Hewetson, Christopher (c.1737–1798), sculptor, was the son of Christopher Hewetson, landowner, and his second wife Elizabeth (née Hewetson; she was a kinswoman of her husband) of Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. Christopher Hewetson senior was a gentleman of some social standing in Co. Kilkenny (he was a JP and an officer in the county militia) but he left little provision for his younger children when he died in 1744. Christopher Hewetson, the sculptor, and his brother Thomas may have been assisted financially by their maternal uncle, Rev. Thomas Hewetson (master of Kilkenny College), during their childhood. Christopher Hewetson entered Kilkenny College 2 September 1745. It is not known when he began training as an artist/sculptor. He worked with the sculptor John Van Nost (qv) the younger, who was employed by Dr Bartholomew Mosse to make statues for the Rotunda Gardens in Dublin in the 1750s. Hewetson had moved to Italy by 1765: his presence is noted on a list of English and Irish artists residing there. It is possible that Hewetson was encouraged to travel to Italy by the Dublin Society; in 1758 the society paid a sum to John Crawley (another pupil of Van Nost) so that he could learn the ‘statuary arts’ in Rome.
Hewetson was among a number of British and Irish-born artists, such as James Barry (qv), Hugh Douglas Hamilton (qv), and Michael Foy who lived in Rome for extended periods during the late eighteenth century. Thomas Jenkins, an art dealer and banker to the English community in Rome, used his influence to get Hewetson a number of prestigious commissions. His first documented work is a terracotta bust of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn in 1769. Hewetson made busts of other Grand Tourists (such as Charles Towneley and Gavin Hamilton); of foreign nobles and heads of state (e.g. a bust of the duke of Gloucester and a colossal bust of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz of Hanover); and of distinguished artists (e.g. Raphael Mengs and Angelica Kauffmann). In 1771 Pope Clement XIV agreed to sit for Hewetson; four contemporary versions of this bust exist.
In c.1771 Hewetson commenced work on a monument to Richard Baldwin (qv), provost of TCD 1717–58. This sculpture, which was said to have cost £1,000 to make and a further £416 to deliver, was erected in the examination theatre at TCD in August 1784 under the supervision of the sculptor Edward Smyth (qv). Hewetson began another elaborate funerary monument for Cardinal Rezzonico in c.1783. From the late 1780s Hewetson received less work, partly as a result of competition from the outstanding Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757–1822). From 1797 the English community dwindled as a result of the French occupation and Hewetson fled to Naples for a number of months before returning to Rome in 1798.
Hewetson's portrait busts are technically highly accomplished but lacking a little in personality. The monument to Provost Baldwin, which shows the dying man catching a glimpse of eternal life (with the aid of angels above and beside him) is a highly dramatic composition made from the finest marbles (white Carrara marble figures, a dark porpyhry sarcophagus, and a red oriental granite pyramid). It is the earliest neo-classical sculpture group of its type in Ireland. Hewetson's surviving busts are of white marble or bronze; some contemporary replicas were made of plaster. Though Hewetson spent most of his working life in Rome, he sometimes signed his works ‘Hibernus fecit’, an assertion of his Irish origins. He exhibited busts at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1786 and 1790.
Hewetson seems to have remained a bachelor throughout his life. His most constant companion over a twenty-year period was Thomas Jenkins (d.1798), who left the Italian equivalent of £100 in his will so that Hewetson could buy a ring in memory of nostra costante amicizia (our constant friendship). Christopher Hewetson died in Rome in 1798. A portrait of him in oils by Stefano Tofanelli (c.1785) is in the Wallraf-Richarz Museum, Cologne.