Friday, 14 March 2014

Busts of Alexander Pope belonging to Lady Luxborough and William Shenstone

    Lady Luxborough and William Shenstone and their Busts of Alexander Pope.

See - Letters written by the late Rt Honourable Lady Luxborough: to William Shenstone published in 1775

In a letter From Barrells Hall dated 28th April 1748.She mentions a head of Pope over a chimneypiece (page 22) and having Mr Outing sending Shenstone a bust of Pope made to look like marble, and mentions 4 more busts treated in the same way by Rackstrow for her brother Saint John.

2 August 1750 she mentions Mr Moore of Warwick (plaisterer) “also to desire him to see your white bust of Pope, for I have a mind to have Lord Bolingbrokes painted the same”

On Easter Sunday 1748, she wrote -The chimney in my study was not exactly in the middle of the room: which has occasioned my moving it 12” and consequently moving Popes bust to be in the centre. The lines wrote above it are put up again (which, you know, are out of Virgil).

In another letter from Barrells of 13 August 1750, she mentions Mr Williams (of New Street, Birmingham) who was visiting Shenstone “I desired him not to forget to look at your bust of Pope; hoping he may be able to paint mine of my brother Bolinbroke after the same manner”. (page 215)

Henrietta St John Knight, Lady Luxborough was the half sister of Henry St John, Lord Bolingbroke, a close friend of Alexander Pope and executor of his will.

She and a group of Poetic friends were known as the Warwickshire Coterie.

Barrells Hall, Wooten Wawen, near Henley in Arden, Warwickshire. She had been banished there in 1736 by her husband Robert Knight (created Baron Luxborough in 1745), for an indiscretion (probably with poet and clergyman John Dalton Horace Horace Walpole said the Rhymed till they chimed) and never saw her husband again.
Here we have two busts of Alexander Pope mentioned in letters of 1748 and 1750. From these letters there is no doubt that William Shenstone owned a plaster bust of Pope. Lady Luxborough also owned a bust of Pope but she does not make clear what material it was made from -
This bust could be one of the marble busts by Roubiliac. Given the lack of headroom at Barrells Hall, this could have been the small bust or head now at Temple Newsam signed L.F.Roubiliac ad vivum 1738. Currently there is no record of this bust prior to about 1922 when a Mr ARA Hobson suggests that his father GD Hobson (of Sotheby's) acquired it.. Illustrated in a wall niche at I Bedford Square and illustrated in Country Life in February 1932, sold at Sotheby's 17 Nov 1933 - see Wimsatt

The Temple Newsam Bust of Alexander Pope
InscribedA. Pope Ae 50.
Sclpt ad vivum 1738

Henrietta St John Knight, Lady Luxborough. Anon at Lydiard Tregoze, Swindon, Wiltshire.

Henrietta St John Knight, Lady Luxborough - Anon at Lydiard Tregoze, Swindon, Wiltshire.

William Shenstone by Thomas Ross

William Shenstone by Thomas Hudson

William Shenstone by Edward Alcock

A bust of Alexander Pope at Tottenham Park, Wiltshire.

       Bust of Pope at Tottenham Park, Wiltshire in May, 1810.

See -Wiltshire and Swindon Archives – Savernake Estate - [no title ) 9/35/191769-1 Bust of Pope.

Letter from Thomas Young concerning a bust of Mr Pope, with detailed sketch, 27th May 1810;

I visited Chippenham Archives and History Centre Tuesday 12 March 2014 with great hopes that the letter of 27 May 1810 from Thomas Young to Lord Bruce regarding a bust of Pope at Tottenham Park, might clarify the identity of the bust mentioned in an Inventory of 14 Nov.1744.- A bust of Pope belonging to Charles, Lord Bruce,Viscount of Tottenham, d.1747. - Tottenham Park, Wiltshire. (10 poets heads on painted and gilt brackets, one ditto Mr Pope).

Unfortunately I feel the waters have been slightly further muddied by this visit. This letter refers to the positioning of a small bust of Pope on the pediment of a mirror (see scans). This letter refers to “ Mr Popes bust 15.5” tall including the socle. The drawing attached to the letter gives the sizes and shows it to be a half life size version of the Barber type bust which suggests that it is a similar plaster bust to that at Longleat. The letter goes on to say that the “the head hangs over so much that it will not stand”


It would seem most likely that bust referred to in the 1810 letter is not the bust of Pope referred to in the inventory of Lord Bruce in 1744 but a later plaster bust, perhaps by John Cheere or one of the other plaster casters of the mid 18th century such as Benjamin Rackstrow (1707 -72) of St Martins Lane and later of Fleet Street or Charles Harris of The Strand. 


Drawing attached to the letter from Thomas Young to Lord Bruce 1810.

Drawing showing the size of the bust of Mr Pope with Socle attached to the letter of Thomas Young to
Lord Bruce 1810.


The Pair of Corbel brackets from Tottenham Park, Wiltshire in the V and A are much too big ( height: 60.96 cm, width: 35.56 cm, depth: 26.67 cm) for a small plaster bust but are eminently suitable for full size marble busts.
They suggest that they were designed by William Kent.
This bracket and its pair (museum no. W.1-1988) are mentioned in the 1745 inventory of the contents of Tottenham Park, Wiltshire described as 'ten poettes heads on painted and gilt brackets (one ditto of Mr. Pope)'.

From the V and A website -

Until things are clarified I believe that the most likely candidate for the bust of Pope at Tottenham Park and mentioned in the inventory of Lord Bruce of 1745 in Lord Bruce study is the bust now at Yale Centre for British Art.