It is an everyday tale of a Scots-Chilean naval hero, a Santiago businessman and a sculptor from Beauly.
Highland artist Leonie Gibbs is bidding farewell to three of her hand crafted statues created in honor of Admiral Thomas Cochrane.
The life-size statues, commissioned by Chilean businessman Manuel Ibanez from Santiago and taking two years to create, weigh 1,500 pounds each. They are a 200th anniversary present to the Chilean Navy.
Cochrane, the tenth Earl of Dundonald, served in the Royal Navy in the war against France and Napoleon called him The Sea Wolf. As a founder of the Chilean Navy, the monument was inspired by Cochrane’s most famous action in the Southern Pacific, the capture of the Spanish frigate ‘Esmeralda’.
Mrs Gibbs said: “It’s been a very fulfilling and enlightening project. I learn so much every time I take on a commission but this one, there has been so much to learn about. He is a very extraordinary man.
“I read through all the parts of his life but came to this crux of a moment which was in 1820, November 20. That is when he got onto the boat. They did it at nightfall and they successfully cut through the Esmeralda.”
“I did quite a few drawings and reading and I think it took me about three months really with all the research. I then started work in April, not last year but the year before, and set the steel armature and made him in clay on a metal framework. It’s been quite a process but a very exciting one.”
The Clay structures were then taken to Nairn’s casting company Black Isle Bronze Ltd, where they were covered from head to toe in bronze.
Director Farquhar Laing said: “I think it is absolutely fitting that a charismatic, heroic and buccaneering figure, that is so celebrated in Chile, is now immortalised in bronze. I am sure that Thomas Cochran would have been pleased that the four monuments have been sculpted, moulded and cast in the Highlands.”
Three of the four bronze statues being created will be placed in locations across Chile, with one set to be erected at Lochnell, near Oban – the home of the current Earl of Dundonald.
Mrs Gibbs spoke of what she hopes spectators will take from looking at them. She added: “I hope they get a bit of energy from the sculpture. The sculpture has this heartbeat, it is a living person. It’s not just a surface; there is a heartbeat within the surface. I hope it is something they will remember because there is a physical energy. I get that when I look at other peoples sculptors, I get a physical energy.”