Tuesday, 21 January 2014


The Busts of Alexander Pope by Louis Francois Roubilic.



1. There are 10 marble busts of Pope by Roubiliac than can probably be safely ascribed to Roubiliac and his studio. The four signed versions, and the Seward, Warner, Saltwood, Windsor, V&A and Poulett.

2. There are three basic types of the Roubiliac Pope bust.

A. The 1738, Temple Newsam Type. There are two versions. The T.N. and the Seward bust where Pope still appears relatively young and virile. This is plain to see in several drawings and etchings from 1737 - 8 by Jonathan Richardson. The drapery on these two busts have the same details and is of similar quality although the T.N. Bust is truncated. A very important point in identifying the Seward bust as by Roubiliac.


B. The 1740 Mansfield / Milton type. The Milton and Warner busts where he appears to have aged somewhat. The plaster version at Hughenden would indicate that it is the same as mentioned in the Marchmont inventory.


C. The 1740 Barber Institute type including the variant Shipley bust and the other 5 versions. He appears older more lined and careworn, with very deep bags under his eyes, sunken cheeks and neck and his skin tight across his forehead. Mrs Esdaile notes “the traces of increased suffering” on the later busts in an article published in the listener in 1940.

Pope must have sat for Roubiliac in 1737 or early in 1738, in order for him to have completed the 1738 dated , ad vivum Temple Newsam bust and the 1738/9 Marchmont bust.

3. Pope had Potts disease - a progressive tuberculosis of the bones. In July 1740 he wrote to Ralph Allen about visiting Bath but pleads ill health “I am in no pain but my case is not curable and must in course of time as it does not diminish, become painful first then fatal” He suffered a serious infection of his kidneys and urinary tract which was operated on by the surgeon Cheselden in August of 1740. This would explain the obvious deterioration in the appearance of his physiognomy between 1737 and 1741.


It is my contention that there were two other terra cotta or plaster prototype busts now missing from the 1737/8 and 1740 periods and that the Barber terra cotta was completed by 1739.
We know of  his visit to Roubiliacs studio for Ralph Allen in July of 1741.

4. Lot 75, a marble bust of Pope and lot 76 a marble head of Pope sold at the Roubiliac sale on the fourth day were the Seward bust and Warner head. Both are versions of the earlier signed busts. The Seward is unfinished and the Warner bust has faults, explaining their remaining in the studio.

5. The Seward bust has details only visible on two separate Roubiliac busts of Pope. The hair on the Temple Newsam bust and the drapery on the Barber type busts. It follows therefor that it could not be a copy. A copier would have to had access to the two separate busts to include all the details of the hair and drapery. This is a most important factor in attributing this bust.

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