Wednesday 24 June 2015

Bust of Handel by Roubiliac "By Heaven Inspired".

A Marble Bust of Handel "by Heaven Inspired".
By Louis Francois Roubiliac.
Lot 179, Sotheby's London,9 July 2015.

I have written at length on the subject of the Handel Busts and intend to publish more images on this blog in the near future. For immediate access to my previous blog entry see -

I have also referred to these busts in several other posts.

Possibly the ‘remarkable fine bust of [Handel], exquisitely modell’d by Roubiliac’ in a sale of 1766.

 Possibly lot 35 on the second day (21 February) of the John Blackwood sale at Christie’s in 1778, ‘Roubiliac, marble busto of Handel, on a pedestal’.
In the Collection of Alfred Morrison (1821-97), at Fonthill House, Wiltshire, and 16 Carlton House Terrace, London, from c. 1860- 1897;
By descent to his widow, 16 Carlton House Terrace, London;

Above images from Sotheby's London.


 In 1741 George Vertue, the 18th-century chronicler of the arts, recorded that 'Mr. Rubbilac Sculptor ... had Modelld from the Life several Busts of portraits extreamly like ... Mr. Isaac Ware Architect Mr Handel - &c. and several others' -
Walpole Society, XXII (1933-4), Vertue Notebooks, 2, p105, also quoted in Katharine A.Esdaile, The Life and Works of Louis Francois Roubiliac, Oxford, 1928, p47.


David Wilson, ''By Heaven Inspired': A marble bust of Handel by Roubiliac rediscovered', The British Art Journal, vol. X, no. 1, 2009, pp. 14-29;

An excellent piece of research which covers most of the ground, marred only by David Wilsons suggesting that this and other busts are based on a life mask taken of Handel by Roubiliac prior to the Vauxhall Gardens statue of 1738, and the contemporary busts sculpted in terracotta and marble and manufactured in plaster by Roubiliac. I have written about these so called life masks in a previous post on this blog and have come to the conclusion that these masks were taken from a plaster by Roubiliac. The first published reference to these masks was on the 19th July 1834 in the Mirror.

The link below is for the full article but without photographs.-

M. Baker, The Marble Index. Roubiliac and Sculptural Portraiture in Eighteenth-century Britain, New Haven and London, 2014, p. 259 and note. 63;
 Malcolm Baker dismisses this bust as "a puzzling newly discovered marble bust" and refers to David Wilsons article in the British Art Journal. I find it really very puzzling that Mr Baker was unable to make any further comments about this bust or to enlarge on the points made in David Wilson's article. Given that he was supposed to be publishing at length on the portrait sculpture of Handel this appears to be an important omission. I intend to delve further into the history and manufacture of these busts in some depth in the near future and to provide photographic comparisons of the various versions.

David Hunter, Lives of George Frideric Handel, future publication, references to this bust are to be included.

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