RAF Memorial, Victoria Embankment, London
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 Adele Milanopolo 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 possible 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.
Another early casting carried out at Beaumont Road was Jacob Epstein’s ‘Risen Christ’, now in the possession of the National Galleries Scotland. From documentation kindly supplied by Patrick Elliott, Senior curator, referencing correspondence with Leicester Galleries, Mrs Matthias and the Vicar of Walsingham, regarding its removal from Walsingham Church: Begun in 1917 as a head of Bernard van Dieren, thought by Epstein to be a suitable head for a Christ. Arms and hands and the upper part of the torso were added as a first stage, and the work completed after the interval of about a year. Severely attacked at time of first exhibition in February. This piece was cast by the firm of Parlanti in Beaumont Road, Kensington, where Mr George Mancini of Edinburgh was an apprentice until some time before the whole firm moved to Cheltenham about March 1919. He confirms that it was a unique cast and was able to identify pieces let into the base to conceal holes in the casting. He is emphatic that this must have been in 1918 or even 1917, not 1919.
Epstein used Parlanti for casting for many years. According to Doctor Evelyn Silber, Epstein used a number of foundries over the years, Hebrard, Furini (sic) and Parlanti during the early years, and goes on to write The Risen Christ was cast by Parlanti, who also cast many of the 1920s portraits. Further, as mentioned later on this page, Conrad Parlanti, Ercole’s eldest son and himself a top founder not only of art bronzes but all types of casting, was known to be a drinking buddy of Epstein, giving rise to the possibility that Epstein continued to use Parlanti for casting for many years. Certainly, from the very few company accounts that survive, in 1926 and 1927 Epstein was a sizeable customer for Parlanti. Epstein’s 1926-7 ‘Madonna and Child’, which is now with The Riverside Church in New York, may well be a Parlanti casting. In Epstein’s book ‘Let There Be Sculpture’ when writing about the Madonna and Child he mentions While the bronze was still at the foundry Lord Duveen asked me if he could see it, and we motored to the workshop in Fulham. I understand that Art Bronze/Gaskin’s in Fulham only started casting for Epstein at a later date, but we might never know for sure who cast it.
Madonna and Child, The Riverside Church, New York
Image courtesy of The Riverside Church Archives
5th Portrait of Peggy Jean, modelled by Jacob Epstein in 1920. Private collection.
11th Portrait of Peggy Jean, modelled by Jacob Epstein in 1926. Private collection.
Both of the above busts by Jacob Epstein were possibly cast by Parlanti, but, given the lack of detailed paperwork left by either Epstein or Parlanti, it cannot be known for certain.
The sculptor Louis Frederick Roslyn (born Roselieb) had used the foundry at Parsons Green for casting, and this continued with the Beaumont Road foundry. Papers kept at The Imperial War Museum, London, First World War Artists Archive, File 143/4 tell us that whilst serving in the RAF, Roslyn was commissioned to produce 4 busts of Air Force officers between 1919 and 1921. He charged between £100 and £150 for each bronze bust, which were of Major-General Sir W S Brancker, Major-General Sir F H Sykes, Air Vice-Marshall Sir G M Paine and Air Vice-Marshall Sir J M Salmond. At least 2 of these busts were exhibited at the Royal Academy before being returned to the IWM collection. Papers show that Roslyn was working from 4 Avenue Studios, 76 Fulham Road, South Kensington, and that the Brancker bust was produced at Palanti (sic) Bronze Foundry, Beaumont Road, West Kensington. As Roslyn used Parlanti’s between at least 1911 and 1924, it may reasonably be assumed that all 4 RAF bronze busts, which were all cast within a short space of time, were produced by Ercole Parlanti, research is currently ongoing to provide certainty.
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.
In 1921 Parlanti’s foundry was subject to labour troubles which delayed production. An article in the New Zealand Herald of 5th May 1921 told of how the dispute had delayed casting of the Burns statue by Pomeroy destined for Auckland. Whether this was simply not enough workers available, or a dispute, is not known.
The 1921 census listed the names of some of the specialist foundry workers employed at Ercole’s foundry ( who were 25 years old and over), and these artisans will be the subject of further research, with any findings added into this section. The named workers were Leonard Joseph (57) Bronze Moulder, Gioacchino Cavallari (51) Bronze Founder, Vincent Gattai (49) Bronze Caster, Henry Gaisford (48) Statue Moulder, Sidney Victor Hicker (41) Bronze Chaser, and Harry James Berry (28) Brass Moulder.
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 in 1922, taking some of the customers with him! 1922 had also seen the opening of the new London County Hall building, Ercole had supplied the bronze caps for the columns and pillasters in the Council Chamber.
Around his time, an interesting business plan was hatched by the Compagnie des Bronzes in Brussels. Anti foreign sentiment was running high, and the Compagnie des Bronzes was suffering from a lack of orders from its English customers. According to Minutes of the Board of Directors from 28th March 1928, it was intended to approach Ercole, who they knew was extremely busy. They would ask if they could associate with him, or even accept his castings, carry them out, and then return them to him all under his name. The managing director of the Compagnie des Bronzes had stated that his company was excluded for at least three years from receiving orders from the British market, and that under this arrangement business could resume there. Although research is ongoing, no evidence has come to light that suggests that this arrangement was ever enacted, indeed Ercole may not even have responded to the approach.
However, it wasn’t just large castings that Ercole was producing. In 1922 he received a prestigious commission, a small silver statuette from Eton College to be given to Princess Mary. The Eton College Chronicle of March 2nd 1922 carried an interesting report under the heading ‘PRINCESS MARY’S WEDDING PRESENT’ which read as follows: .
This took the form of a silver statuette of the Founder 15 in. high, standing upon a base of ebony 5 in. high It was modelled on that on the lectern in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, by Messrs. E. J. Parlanti of London under the direction of Colonel Claude Kirby (late H.E.L.). Sliding into the base was a silver plate bearing the following inscription : •’ To H.R.H. Princess Mary of Windsor—bride of an Etonian—this figure of Henry VI of Windsor— their Founder—after the original in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge—a token of loyalty and regard from the boys of Eton College and School. February 28th, 1922.” The statuette was brought down from London on Tuesday, Feb. 21, and exhibited for a few hours in Messrs. Spottiswoode’s shop. On the following day it was presented to Her Royal Highness and Viscount Lascelles in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace by the Captain of the School, A. N. G. Richards, K.S., the Captain of the Oppidans, C. H. Duveen (F.W.D.) and the President of the Eton Society, Lord Dunglass (A.W.W.), who wore speech-clothes. Princess Mary sent in reply the following message: ” Buckingham Palace. ” It was a charming thought of the Eton boys to send me this beautiful silver statuette of your Founder in token of your good wishes. ” I am most grateful and can assure you that it will always be one of my treasured possessions. ” I regard it as a happy coincidence that both my Eton brother and Lord Lascelles bear your Founder’s name, and I the name of Our Lady to whom the College is dedicated. ” In thanking you once more for your great kindness, may I express all my hopes for Eton’s future prosperity in those two words which are engraved on every Etonian’s heart—Floreat Etona. ” MARY.”
Bronze bust of Henry Mayers Hyndman, cast by Ercole in 1922. Photo courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London
1922 also saw another very prestigious casting for Ercole. Many thanks go to Library and Archives Canada for providing the information for this particular bronze. On August 19th 1919, a letter had been written to Sir Robert Borden (who at that time was Canadian Prime Minister), presumed to be from Frank Lascelles, the address given as c/o Alice, Countess Grey, 22, Sussex Square, Hyde Park, London, saying Dear Sir Robert Borden: An exceedingly good life size portrait bust of the late Earl Grey, in the modelling of which the Countess Grey has taken the deepest interest and has indeed participated, has just been completed. It seems eminently desirable that Ottawa should possess a replica of the only good and authentic portrait which exists of the late Governor General. While the original bronze work is proceeding a limited number of replicas can be obtained in best golden bronze on marble base for one hundred and thirty five pounds each; or two hundred and fifty pounds for two, which is less than the usual price of one. After receiving the letter on 3rd September, Sir Robert Borden replied by sending a cable on September 6th 1919 to Lascelles, Care Alice Countess Grey, 22 Sussex Square, Hyde Park, London, to say Please order for government a replica of portrait bust of late Earl Grey. Albert Grey, 4th Earl Grey, had been Governor General of Canada between 1904 and 1911, and had died in 1917. For some reason, the process took some time, possibly due to the huge demand for war memorials straight after WW1. On December 11th 1922, Ercole, who had cast the bronze, wrote to the Secretary Of the Government of Canada, at Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, saying Dear Sir, With reference to the Bronze bust of Lord Grey shipped to you on 8th inst. per S/S Montclare, for the Government of Canada, I am sending you enclosed herewith the ‘’Merchandise receipt form’’ in accordance with the instructions received from the Shipping Company. This detailed the Fair market value as sold for home consumption at time shipped as £350, and Selling price to the Purchaser in Canada as £135. When the bust was delivered to Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie King was Prime Minister, and it was temporarily placed in his office in the East Block. On April 11, 1923, an inquiry was made about having the bust moved to the National Gallery of Canada; however, it was not deemed to be of great artistic value so it was not accepted into their collection. On 11th May, 1923, the Minister of Public Works, J.H. King, wrote to the speaker of the house, Rodolphe Lemieux, to inquire if he would like to display the bust in his office in the Parliament Buildings. On 14th May Lemieux responded by saying My dear Minister, I wish to thank you for your kind offer of 11th instant. I will certainly be pleased to have the bronze bust of the late Earl Grey which was ordered by Sir Robert Borden, in 1919, placed in my banquet hall. This was duly carried out, on 17th May Lemieux again wrote to King, this time to say My dear Minister, I am in receipt of your letter dated May 15th. It is for me to thank you. The bust of Earl Grey adorns my banquet hall. His many friends and admirers will be proud to see him there. (Source: Library and Archives Canada/Department of Public Works fonds/File no.10523-1)
1923 saw the casting of what was probably Ercole’s most well known bronze, Reid-Dick’s Golden Eagle which sits atop the R.A.F.Memorial on London’s Embankment (see photo at the top of the page). 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’.
From ‘The Sphere’ 19 May 1923
RAF Memorial in Parlanti’s foundry.
The above image of the RAF Memorial in Parlanti’s foundry was kindly supplied by Elaine Bending whose grandfather, Albert Edward Lunnon, was employed at the foundry at the time. Albert is standing 2nd from left. Elaine has provided a brief biography of ‘Burt’ as he was known, and this is reproduced underneath. This information is really valuable as, given the passage of time, direct links to those artisans such as Burt are becoming harder to find. My grandfather Burt Lunnon, as he was known, was an apprentice at the Parlanti Art Bronze Foundry before and after World War 1. He learnt all the skills in this delicate and professional work, making moulds in sand, melting metal at high temperatures, and finely finishing and polishing the finished art work. In 1914 the World War broke out and Bert was 22 years old. Like all young men he was called up to fight. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.
After the war he returned to work for Ercole Parlanti and worked on many pieces including the magnificent RAF war memorial of The Eagle mounted on a globe decorated with the signs of the zodiac. This piece stands in one of the most prominent sites in London, on the embankment directly opposite the London Eye.
In the 1930’s my grandfather worked in another foundry in London and as a skilled man he obtained work from Jacob Epstein, whom he greatly admired. In his retirement, he undertook further art bronze foundry work which included art work by Henry Moore.
Burt loved classical art and was never keen on modern art, including Henry Moore! As children, he took my brothers and I to Italy three times which included visits to the Ufrizi art gallery in Florence and Pompei, an unforgettable experience. He also loved classical music and was an accomplished pianist. Burt went on to become a director of Fitzroy Art Foundry Limited in London. He was well known in casting circles, The Art Bronze Foundry in Fulham (who cast themselves exclusively in lost wax) contracted sand casting work out to Burt.
Albert Edward ‘Burt’ Lunnon
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 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.
National Submarine Memorial, Victoria Embankment, London
The West London Observer of 11th January 1924 reported that Ercole had become one of fifty Fulham firms to have been added to the King’s Roll of Honour, having signed up to the National Scheme for Disabled Ex-Servicemen. From that time onwards, Ercole used the image on all of his letterheads.
In April 1924, Ercole Parlanti wrote an article in ‘The Veteran’ magazine, a Newfoundland publication. This was in advance of the unveiling, some 3 months later, of the Newfoundland War Memorial. The article described in brief the Lost Wax method of casting, and commenced ‘The Bronze castings of Artistic works ( Statues, Statuettes and Architectural or decorative works ) require a special technical knowledge not so necessary in the ordinary commercial and engineering castings. For Art castings two different processes may be used. One is the ordinary Sand process which is used by all Foundries and which is quite suitable for small and heavy pieces of a simple moulding nature, where for instance, undercuts are not so pronounced as to require the sectioning of the model. The moulding, however, of Statuary, even by the sand process, requires a skill on the part of the Founder that only several years of practical experience can attain. For castings however of extremely delicate works and where the intricacy of the modelling and undercuts requires a more skillful and pliable handling, the method called by the ”Cire Perdue” or ”Lost Wax Process” is applied’. Ercole went on to say ‘Our Works have reproduced in bronze by this process an infinite number of figures by British Sculptors: and during the 30 years or more that our Firm has been established in England a large amount of Statues to the memory of Queen Victoria, King Edward, and Statesmen, and different War Memorials have been executed here in Wax Process as well as Sand.’
In 1924 Ercole was looking to diversify his interests. In June he wrote to Pericle Perali, founder of the company Arte de’ Vascellari, in Orvieto (some 20 kilometres from Bolsena, the birthplace of Ercole’s father). The company were agents for the work of the pottery designer Ilario Ciaurro, himself a director of the company. Perali had sent Ercole various prints and images of the works of his firm, and Ercole was considering being the exclusive UK and Ireland agent for Ciaurro’s ceramics. No other paperwork has yet been found, so it is not clear whether this venture actually materialised.
1st July 1924 saw the unveiling of the National War Memorial in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The five figures, by the sculptors Ferdinand Victor Blundstone and Gilbert Bayes, had been cast in bronze by Ercole. From papers very kindly supplied by The Rooms Archives, St. John’s, in November 1923 Blundstone had written to Lt. Co. N Nangle of the Newfoundland Contingent to update him on the progress of the figures. On 11th February 1924 Ercole wrote to Lt. Col. Nangle ‘ Dear Sir. As already intimated to you the figure ”Merchant Service” is now cast in bronze and is a very good casting. The ”Forester” and the Central Figure are now in the drying process preparatory to casting, and it is hoped to cast them in about a fortnights time. I shall feel obliged if you will arrange for the second instalment so that the work can be proceeded with without any delay. You are at liberty to see the bronze whenever it may be convenient for you to do so.’ In reply, on 12th February a cheque was sent to Ercole for four hundred and eighty three pounds, six shillings and eight pence. The unveiling was, like so may other unveilings of war memorials worldwide, attended by huge crowds. In August 2019 the memorial was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
Courtesy of The Rooms Provincial Archives Division (E 8-58), St. John’s, NL.
Another one of many large castings was produced in 1925, Sir Harcourt Butler by by George Havard Thomas. The photo below shows the statue sitting in Parlanti’s foundry.
Sir Harcourt Butler by George Havard Thomas
One of the workers employed at the foundry at the time of the casting of Sir Harcourt Butler was Albert Foley. Albert’s daughter in law, Marie Foley, has kindly supplied some photographs that Albert had kept from his time at Parlanti’s, and also a couple of letters. They show firstly the laying off of Albert due to ‘slackness in the department‘ in 1923 having worked as a sand moulder from 1921, before a further letter dated 1925 which states that Albert was at that time employed again at Parlanti’s.
The above six images kindly supplied by Marie Foley
September 1925 saw the renaming of the business to E J Parlanti and Co, prior to becoming a limited company some 6 months later.
In October 1925, an article concerning a foundry employee appeared in the local press. George Sargeant, a 43 year old, was charged with being drunk and disorderly at the Beaumont Road premises. On a Saturday afternoon, although not working that day, he turned up at the foundry, took his coat off and challenged the works foreman to a fight. When ejected, he smashed a pane of glass in one of the foundry’s windows, and was preparing to smash others when he was seized by one of the foundry’s other workers. He continued the disturbance, and was arrested and taken into custody by a local policeman. Sargeant stated that he had been wounded in the head, and had taken some drink which had taken effect on him. After a representative of the foundry stated that they didn’t want to press charges, Sargeant was ordered to pay 10 shillings for the charge of drunkenness, and a further 10 shillings representing the amount of the damage!
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.
A publication in 1926 (The Tablet) carried an interesting advert for Parlanti’s. As well as describing the business as ‘The Ecclesiastical , Monumental and Decorative Metal Founders in Silver and Bronze’ and then listing the addresses, it also states ‘And at Rome‘. This raises the possibility that Alessandro, who had long since returned to Rome, may have still been casting.
The Tablet of Saturday February 13th 1926,
Despite becoming a Limited Company in March 1926, Ercole’s limited company started to suffer financial problems and, after Crittall Manufacturing bought Beaumont Works for what was believed to be four thousand two hundred and seven pounds fourteen shillings in 1927, E.J.Parlanti & Company Limited was dissolved.
The Crittall Magazine of 1927 mentions in some detail the acquisition of Parlanti’s foundry by Crittall. Whilst some of the casting methods used at the foundry are mentioned elsewhere within this website, the full article is still worth copying here. I am indebted to Braintree District Museum Trust for providing a copy of The Crittall Magazine of 1927 and the images. It reads:
Image courtesy of Braintree District Museum Trust
This photograph shows the Bronze Eagle and Globe of the R.A.F. Memorial on the Embankment , cast at Parlanti’s Foundry.
MAKING BRONZE MONUMENTS
As some of our readers probably know the C.M.C. has recently acquired the concern of Messrs. E. J. Parlanti and Co. Ltd., the famous bronze founders of West Kensington. While Messrs. Parlanti will continue to carry on the art of bronze work for which they are well known, they will also make the bronze and brass work in connection with Crittall installations. The following article from the Illustrated Country Review will give some idea of the beautiful work carried truned (sic) out by Parlanti’s foundry and of the processes used in the work. The blocks of the accompanying illustrations have been kindly loaned to us by Mr. Parlanti.
The past few years since the termination of the War have brought in their train a prolific crop of memorials to the honoured dead, to corps and regiments, and even more general ones.
Bronze, for its durability, is undoubtedly the favourite material for these monuments which are intended to last for ages, and much, if not the majority, of the pieces of work erected recently come from come from the workshops of Mr. E. J. Parlanti in Beaumont Rd., Fulham. They work only to the designs of artists and architects, and they mainly use the Cire perdue or lost wax process. For art castings two different processes may be used. The ordinary sand process, such as is used in all foundries, is quite suitable for small and heavy pieces of a plain moulding nature, where for example, undercuts are not so pronounced as to require the sectioning of the model.
But for castings of extremely delicate works and where the intricacy of the modelling and undercuts requires a very skilful and pliable handling the method called the ‘’Cire Perdue’’ or ‘’lost wax’’ process is applied.
As this process is on the hole very little known, it may be as well to give a rapid account of it. A plaster cast is taken from the sculptor’s clay model, and then a plaster piece mould, or in the case of small works a gelatine mould is made from the plaster figure. This, being the reverse of the model, that is to say the negative of the actual work, is used for the production of a wax cast similar to the plaster model originally received by the Founder. In the process of making this wax cast, a certain thickness of wax is kept through the surface of the work, and which eventually forms the actual thickness, which the bronze cast must be. The said wax pattern is then covered with a mixture of powdered burnt clay and plaster of Paris, and when the mould of this mixture is entirely set it is placed in a kiln, which has to be built every time according to the size of the mould, and a fire is started. The fire has a double use of baking the mould and melting at the same time the wax pattern encased in it.
Image courtesy of Braintree District Museum Trust
Part of the wax is run out from a hole left in the bottom of this mould, and the rest gets burnt out in the process of baking.
When this baking is over the founder makes the necessary preparation for the proper packing and securing of the mould prior to the cast. The molten metal is then run from a hole on the top of the mould where the runners are gathered, and through that fills the mould up, taking the same place occupied previously by the wax.
After waiting the necessary time for the cooling of the molten metal this mould is broken, and the bronze cast is uncovered. After the usual pickling or cleaning the bronze cast is handed to the finishers for the necessary tapping and chasing.
This wax process has the advantage for the sculptor of giving him the opportunity of sharpening up the details or at times altering and adding parts in the wax pattern prior to the final mould for the bronze cast. Many casts done by this process are so worked in details when in wax that practically each one of them may be considered as an original by itself.
Mr. Parlanti’s works have produced in bronze by this process an infinite number of figures by British sculptors, and during the 30 years or more that the firm has been established in England a large number of statues to the memory of Queen Victoria, King Edward, and statesmen and different war memorials have been executed here in wax process as well as sand. Amongst the war memorials of the late war for the castings of which they have been responsible can be mentioned the large eagle seventeen feet in height, forming part of the R.A.F. Memorial in London, the Submarine Memorial on the Embankment, the Prudential Memorial and the Newfoundland National War Memorial, besides many others in various parts of the country.
Possibly one of the last large castings to be undertaken by Ercole was the Alfreton War Memorial, which was unveiled on 31st July 1927. The actual date of commission and casting has yet to be discovered, but Ercole sold his foundry to Critall in March 1927, so it is highly likely that the bronze, which carries the inscription ‘PARLANTI FOUNDERS LONDON’ would have been cast prior to the sale of the foundry, or cast under the supervision of Ercole whose name Critall continued to use for a short while after acquisition of the foundry. As the photograph of the unveiling of the beautiful memorial, sculpted by William Aumonier Junior, shows, the crowd that turned out to the unveiling was huge.
Unveiling of the Alfreton War Memorial. Image kindly supplied by Somercotes Local History Society
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’. As already mentioned in the section on Alessandro, 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.
After so many years of running successful and reputable foundries in Fulham, Ercole clearly knew a lot of local people. Some of the Fulham residents that he and his wife sent tributes and flowers to on their deaths were the English portrait artist Henry Grant in 1932, the Belgian artist Armand Van den Bempt in 1933, and in 1935 that of James O’Connor, a Fulham native who was a haulage contractor and who had also been a local fishmonger and greengrocer.
Despite reaching retirement age, 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.
Bronze prototype Jaguar Mascot by F Gordon Crosby
Ercole contacted the Watts Gallery in April 1939 to ask if, following his visit the previous year, they wanted him to produce further reductions in bronze of ‘Physical Energy’. More information on the bronze reductions of Physical Energy from 1914 onwards can be found on the ‘Alessandro’ page immediately following the section on the first colossal cast of Physical Energy by Parlanti.
Ercole moved house from Fulham to Chiswick in 1939, and his son, Conrad, had a general foundry nearby in Acton Lane. Conrad was an experienced art bronze founder, having worked with his father from a very early age. Unless further evidence comes to light, we have to assume that any ‘Parlanti’ bronze casts from this period may be Ercole, Conrad, or a combination of them both. A former business partner of Conrad’s from this period told of Ercole still very much in attendance at Conrad’s foundries at this time. A couple of bronze casts from this period that are undergoing further investigation are those of Sir Winston Churchill and Ernest Bevin. These two busts are in the collection of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, and are by the sculptor Avraham Melnikoff. On the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery website they state This sculpture was modelled by Avraham Melnikoff in around 1941, but due to a delay caused by the war it was not cast by Parlanti’s Art Foundry in Chiswick until 1944. A letter from Parlanti to Melnikoff dated 21st April 1944 concerning the delayed casting of the busts (shown below along with the two busts) was signed on behalf of Parlanti’s foundry, so unfortunately does not confirm whether Ercole, Conrad, or a combination of both of them, cast the busts for Melnikoff.
Sir Winston Churchill by Avraham Melnikoff. © Bristol Culture: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Abraham Melnikoff with the model for the bust of Winston Churchill, ca. 1941. Abraham Melnikoff Archive, ARC. 4* 1956 03 29
© Bristol Culture: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Ernest Bevin by Avraham Melnikoff. © Bristol Culture: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
In 1947 Ercole eventually became a naturalised British citizen, following his initial application in 1940. His two sons had both fought in WW2, Mario, his youngest son, receiving an injury whilst working for the bomb disposal unit that meant he spent the rest of his life having to walk with a stick.
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 return to work in bronze in 1956 (using The Art Bronze Foundry, Fulham) and it has been suggested that a part of Hepworth’s decision to return to working in bronze was as a result of acquiring and reading Ercole’s book.
Ercole was also a talented sculptor. He was commissioned to sculpt and cast a large work depicting Saint Peter (pictured below). Also shown are an Eagle, and a pair of brass ashtrays that Ercole also produced.
Saint Peter-Location unknown
Unique single cast by Ercole-Private Collection
Pair of brass ashtrays-Private Collection
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.
On 16th September 2021 an historic Green Plaque was unveiled at Ercole’s former home at 2 Fielding Road, London W4 by Ealing Civic Society.