Friday, 29 August 2014


Waddesdon Manor - Exhibition - Fame and Friendship: Pope, Roubiliac and the Portrait Bust - 18 June – 26 October 2014
 
 

This is the second showing of the exhibition having  originally appeared in a different form  at  the exhibition at the Yale Centre for British Art in New Haven from 20 February to 19 May 2014.

It was prompted by the purchase at Sotheby's New York, lot 355 on 26 January 2012 of the marble bust of Pope by Lord Rothschild, thus reuniting it with its pair - the bust of Isaac  Newton. 

These two busts were separated after having been purchased at the Poulett Sale of the contents of Hinton St George in 1968. Bought by dealer Cyril Humphries of Bond St. London, and sold in 1969 to Armand G. Erpf. of New York. On his death in 1971, they passed to his widow who became Mrs Gerrit P.van de Bovenkamp.

The Newton bust next appears without the Pope at Sotheby's New York - Benjamin Sonnenberg sale, Lot 391, on 5 June, 1979, where it was bought jointly by 14, St James Place and Cyril Humphries. The Newton is now in the Collection of Lord Rothschild.

It is my opinion that this version is the best of the Roubiliac busts of Pope. It has not been over cleaned and appears to retain much of its original surface. It is very similar to the Yale bust but is slightly longer and closer to the Barber terracotta. The bulging vein visible behind his right collar bone is a remarkably realistic touch.

The current exhibition brings together eight different versions of the busts of Pope attributed to Roubiliac and a bust of Pope by Michael Rysbrack a bronze bust of Lord Chesterfield and a Nollekins marble bust of 1776 of William Murray Lord Mansfield  -

The Rysbrack bust of 1730 from the National Portrait Gallery.

The Roubiliac terracotta bust  of c. 1740 from the Barber Institute.

The Temple Newsam Roubiliac ad vivum marble of 1738.
 

The Shipley/David Garrick ad vivum marble bust with a very badly chosen, over scale square socle - it must surely have been possible to make a replacement of the correct proportions - after all the plaster version from Felbrigg Hall which is a direct cast of this bust was also included in the exhibition. (illustrated above).

 

The Milton / Mansfield ad vivum marble bust of 1740.
 

The Poulett marble now in the Rothschild Collection and paired with that of Isaac Newton. (illustrated above)

The Yale Roubiliac marble inscribed ad vivum of 1741.

The British Museum plaster by Roubiliac bought from the studio of Roubiliac in the posthumous sale of 1762.

The recently discovered bronze which was sold by Sotheby's 6 July 2007 and appears to be a version of the Milton / Mansfield bust but  without the inscription.
 

The Nollekins marble bust (another version of the Milton / Mansfield bust) along with its pair of Sterne. Illustrated above).

I would like to be have been able to say more complimentary things about this exhibition. It is something of an achievement to convince the various owners to lend these busts but I find it a shame that the opportunity was wasted to collect all the Roubiliac Pope busts together in one place in England. Where were the Seward, Roger Warner, Saltwood Castle, Windsor Castle and the Vand A marble busts  - all currently in England? Why was the bronze bust of Denis Diderot by Jean - Baptiste Pigalle of 1777 included? - it had no relevance to the current exhibition either in terms of its facture (it was made long after the death of Roubiliac in 1762) or to the literature of the period.
The last time there was attempt  to gather a group of the Pope busts together was in 1961, was by William Kurtz Wimsatt at the National Portrait Gallery, but he could muster only six. He wrote the masterful Portraits of Alexander Pope published by Yale in 1965. My work on the subject has built on his chapters about the portrait sculpture of Pope.
 I note that no mention was made of the pair of busts of Newton and Pope described in the Gentleman's Magazine of 11 Feb 1741 as being in the Long Room at Wiltshire's Assembly rooms in Bath - the obvious candidate for sculptor of these busts is Roubiliac. They can be seen in a drawing by George Virtue George Virtue in the Broadly Collection Scrapbook relating to Pope and Bath at Bath Reference Library.  These busts were not mentioned in the current exhibition catalogue or leaflet. Instead, a date for these busts of 1760 was used to suggest that the exhibited busts were "probably" made for Lord Poulett for his house in Twickenham. There is not a shred of evidence for this (unless I am not party to information that proves otherwise). There is no other mention as far as I am aware of  a pair of busts of Newton and Pope in the 18th century except those at Bath.  Lord Chesterfields epigram of about 1741 - If these busts are those from Wiltshire's Rooms in Bath then it is an example of a very public display of the busts of 18th century celebrities rather than for private contemplation as suggested by the literature for this exhibition.
Immortal Newton never spoke
more truth than here you'll find
Nor Pope himself ere penned a joke
More cruel on mankind
This statue placed these busts between
Gives satire all its strength;
Wisdom and Wit are little seen,
But Folly at full length!
This refers to the full length portrait of Richard "Beau" Nash between the busts of Newton and Pope.
Whilst it is most likely that William Murray had his bust of Pope from Roubiliac there is no evidence that either he  or David Garrick obtained their busts from Roubiliac although of course, it is a distinct possibility. It would seem somewhat perverse to base an exhibition on the possibility that these busts of Pope were superintended by himself and made for his friends with no concrete evidence - if  a discussion about the replication of portrait busts in England, in the mid 18th century  was intended, then the discussion should also have included, amongst others, the replication of busts of Locke, Milton and particularly more on Newton and further discussion regarding the plaster versions might have added to our understanding - the posthumous Roubiliac sale included two mould for busts of Pope and 5 casts.
In the publicity for this exhibition and its forerunner at Yale one of its stated aims was "In bringing together autograph busts and copies, the exhibition explored not only the complex relationship between these various versions but the hitherto little understood processes of sculptural production and replication in eighteenth-century Britain". I was unable to attend the Yale exhibition and so am unable to judge  but the Waddesdon version failed in its attempt if this was one of its intentions.
Having inspected all the various busts of Pope in some depth it is plain to see that there are three distinct versions which show the progressive deterioration in health of Pope who suffered from Potts disease -  a tuberculosis of the bones between 1738 and 1741 - the Seward and Temple Newsam versions, The Garrick, Roger Warner and Milton/Fitzwilliam type, and the Barber Institute terracotta which all the others follow
The French dimension to the exhibition was I'm sure of interest to literary scholars but adds very little to the study of English 18th century portrait sculpture. Whilst one of the three Roubiliac bronze busts of the Francophile Philip Dormer Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield was on display there was no mention of the set of busts given by Chesterfield to  the poet, dramatist  and diarist Madame Marie - Anne Fiquet du Boccage (1710 -1802). Busts of Pope, and of Dryden, Milton and Shakespeare were sent with three others to Paris in 1751.
see - Miscellaneous Works of the Late Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of ..., Volume 3.  By Philip Dormer Stanhope Earl of Chesterfield, Matthew Maty. 1779. A letter from London 14 June 1750 - page 338.
"I will send you two busts that not only deserve, but claim a place in your garden, in consequence of the reception they have met with in your closet, I mean Milton and Pope. There they will not be afraid of company, besides they have already got their vouchers and patents, countersigned by your own hand. I shall send them as soon as they are done".
Madame Boccage had translated Miltons Paradise Lost in 1748 and Popes poem The Temple of Fame into French in 1749.
The fact that they were suitable for her garden suggests that they were of marble.
A letter from Chesterfield to Madame du Boccage, 7 November 1751, suggests there was then a bust of Chesterfield in her house in Paris in the rue de la Sourdière; no sculptor or material is mentioned.
 
Whilst obtaining two busts from the Louvre represented a coup for the Waddesden curators perhaps the inclusion of the terra cotta bust of Madame Boccage of 1766 by Jean - Baptiste Defernex now in the British Museum would have had more relevance.


 

The display of the version of the stipple engraving of the marble bust of Pope formerly with the Vandewall family and with William Seward by 1788 with no heading was a strange choice considering that there is another version giving the ownership and stating that it was by Rysbrack (surely a typo).
In conclusion this is a very good looking exhibition in a wonderful setting of a rather unfashionable area of English Art which needs more information.
One can only hope that Malcolm Bakers long delayed and forthcoming opus The Marble Index on the portrait busts of Roubiliac will go into the subject in much greater depth. The catalogue for the current exhibition appears to be a very rushed affair adding little to current knowledge.
These are personal observations gleaned from studying the busts of Pope by Roubiliac from time to time over several years.

Below are on the left the Shipley /David Garrick Bust - centre The British Museum Plaster and the Yale version on the right.

All photographs lifted from the TLS website.