This statuette is of Brodie’s lifelong friend and fellow Aberdonian, the painter John ‘Spanish’ Phillip RA (1817-1867), who earned his nickname painting mostly Spanish subjects after his first trip there in 1851. During the 1830s, he was a member of ‘The Clique’, a group of young artists - including Richard Dadd, Egg, Elmore, Frith, H.N. O’Neill and E.M. Ward - who wanted to paint modern genre, rather than historical, subjects. Phillip married Dadd’s sister, who became insane like her brother.
This fine statuette was in Brodie’s studio at his death and sold by auction at Dowell’s Art Gallery in George Street, Edinburgh, in December 1881. Brodie exhibited a bust of Amy, Phillip’s daughter, in 1861, and a bust of Phillip posthumously in 1868, and again, it seems, in the next year. Two busts of Phillip exhibited at the same venue in consecutive years seems unlikely, so one of the ‘busts’ may well have been this statuette. Evidently the relationship was very close. Conversely, Phillip portrayed Brodie at least twice: one portrait is in the collection of the Royal Scottish Academy, possibly the one lent by Brodie to the RSA for exhibition in 1880. The other, earlier one, is in Aberdeen Art Gallery, and shows Brodie modelling a head in clay, presumably a bust of Phillip. This picture may have been the portrait exhibited at the RSA in 1860, alongside that of Mrs Brodie. In 1868, the year after Phillip’s death, Brodie presented the RSA with Phillip’s self-portrait aged 20, probably the one now in the National Galleries of Scotland.