Thursday, 26 May 2016

Death Masks of Isaac Newton

The Death Masks of Isaac Newton.
J.A.Rouquet in Etat des Arts in Angleterre, (1755), states that Rysbrack had the honour of being employed in decorating the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton   ........ and that Mr Conduit who married the great mans niece was at the whole expense of the monument .....
Significantly George Vertue does not mention a death mask in Notebooks III for 1732 and states 'Mr Michael Rysbrack did Sr Isaac Newton immediately after his death from pictures or draughts'
Photographed at the Royal Society 13 May 2016
with Grateful thanks to Kat Harrington - Archivist at the Royal Society.
This death mask was donated to the Royal Society by Hunter Christie in 1839. A story perhaps apocryphal says that it was bought by Mr Christie from a dealer in Curios in Tichbourne Street, London in 1839. It has been suggested that this mask was from the Roubiliac sale of 1762. 
Again probably apocryphal - this mask was supposed to have belonged to Roubiliac and to have been sold in the posthumous sale
Fitzwilliam Museum
Highgate Literary Institute.
Edinburgh University Collection.
Huntington Library.
Keynes Library, Kings College, Cambridge.
19.5 x 14.4 cms
Provenance, by descent from John Conduitt to the collection of the Earl of Portsmouth. Bought by J.M.Keynes at the sale of Viscount Lymington, Sotheby's 14 July 1936, lot 332, and bequeathed to King's College in 1946.
Trinity College, Cambridge.
19.5 x 14.4 cms
Exactly the same size as the previously noted mask at Kings College, Cambridge
From Roubiliac's Work at Trinity College Cambridge by Katherine Esdaile, 1924.
Which states there is an accompanying note "Given by Roubiliac to his pupil Nathan : Smith. Mask taken from Sir Isaac Newton immediately after his death" Smith was apprenticed to Roubiliac in 1755.
Lithograph of the Trinity College Mask of Isaac Newton
James Basire III
c. 1830 - 50.
Image 75 x 45 mm.
British Museum
Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.
21.5 x 12.7cms
Presented to the Museum in 1819 by John Flaxman.
Crawford Library, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh.
Donated to the Observatory in 1883, by the Misses Wallace the daughters of Professor Wallace who was Professor of astronomy & mathematics at Edinburgh University.
From the International Life Cast Museum Website.
They do not give any details of provenance or source of this mask.
From the Laurence Hutton Collection, Princeton University.
Attached to it is the notation that Hutton cast this from the Royal Society cast.

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