Ercole

 

 

Ercole Felipo Giacomo Parlanti was born in Rome in 1871. As with his older brother Alessandro, Ercole worked at the Nelli foundry in Rome before moving to England and working alongside his brother. Ercole married in 1903 in London and, unlike Alessandro, his three children were all born in England, Corrado (Conrad) in 1903, Mario in 1906 and Olga in 1910, all of them born in Fulham, London. Around 1917 Ercole started up his own foundry at Beaumont Works, Beaumont Road, West Kensington, London. These were substantial premises containing a factory, buildings, offices and a yard totalling about seven thousand seven hundred square feet.

A letter dated February 4th 1918 from Ercole to the architect Sir Robert Lorimer in Edinburgh concerning the casting of Louis Reid Deuchars's Glenelg war memorial shows, at present, the earliest that the foundry at Beaumont Works can be traced back to. Clearly, Ercole's new bronze foundry had begun casting bronzes whilst WWI was still raging. Despite Ercole asking Lorimer for the opportunity to quote for the casting, it was eventually carried out at The Albion Art Foundry Ltd., late and over budget.

One of the earliest patrons of the Beaumont Works was the Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, who had four bronzes cast between March 1918 and March 1919. An early large casting was that of Jacob Epstein’s Risen Christ (worked on by a young George Mancini who was an apprentice at Parlanti’s at the time). This bronze is now in the possession of the National Galleries of Scotland. Ercole went on to cast many of Epstein’s 1920s busts.

The end of WWI sparked a massive demand for war memorials, and Ercole was inundated with orders from worldwide. It was at this time that Charles Gaskin, a metal chaser at Parlanti’s, decided to start up The Art Bronze Foundry of Fulham, taking some of the customers with him! Art Bronze is still very much alive and well.

When deciding on what foundry to use, sculptors reckon on any number of factors. Some keep to a foundry through loyalty, sometimes it is price, at other times availability. The artist Clare Sheridan tells, through her diaries, how on one occasion in 1920 she chose Ercole to cast the bronze busts of two Russian leaders over Fiorini simply because Ercole was able to promise the finished pieces by the time required.


 

1923 saw the casting of what was probably Ercole’s crowning moment, Reid-Dick’s Golden Eagle which sits atop the R.A.F.Memorial on London’s Embankment (see photo above). The Eagle has a wing-span of twelve feet and weighs four tons. The monument was unveiled by the future Edward VIII and George VI and made the front page of national newspapers at the time. Looking out over the river Thames its position, opposite the London Eye, remains one of the most prominent in all of London. The Fulham Chronicle, when writing about the Eagle in 1923, stated ‘Through the activity and technical skill of the Art Bronze Foundry in Beaumont Road in West Kensington, Fulham has already earned world-wide distinction as the birth-place of noted Memorials’.


A short walk from the Golden Eagle, still on The Embankment, is Brook Hitch's National Submarine War Memorial, cast at Beaumont Works. Old servicemen still come to this memorial, which plays host to several services a year. As the photo below shows, the bronze plaque contains a bas-relief in the centre showing the cramped interior of a submarine in which sailors had to carry out their duties. Either side of the central section are sea creatures which have taken human form. The two female figures on the sides are Truth on the left and Justice on the right.



 


Alfred Gilbert’s Eros statue in London’s Piccadilly Circus had to be removed in 1925, and shortly afterwards broken fragments of the original plaster sketch for Eros were found in Gilbert’s old house. Ercole was commissioned to make a bronze from the sketch, and so successful was this bronze that a further cast was made.  These two bronzes are now with The Tate and The Royal Academy.

Ercole’s limited company started to suffer financial problems and, after Crittall Manufacturing bought Beaumont Works for four thousand two hundred and seven pounds fourteen shillings in 1927, E.J.Parlanti & Company Limited was dissolved.

By 1929, Ercole was operating out of premises in Winders Road, Battersea (possibly Nelly Yard where Fiorini had been previously), and it was from here in 1930 that he cast the 2 lead versions of Gaudier-Brzeska's 'Wrestler'. During Gaudier-Brzeska's lifetime, only 4 bronzes are known to have been produced, and 2 of these at least were certainly cast at Parlanti's. If Ercole had been given the lead castings to do in 1930, it can also be reasonably assumed that he also cast posthumous bronzes for Gaudier-Brzeska's estate. 

Now nearing retirement Ercole continued to cast on a smaller scale. All of Gordon Crosby’s original prototypes for the Jaguar mascot were cast by Ercole (with those that were not needed returned for melting down), and Ercole had also cast all of Gordon Crosby’s earlier bronzes. Nearing 68 years old, and living in Chiswick with his workshop in Acton Lane nearby, Ercole was still active. He contacted the Watts Gallery to ask if, following his visit the previous year, they wanted him to produce further reductions in bronze of 'Physical Energy'.

In 1947 Ercole became a naturalised British citizen.

In 1953, when 82 years old, Ercole decided to pass on his knowledge and wrote a book ‘Casting A Torso in Bronze’. Barbara Hepworth only started to work in bronze in 1956 (using The Art Bronze Foundry, Fulham) and it has been suggested that a large part of Hepworth’s decision to start working in bronze was as a result of acquiring and reading Ercole’s book.

Ercole was also a talented sculptor. Pictured below are photos of an eagle (below left), and a pair of brass ashtrays (below right) which Ercole both sculpted and cast. He died in 1955 in Acton Hospital, and a small obituary appeared in the Foundry Trade Journal of November 3rd that year. It simply said ‘The death is announced of Mr. E.J.Parlanti-a well known art founder-at the age of 84. He was responsible for many of the notable pieces of statuary in this country, such as, for instance, the 17 ton gilt-bronze eagle-the R.A.F. Memorial on Westminster Embankment. Not only was he an art founder, but also a sculptor of eminence and, in addition, was the author of Art Bronze Castings (sic)’. Only Conrad, of Ercole’s three children, continued in bronze casting.