Francis Bird (1667–1731) was one of the leading English sculptors of his time. He is mainly remembered for sculptures in Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral. He carved a tomb for the dramatist William Congreve in Westminster Abbey and sculptures of the apostles and evangelists on the exterior of St Paul's, as well as the statue of Henry VI in School Yard, Eton College. Despite his success, later in life Bird did little sculpting. He had inherited money from his father-in-law and set up a marble import business.
Francis Bird was born in the parish of St. James's, Westminster in 1667. At about eleven years old he was sent to Flanders where he studied under the sculptor Cozins. He then went on to Rome and worked in the studio of Le Gros; though this is disputed as it is unlikely that Legros had set his studio up at this early date. He returned home about 1689. He had been so long abroad he found he could hardly speak English. In London he worked under Grinling Gibbons and C. G. Cibber, but after a few years went back to Rome for a further nine months study under Le Gros.
St Paul’s Cathedral, London
Bird is best known for his work at St. Paul's Cathedral. In March 1706 he was paid £329 for the panel over the west door and in December of that year £650 for carving the "Conversion of St. Paul", 64' long and 17' high for the great pediment. This contained "eight large figures” six whereof on horseback and several of them "two and a half feet imbost". In 1711 he carved the statue of Queen Anne with four other figures, which was erected in St Paul's Cathedral yard in 1712. This statue was saved from demolition in December 1886 when it was replaced by the present statue executed by Richard Belt. This original Queen Anne statue is now in the grounds of St Mary's School, The Ridge, Hastings. East Sussex. Between 1712 and 1713 he executed the two panels over the west portico for £339, but it was not until 1721 that he carved the statues of various apostles and evangelists (each nearly 12 ft (3.7 m). high) for the west front and south side of the Cathedral. For these he received a total sum of £2,040.
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