Monday, 23 April 2018

The Terracotta bust of Isaac Newton by Roubiliac

The Terracotta Bust of Isaac Newton
by Louis Francois Roubiliac.
at the Queen's House, Greenwich.
The Royal Society Marble bust of Isaac Newton
By Louis Francois Roubiliac.

The Belchier Bust -
formerly at Greenwich Observatory, The Terracotta Bust of Isaac Newton

by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

The following text is adapted from Royal Museums Greenwich website:
It repeats the same mistakes made by Katherine Esdaile in 'Roubiliac's Work at Trinity College Cambridge'  pub. Cambridge University Press 1924.

"On Newton's death in 1727, his nephew, John Conduitt, allowed John Rysbrack to take casts of his face. Two of these were obtained by Roubiliac and in about 1731.

Conduitt commissioned him to make this terracotta bust from them.  It was later owned by the surgeon John Belchier FRS, who at his death in 1785 left it to the Royal Society with instructions that it should be placed in the Royal Observatory at Greenwich".
In his will Belchier also stated that, as a portrait, it was 'esteemed more like than anything extant of Sir Isaac'.

Some forty to fifty years later, at Greenwich, the head was broken off in an accident and, after being repaired, the whole was painted white. The result was that by the later 19th century the bust was mistaken for a low-value plaster one and it remained at the Observatory up to and throughout the Second World War, on occasions provided with a tin hat, before moving to Herstmonceux with the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO) organization in the 1950s.

The original was considered 'lost' until the error was discovered in 1961, when it was stripped of paint and expertly restored by the British Museum. After the Royal Greenwich Observatory later moved to Cambridge, it was lent to the Fitzwilliam Museum, mainly for safety. It returned to Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum's custody on the closure of the RGO in 1998".

Unfortunately once again - nothing in Belchier's will confirms this. I am happy to provide a copy of this will to anyone interested.

Our Belchier should not be confused with the Cabinet Maker of St Paul's Churchyard with the same name.

All photographs of the bust taken by the author 
somewhat hampered by the Perspex/plexiglass case which encloses it!


The Royal Society Marble Bust of Isaac Newton
by Louis Francois Roubiliac

Inscribed on Socle NEWTON 1738.

Perhaps with the Royal Society from April 1738 when it had been purchased by William Freman FRS 'with intention of making a present of it to the (Royal) Society, (Journal Book Vol. XVII pp 231 - 2 - 13 April 1738).

There is also a minute of the Council the minutes CMC Vol 2 for 19th June, 1738 which records 'Mr Rubillac's Bill for a pedestal to Sir Isaac Newtons bust £2:7:0'

William Freman, DD. (d. 1750) (info Keynes) of Harnells, Aspenden, Hertfordshire, of Magdalene College, Oxford. where he was a substantial benefactor and donated the Chapel Organ.
Married Catherine Blount
Appointed Sherriff of Hertfordshire in 1732.
Elected to Royal Society 27 March 1735.

The unfinished cutting on the back of the bust should be noted suggesting that this bust was carved for a position such as in a niche where the back would not have been visible.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Lead Sculpture by John Cheere at Queluz, Portugal.

The Lead Sculpture at the Royal Summer Palace of Queluz, Portugal.
Commissioned by Infante Dom Pedro (1717 - 86),
younger son of King Dom Joao V.
Made and Supplied by John Cheere (1709 - 87),
in two groups from 1755.

The Garden designed by Jean Baptiste Robillon (1704 - 82).

Some notes -

I have recently visited Portugal and taken photographs of the lead sculpture at Queluz.

I will be posting them and more detailed notes in due course but in the mean time here are some samples.
This will form part of a wider study of the works of John Cheere.

The sculpture at Queluz should be compared with the groups at Wrest Park installed in 1839.


Information on the Cheere statuary at Queluz (below) culled from -  John Cheere's lead garden statues.... by Maria Joaon Neto and Fernando Grilo. Sculpture Journal Vol. 15.1, 2006.

The Gardens of the National Palace of Queluz, Ana Duarte Rodrigues, Denise Pereira da Silva and Gerald Luckhurst, pub. 2011.

For a not very satisfactory introduction to the works of John Cheere.
see John Cheere, the Eminent Statuary ..... Moira Fulton, Sculpture Journal, Volume X, 2003.


Details of the purchases are contained in Correspondence between the Portuguese Ambassador in London Don Louis da Cnha Manuel and the Foreign Secretary in Lisbon Sebasteao Jose de Carvalho e Melo (future Marquis of Pombal).

A stipulation by Dom Pedro was that the statues not be embarrassingly naked and an assurance from the sculptor that they were "girdled".

The sculptures exported from England to Queluz consisted in total of 9 Sculptural Groups, 57 individual figures and 72 lead vases.

The first Collection sent in May? 1755 in 36 crates on board the ship Camberwell consisted of -

Meleager and Atalanta (as Diana and Endymion at Wrest Park).
Vertumnus and Pomona.
23 statues of Mythological figures -
Neptune, Meleager, Mercury, Fame, Apollo, Diana, Bacchus, Venus, Ceres and Flora.
A Gladiator and 4 Seasons,
4 Commedia dell' Arte figures, - (Pierrot, Harlequin, Scaramouche and Columbine)
4 Picturesque figures - Shepherd and Shepherdess a man with a flute and drum and a woman with a rake.
24 Vases.

Cost £290.5s. 2d including shipping - £340.18s. 6d.


The second lot of sculptures sent in 58 crates on the ship  Nossa Senhora do Socorro in September 1755.

The speed that these sculptures were ordered suggests that John Cheere already had these objects in stock at his premises at Hyde Park Corner..

7 Sculptural Groups -
Rape of Proserpine.
Aeneas Carrying his father Anchises.
Rape of the Sabine Women (another at Wrest Park).
David and Goliath
Cain and Abel actually Samson Slaying the Philistine from the Giambologa original then at Buckingham House (another lead version at Harrowden Hall, Northants).
Venus and Adonis (another at Wrest Park),
Bacchus and Ariadne.

and 6 individual figures -
and Minerva.

and 16 animals -
4 Monkeys.
4 Lions.
4 Tigers.
2 Foxes a Harpy and an Eagle.

4 Groups with holes for the large tanks and water spouts?
8 Boys to decorate the waterfalls.
48 Painted Bronze and gold vases.

Cost with 10% discount £853.14s.1d.





This links to the first page of the Sculpture Journal piece,John Cheere's lead garden statues.... by Maria Joaon Neto and Fernando Grilo on the Cheere lead sculpture at Queluz and offers the rest of the article for the bargain price of £25. Contact me if anyone is interested in the contents of this article. I will, in due course, be publishing my own photographs (samples above) and a more up to date look at the works of John Cheere which were supplied to Queluz.

Two invaluable general works on the subject of Lead Statuary are English Leadwork, ..... by Lawrence Weaver, pub. 1909 and available on line at -

and Antique Garden Ornament by John Davies, pub Antique Collectors Club, 1999.


The website of Rupert Harris



For Lead Sculpture at Wrest Park, Bedfordshire.,_1700s_-_Wrest_Park_-_Bedfordshire,_England_-_DSC08325.jpg

For the statue of William III at Wrest see -


For the Giambologna marble version of Samson slaying the Philistine (Cain and Abel) at Buckingham House at the time,  from which the Cheere lead version derives, now in the V and A, see -


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Portrait of William Cullen by David Martin

The Portrait of Dr William Cullen F.R.S. (1710 - 1790).
David Martin (1737 - 1797).

Oil on canvas 
127 x 101.9 cms.
Painted in 1776.

An occasional post continuing the theme of Sculpture depicted in paintings and engraving in the 17th and 18th centuries.
For a useful brief biog see -


Both Illustrations above from the excellent National Gallery of Scotland website.


Cameo of Dr Cullen in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Busts of Charles I - A Few Notes.

The Portrait Busts of Charles I - 

Some Photographs and a Few Notes.

In no particular order.

These will eventually form part of a study into the portrait busts and Statues of Charles I
with particular reference to the Bronze Bust of Charles I by Hubert Le Sueur in the Bodleian Library,  Oxford, the plaster bust of Charles I after Le Sueur in the Library at St Johns College, Oxford and the full length bronze statue of Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria in the Canterbury Quad also at St Johns College, Oxford.

A Pair of Bronzed Plaster busts
Private Collection 

Formerly in the collection of Rupert Forbes Gunnis  (1899 - 1965).
Collector and Historian.

Rupert Gunnis wrote the excellent The Dictionary of  British Sculptors 1660 - 1851, pub. Abbey Library 1951, and revised and updated in 1968.

Rupert Gunnis "revolutionised the study of British sculpture, providing the foundation for all later studies on the subject" Tim Knox.

Mrs Katherine Esdaile (d. 1950). thought them to be by Francois Dieussart (d. 1661) but recently it has been proposed that they are by Peter Besnier, who we have already touched on in this blog.

In 1947 Mrs Esdaile had suggested that Gunnis bequeath them to the Victoria and Albert Museum and Terrence Hodgekinson visited Hungershall to inspect these and other sculptures in the collection. 

Ultimately they were rejected but the Museum accepted two signed busts by Nollekens and a bust of 'the unfortunate Admiral Byng' by Scheemakers.

For an excellent article on Rupert Gunnis see  Portrait of a Collector: Rupert Gunnis at Hungershall Lodge and his bequest to the Victoria and Albert Museum. by Tim Knox, The Sculpture Journal Vol. 2, 1998.


Peter Besnier (d. 1693)

Entry below from The Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors available online at -

Peter Besnier (Bennier) - A French sculptor and the brother of Isaac Besnier, who had collaborated with Hubert le Sueur on the monument to George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, erected in Westminster Abbey in 1634. 

Peter Bennier may have been trained in France but was living in England before October 1643, when he was appointed sculptor to King Charles I. He was required to look after the ‘Moulds, Statues and Modells’ in the Royal collection, a duty previously performed by his brother, in return for the use of a house and £50 pa from the privy purse. 

The Civil War prevented him from taking up his duties and he was deprived of his office during the Commonwealth. At the Restoration he petitioned to be reinstated on the grounds that the late King had granted him the ‘place of sculptor to His Majesty and the custody of his statues, etc, but by reason of the most unhappy distraction befallen since, hee injoyed not the same place, but was reduced into very great poverty and want through his faithfulness and constancy’ (TNA SP 29/2, no 66-1, quotedby Faber 1926, 14). His request was granted on 15 March 1661 (TNA, LC3/25, 113, cited by Gibson 1997 (1), 163) and he held the post until his death, when he was succeeded by Caius Gabriel Cibber.

Bennier is listed as a ratepayer of Covent Garden, 1649-51, and among the Ashburnham Papers is a reference to a tenement occupied by Bennier near Common Street in 1664 (LMA, ACC/0524/045,046,047, 048, cited by Gibson 1997 (1), 163).

 It has been tentatively suggested that he worked for Hubert le Sueur. He signed the monument with a ‘noble’ portrait-bust to Sir Richard Shuckburgh (1) (Gunnis 1968, 50). 

The monument to Sir Hatton Fermor at Easton Neston, Northants, has been attributed to him because the bust is similar to the Shuckburgh one and the two families intermarried. 

In 1655 Bennier was employed at Lamport Hall, Northants, carving shields and ‘pictures’, which were probably statues (Northants RO, IL 3956, cited by White 1999, 11, 12 n 10-11) (2). He also did unspecified work for the crown at Somerset House in 1661-2.

The bronzed plaster busts of Charles I and Charles II in 1965 at Hungershall Lodge, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, the home of Rupert Gunnis.

I hope to obtain better photographs of these busts in the near future.

These busts are very obviously a pair - the socles are very similar to the plaster busts of the Fermors formerly at Easton Neston sold Sotheby's (see below) and attributed to Peter Besnier.

A pair of plaster busts of Sir William Fermor, 1st bt. (1621-1661) and his wife Mary (1628-1670), daughter of Hugh Perry, attributed to Peter Besnier (French, d.1693), 1658.

Sold at Sotheby's Easton Neston sale Lot 12 - 17th May 2005.

Bought with the aid of an Art Fund grant by Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.
The Sotheby's Catalogue entry for these busts follows below -

He wearing quirass with lions pauldrons and a sash tied on his right shoulder, his hair falling in locks over the breastplate, an old illegible paper label to the reverse; she facing slightly to dexter, her hair styled in deep curls about her bare upper chest and shoulders; each set on integral plaster socles bearing the date 1658 

height  72cm., 28½in.; she 65.5cm., 25¾in.

Photograph Courtesey Sotheby's

see -


Marble bust of Charles I.

Note the similarity with the Socle of the Gunnis and Fermor busts.

dated 1631.

The bust is dated 1631, the first year that Le Sueur was recorded in the King's employ, when he also spent four months in Rome taking casts of ancient sculpture. The sculpture is the earliest datable bust of the monarch by the artist and marks an increasing interest in sculptural portraits in England during the 1630s and 40s.

Probably made for Charles I; other bronze versions are known. Carved in London by Hubert Le Sueur (born in Paris, about 1590, died there after 1658). 


Stated at the time of purchase to have come from The Hague, and stated to have been formerly in the royal palace Huis ten Bosch. 

Purchased from Durlacher Bros., 42 New Bond Street in 1910.

Inscribed on the base in raised letters

King Charles at the age of 31

Inscribed at the base in raised letters.
Hubert le Sueur made this 1631

Currently on display at the Queens House, Greenwich.

I will post more photographs shortly.

Victoria and Albert Museum.

see -


Catherine Bruce, Mrs William Murray (d.1649)

Bust of Catherine Bruce, Mrs William Murray (d. 1649).
Gilt Bronze 
H. 785 mm

at Ham House
Attributed to PeterBesnier
National Trust

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Self Portrait with Bust Michael Dahl

Michael Dahl (1659 - 1743).
Self Portrait with Bust of the Medici Venus.
Signed and dated lower left M Dahl. pinx. /Ao 1691.
Size 1245 x 991 mm.


Possibly the ‘picture of him in his own hair’ listed by Vertue in 1723.
Anon. sale, Christie’s, 7 March 1952, lot 73. (‘Portrait of an Artist’), 
bought by dealers Leggatt for the NPG.

A self portrait was in the collection of Matthew Prior (H. Bunker Wright & H. C. Montgomery, ‘The Art Collection of a Virtuoso in eighteenth-century England’, Art Bulletin, XXVII, 1945, p 199, no.22).

Continuing with the occasional post on the theme of sculpture depicted in paintings and engravings.

A Bust of  Dahl by Michael Rysbrack, noted by Vertue in 1732 (G. Vertue, Notebooks, Wal. Soc., XXII, 1934 p 56).

Michael Dahl, by Michael Dahl, 1691 - NPG 3822 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

The bust is a copy from the Venus de Medici (Uffizi; shown in the Tribuna from 1688) of which Louis XIV had owned five copies in both marble and bronze; one of the most admired classical statues, it was regarded by Evelyn as a ‘miracle of art’. 

Although sold in 1952 as ‘An Artist’, there can be little doubt concerning the sitter’s identity. Signed and dated, the pose is that of a self portrait and comparison with Dahl’s self portrait at Gripsholm of c.1700 is reassuring.

NPG 3822 was painted soon after Dahl had settled in England, the head of the Venus de Medici declaring a degree of sophistication. Millar, remarking on the rich personal colours and striking French quality, described it as Dahl’s masterpiece.

Text and image above from NPG website -

Friday, 2 March 2018

Isaac Newton the Conduitt Marble Bust by Michael Rysbrack.

Sir Isaac Newton .
Michael Rysbrack.
The Conduitt Marble Bust.

with the Earl of Portsmouth, Farleigh Wallop. Basingstoke, Hampshire.

Michael Rysbrack (1694 - 1770).
Height 60 cms.

The base - Height - 12.5 cms.
Commissioned by John Conduitt FRS (1688 - 1737).
Perhaps made shortly after his death 1727 but possibly slightly earlier - the medallion by John Coker is dated 1736 and is so close to the Rysbrack version that I would suggest it derived from Rysbrack's bust.

John Conduitt had married Catherine Barton (1679 - 1740) the half niece of Isaac Newton 23 August 1717.
Conduitt succeeded Newton as Master of the Mint in March 1727 after his death.

George Vertue in his notebooks - 1732 (Vertue III , Walpole Society Journal) says "Mr Michael Rysbrake did Sr Isaac Newton immediately after his death from pictures or draughts" 

It is perhaps significant that Vertue does not mention a death mask.

Conduitt died on 23 May 1737, and was buried in Westminster Abbey on 29 May to the right of Sir Isaac Newton. His wife Catherine died in 1739 and was buried with him. 

In his will dated 1732, he left his estate to his wife and made her guardian of their underage daughter Catherine. On his death, the trustees sold the estate at Cranbury Park as well as estates at Weston and Netley, near Southampton to Thomas Lee Dummer, who succeeded him as MP for Southampton

His daughter Catherine later married John Wallop, Viscount Lymington (died 1749) in 1740. He was the eldest son of John Wallop, 1st Earl of Portsmouth, and their son, John Wallop, succeeded as the second earl of Portsmouth. 

The Marble Conduitt bust has remained with the family.

I am very grateful to Lord Portsmouth and Lord Lymington for allowing me to visit Farleigh Wallop and to take photographs of this wonderful bust. I am also extremely grateful to Greta Iddeson, Estate Manager at Farleigh Wallopwho made the visit so enjoyable


Isaac Newton
John Croker
dated 1726.

The profile of Newton is very close to the Rysbrack bust.

Felix Conoscere Cavsas
Loosly translated "Happy to understand causes"
Science holding a diagram of the Solar system.

Isaac Newton
Bronze Medallion.
Designed by John Croker (1670 - 1741).
1726 (old style).

Diam. 51 mm.

Croker originally from Dresden worked with the Royal Mint from 1697 - in 1705 he was appointed Chief Engraver.

Silver medal.

John Croker
The Silver version of the 1726 Medallion.

British Museum.

John Croker
British Museum.


Left to Right - The Conduitt Marble, the Rysbrack Sale bust now in the Fitzwilliam, the Plaster bust in the Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge.

For more on the bronze bust of Newton see my post -


Sir Isaac Newton
John Faber Jnr.
c. 1732.
312 x 242 mm.

This mezzotint is something of a conundrum in that it clearly represents the Rysbrack bust of Newton, but we know that the bust placed in Queen Caroline's Hermitage in Richmond Park was by Guelphi (below) - now in Kensington Palace. How did the artist make this mistake?

Marble bust of Isaac Newton
by Giovanni Battista Guelphi.

The socle a 19th century replacement

74.0 x 51.0 x 30.0 cm (including socle).
60.0 x 51.0 x 30.0 cm (excluding socle).

Image Courtesy The Royal Collection see -


The Conduitt Marble Bust of Isaac Newton.

by William Hogarth.

The bust is depicted in a performance of

A Scene from the Indian Emperor or
The Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards a play by John Dryden.

Taking place at the house in St George Street, Hanover Square of John Conduitt in March 1732

It was performed again at St James' Palace on 27th April 1732.

commenced in 1732 - delivered in 1735.
Oil on canvas
130.8 x 146.6 cms.

Formerly in the collection of Earl of Ilchester

Suggested in the past by Malcolm Baker to be a bust by Roubiliac - making comparisons with the mezzotint above (if reversed!) and the photographs of the Conduitt marble bust it is very obviously a representation of the Conduit marble.

This painting was commissioned by John Conduitt.

The play is being performed by four children including Kitty Conduitt in front of the three children of George II and Queen Caroline - William Duke of Cumberland, Princess Mary and Princess Louisa.

Also in the audience are the Dukes of Montagu and Richmond,the Earl of Pomfret and Thomas Hill the secretary of the Board of Trade with John Theophilus Desagulier acting as prompter.
The two portraits on the wall represent John Conduit and his wife

The frieze, with putti emblematic of Newtons discoveries, below the bust on the chimney piece is that carved by Rysbrack and had been recently erected on the monument to Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.

Marble Frieze on the Monument to Isaac Newton
Michael Rysbrack.
Westminster Abbey.
No photography allowed.
Indifferent photographs can be obtained (at a cost) from the Abbey.

This photograph courtesy Getty Images.