Thursday 25 June 2015

The Royal Collection Marble Bust of Handel and its Varients - The one with the Hat. The Houbraken Engraved Portrait of Handel -1738.

The 1739 Marble Bust of Handel (1685 - 1759).
by Louis Francois Roubiliac (1702 - 62).
Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, 
in the Queens Presence Chamber.

Photograph scanned from Early Georgian Portraits, Kerslake, NPG. 1977.

Size -71.0 x 60.0 x 36.0 cm. - 28 ins x 14.25 ins.

The mole on his left proper cheek is just visible.

It seems very likely that this bust was commissioned from Roubiliac by Handel himself. It was given by Handel to John Christopher Smith Senior (Johann Christoph Schmidt) (1683-1763); thence to his son, also John Christopher Smith (1712-1795); by whom given to George III, c.1772-4.

JC Smith had come to England from Anspach in Germany in 1716 after Handel's visit to Halle in order to work with him. From shortly after his arrival he lived at Dean Street, Soho, by 1720 he had a music shop at the Sign of the Hand and Book in Coventry Street (Daily Courant 2nd Nov. 1720) from 1723 until 1750 his address was at Meard's Court, Wardour Street, Soho. He specialised in Handel's music. He acted as amanuensis and treasurer to Handel until they fell out in late 1756. He was in Bath with Handel in the Summer of 1751.

A portrait of Handel by Denner was bequeathed by John Christopher Smith Jnr. to William Coxe. Smith had retired to Bath and was living at Upper Church Street by the Royal Crescent when he died.


72.4cms tall.

Provenance - according to Brownlow it belonged to Barrett the proprietor of Vauxhall gardens(perhaps George Rogers Barrett who died in 1818, and then to the Bass singer James Bartleman (1769 - 1821 although it was not included in the Bartleman sale at White's on the 20 Feb 1822. It was offered for sale by H. Rodd of 9 Great Newport Street, London and subsequently acquire by Sir Frederick Pollock, 1st Bart (1783 - 1870) and given by him to the Foundling Hospital in 1844.

These photographs were taken on the 8th April 2015 using only the available light without a flash.
The mole or wart on his left cheek is clearly visible.

Although not obvious this terracotta has undergone extensive restoration and conservation at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1966, prior to which it appeared with extensive cracks and damages, and it was subject again to further conservation in 1995.

Given the position of the bust at the Foundling Hospital Museum the results are reasonably good. The bust was tight up against a wall. Getting a shot of the proper right hand profile was particularly difficult and impossible to get a shot of the back. I am very grateful to Katherine Hogg and everyone at the Foundling Hospital Museum for allowing me to take these photographs.

The Foundling Hospital Terracotta Bust of Handel.


The Foundling Hospital Plaster Bust of Handel by Roubiliac.

The Foundling Hospital, Plaster bust of Handel wearing a Hat.

This bust appears to have been taken from a piece mould taken from the terracotta (above). It seems to be leaning slightly further forward but this is probably because it was manufactured to be set in a high position such as on a library bookcase. This forward lean is easily altered during or after the manufacture of these busts.
These photographs taken on 8th April 2015. This bust was very difficult to photograph - what available natural light was mostly from a skylight above and so unfortunately the resolution is very poor.

The mole or wart on his left cheek is just visible in the first and fourth photographs.

 The Foundling Terracotta bust of Handel -The mole on his cheek is just visible.


The Huntington Library Plaster Bust of Handel by Roubiliac.

Formerly in the Gambier Parry collection at Highnam Court in Gloucestershire and sold by auctioneers Bruton Knowles in 1971, acquired by the Huntington in 1972. 

Plaster Handel Huntington Library - No mole on left cheek.
Malcolm Baker suggests perhaps on the basis of the socle that this is a late 18th century cast but this form of socle was commonly used from the mid 18th century.


The 1762 Roubiliac Sale Handel Busts.

There were 5 Plaster busts, a terracotta and two moulds included in the sale .


Further references to the busts of Handel in the 18th and 19th centuries.

John Blackwood. Feb 1788, lot 1326 Roubiliac Marble busto of Handel.

John Stanley, Christie's 24 June 1786, lot 89, a remarkable fine bust, exquisitely modelled, by Roubiliac.

Morning Post and Advertiser 22 June 1786. 

This is a fascinating snippet which also refers to busts of Milton, Shakespeare and Handel exquisitely modelled by Roubiliac. The wording suggests that these three busts were terracottas modelled by Roubiliac. This is all the more remarkable in that John Stanley (1712 -1786) master of the Kings music was blinded in accident at the age of two. Stanley began a partnership with John Christopher Smith Jnr the former amanuensis of Handel after the death of Handel in 1760.

The snippet above probably refers to the Grimsthorpe terracotta bust of Handel, the other terracotta bust having most likely (I have no evidence)  been passed down through the family from Jonathan Tyers, proprieter of Vauxhall Gardens and the commissioner of the Vauxhall Gardens full length marble of Handel. Tyers was also sculpted by Roubiliac (terracotta in the Vand A, a marble version in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery although the marble is disputed as being by Roubiliac.

John Stanley 
An engraving by James Macardell, after an Unknown artist

mezzotint, mid 18th century
14 in. x 10 3/4 in. (356 mm x 274 mm) NPG

by and published by Thomas Gainsborough, after Mary Ann Rigg (née Scott)

Stipple engraving, 
published 9 April 1781
13 1/8 in. x 9 3/4 in. (333 mm x 247 mm) paper size


Handel by Francis Kyte, 1742, (194 mm x 168 mm),

The NPG suggest that this is a copy.

Very little is known about Kyte and this small portrait was probably copied from the engraving below.

 Height: 37.1 cm,  Width: 31.8 cm Print size,

Engraved portrait of Handel, 1738, engraved by Jacobus Houbraken (1698 - 1780), the frame by Hubert-Francois Bourguignon called Gravelot (1699 -1773). Gravelot was working in London (invited to help engraver Claude du Bosc) from 1732 - 45 and was a highly influential member of the St Martin's Lane Academy and the Old Slaughters coffee house set.

The mole on the cheek is just visible on the engraving, the oil portrait is a reversal of the engraving.

The National portrait Gallery website states "The engraving, hitherto associated with the 1769 edition of Judas Maccabeus, was advertised in The Country Journal, or The Craftsman for 22 April 1738: 'This Day is publish'd (And are ready to be deliver'd to the Subscribers for Alexander's Feast) A Print of Mr. Handel Engraved by the celebrated Mr Houbraken of Amsterdam. The Ornaments design'd by Mr Gravelot. Printed for John Walsh in Catherine-Street in the Strand.' This confirms conclusions reached on stylistic grounds, the squaring, in particular, indicating a copy. It also accords with the little we know of Kyte (fl.1710-45) and the improbability that Handel, by then so famous, would have sat to one so obscure".

The signed drawing for the cartouche by Gravelot is in the British Museum, unfortunately not dated but fascinating for the representation of the musician playing the lyre on a plinth which is very similar to the Vauxhall statue of Handel set up in 1738 but shows the musician in classical dress.

This might confirm the close links between the two Frenchmen and suggests that originally Roubiliac might have had other ideas for the Vauxhall statue of Handel.

The NPG goes on to suggest that the prototype was painted abroad, though a small enough portrait could have been taken to Amsterdam. Handel was in Aachen for the waters in September 1737, returning at the end of October or the beginning of November.

Houbraken collaborated with the historian Thomas Birch and artist and engraver George Vertue on the project entitled, Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain, published in parts in London from 1735 to 1743. Number 1 dated 1735, Thomas Duke of Norfolk, in total 108 heads (Kerslake page 130)

 It is signed Houbraken, Amsterdam perhaps suggesting that the portrait itself was separately engraved in Amsterdam.


1 comment:

  1. See update of 24 July 2019 for the Bartleman bust of Handel.