas Scheemakers, were both also sculptors.


Statue of Thomas Guy

Westminster AbbeyEdit

Fifteen of Scheemakers' works – monuments, figures and busts – are in Westminster Abbey. Two were executed in collaboration with his master, Delvaux: the “Hugh Chamberlen” (d. 1728, and therefore perhaps produced during his first visit to London); and “Catherine, Duchess of Buckinghamshire.” However, he is best known by his monument to William Shakespeare (1740), but, as this work was designed by Kent, the responsibility must not all be laid to Scheemakers' account.

In addition to these, there are the monuments to Admiral Sir Charles Wager, Vice-Admiral Watson, Lt. General Percy Kirke, George Howe, 3rd Viscount Howe, General Monck, and Sir Henry Belasyse. His busts of John Dryden (1720) and Dr Richard Mead (1754), also in the Abbey, are noted examples of his smaller works.[7]

Other Works in EnglandEdit

1st and 2nd Dukes of Ancaster at Edenham, Lincolnshire; Lord Chancellor Hardwicke at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire; the Duke of Kent, his wives and daughters, at Flitton, Bedfordshire; the Earl of Shelburne, at Wycombe, Bucks; and the figure on the sarcophagus to Montague Sherrard Drake, at Amersham.[7] Another example of his work is the memorial to Topham Foote (or Foot) in the parish church of St John the Baptist Church, Windsor. This burial monument, which includes the young man's bust and the Foote family crest, greets visitors in the main High Street entrance, just 300 feet (90 m) from the Henry VIII gate to Windsor Castle. There is also a memorial to Sir Thomas Reeve, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, 1736-37 in the church.[8] He also sculpted a memorial for the Petty family, marking the family burial place in All Saints' Parish Church, High Wycombe, which depicts the family in Roman dress, and designed the gilded equestrian statue of King William III erected at Kingston upon Hull (1734).


In 1743, Mary Coghill erected the parish church of Clonturk (now Drumcondra Church) in memory of her brother Marmaduke Coghill, and placed in it a statue of her brother by Peter Scheemakers.[9]

He also was the sculptor of fourteen of the busts in the Long Room of the Trinity College Library in Dublin, including Homer, Aristotle and Socrates.


Between 1970 and 1993, an image of Scheemakers's Shakespeare statue appeared on the reverse of Series D £20 notes issued by the Bank of England. Alongside the statue was an engraving of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.[10][11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sources differ on his birth date. A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain indicates he was baptised on 10 January 1691,[1] the Netherlands Institute for Art History says he was born on 16 January 1691,[2] whereas Encyclopædia Britannica gives a baptismal date of August 1691.[3]


  1. ^ a b Roscoe, Ingrid; Hardy, Emma; Sullivan, M. G., eds. (2009). "Scheemakers, Peter". A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain, 1660-1851. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300149654.
  2. ^ a b c Biographical details at the Netherlands Institute for Art History
  3. ^ a b Peter Scheemakers at online Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ "Poets' Corner: William Shakespeare". Westminster Abbey. Archived from the original on 26 July 2008.
  5. ^ "John Dryden". Poets' Graves. Retrieved 22 October 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d Helena Bussers and Ingrid Roscoe. "Scheemakers." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 27 Mar. 2014; See also Alain Jacobs (1999), Laurent Delvaux 1696-1778, Paris, Arthena, 1999, passim.
  7. ^ a b c d Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Scheemakers, Peter" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  8. ^ "Find A Grave: Sir Thomas Reeve". Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  9. ^ Hayton, David (2005). Letters of Marmaduke Coghill, 1722–1738. Dublin: Irish Manuscripts Commission. p. xxii. ISBN 9781874280682.
  10. ^ "What Did Shakespeare Look Like?". The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  11. ^ "Withdrawn Banknotes Reference Guide". Bank of England. Retrieved 22 October 2008.