What is going on in the front panel of the Johnson statue in Lichfield?

I just finished David Crystal’s “By Hook or By Crook” today (it’s more or less a peripatetic journey through Wales and England via the English language), and there is one photograph in the Lichfield chapter of the statue of Samuel Johnson in the Market Square. The photo in the book is straight on from the front (facing Johnson’s front directly) and the front panel of the pedestal caught my eye. Not-so-good photo of it here. The panel in question is on the right in that photo.

To my modern (and gay) eye, that front panel looks quite lascivious. I’m assuming, however, that it’s some 18th century metaphor or something. It is, apparently, Johnson using someone else for a chair as he writes…in other words, he’s sitting in another man’s lap, though the positioning is rather more…active…than that.

So…British Dopers (and if you’re actually FROM or have lived in Lichfield, better yet)…what is going on in that front panel?

Here’s a better photo.

To me it looks like it’s people praying. They just pushed them up against one another so they could fit them all in to the small space.

He’s not sitting on anyone’s lap. It looks to me more like someone being carried on others’ shoulders. There is a small text description of what each of the pictures shows underneath, but wouldn’t you know I can only find good enough images of the other sides to read them, not that one. Maybe someone else can google better (or go to Lichfield).

I have a sister who lives near Lichfield.

The text description on the front panel reads Thus he was borne from school. I can’t get her to answer any follow up questions for at least two weeks because she’s just gone on holiday.

If anyone wants her to look at some statues in Cornwall while she’s there, please advise accordingly. I’ve put her into ‘standby mode’.

Okay, that follows from Teacake’s “on shoulders” interpretation. Thanks, folks!

This source reports that the front relief depicts three schoolboys.

The incident depicted on the statue is related by Boswell in his Life of Johnson as an illustration of the deference paid to Johnson even as a schoolboy by his fellow pupils.

Life of Johnson