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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Early Residents - Signor Achille Simonetti


The Nepean Times (15 August 1894) mentioned that Simmonetti, who was an eminent sculptor, had commenced operations on his land facing the Western Road nearly opposite Mr M. Chapman. He had erected a room on the property prior to building his cottage and had also been busy planting some vines.

It is likely that the Signor was in fact Achille Simonetti who was born in Rome in 1838 and died at his home at Birchgrove in March 1900. He was the son of Louis, also a sculptor, under whom he trained. He was educated at the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca and  migrated firstly to Brisbane and moved to Sydney by 1874. Simonetti established a large studio at Balmain and worked on St. John’s College within the University of Sydney.

During the period 1874–80, he won many prestigious awards and travelled overseas and interstate to exhibit. In London he exhibited a bust at the Royal Academy of Arts. He was befriended by Sir Saul Samuel and soon became the most fashionable sculptor in Sydney.

Simonetti received many commissions like the one (photographed above) from Sir Henry Parkes to construct a monument to Governor Phillip that would be sited in the Botanic Gardens. The cost of the piece was to be £10,000 and it was to be completed by 1893. After several delays the work was completed and unveiled in June 1897. Unfortunately, the fifteen-foot statue of Phillip and his companions was unfavourably received. Although talented and productive, Simonetti’s estate was valued at only £529 when he died in 1900. He died of heart disease at the age of 62.

The Art Gallery of NSW, the Legislative Council and the University of Sydney all hold examples of his work.

Article from Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District
* It is likely that Simonetti was responsible for the statues that once graced Michael Nason Chapman's garden at Faulconbridge.  These were discovered in recent years by the owners of Phoenix Lodge.  One is thought to be the bust of General Gordon
Pamela Smith



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