Wednesday 5 August 2015

Busts of George II and Queen Caroline. Rysbrack

The Busts of George II and Queen Caroline 
in Queen Caroline's Library, St James Palace.

In 1735, Queen Caroline of Ansbach, King George II’s consort, commissioned John Michael Rysbrack, to create a series of busts of English sovereigns, of ‘all Kings of England from William the Conqueror’, for her new library at St James’s Palace, designed by William Kent. Rysbrack only produced terracotta busts of 11 Tudor and Plantagenet monarchs. Queen Caroline's early death in October 1737 prompted her husband, George II, to abandon the project.

The Bustos in Marble of all the Kings of England from William the Conqueror, which was reported in The Gentleman's Magazine, 30th June 1735.

'Her majesty has ordered Mr Risbrack to make the bustos in Marble of all the Kings of England from William the Conqueror in order to be placed in her new building in the gardens at Richmond'.

Vertue reports - In June 1735 Queen Caroline 'made a visit to Mr Rysbrake to see his works and especially the equestrian statue of K.William in brass that is to be set up in Bristol' and goes on 'also the busts of Marble of Kings and Queens done lately by him to adorn some palace. upon her seeing K. James I face she turned about and said si il me semble a une boureau I wont have that done, she said, one may guess she forgot from whence her succession came and also, lyes or what had been ingrafted or told her about that king.

Of the eleven terracotta busts that Rysbrack completed for Queen Caroline’s library at St James’s Palace only three survive: Edward the Black Prince, Edward VI, and Queen Elizabeth I . (The others were destroyed, and a fourth - the bust of Elizabeth of York, partially damaged, in 1906 when the shelf on which they stood collapsed. The busts had been moved to the Orangery at Windsor Castle in 1825 when Queen Caroline’s library at St James’s Palace in Westminster was demolished.

see George II and Queen Caroline's Principal London Residence, by Wolf Burchard  -

From W.H. Pyne's The History of the Royal Residences 1819.
The British Library, 747.f.3. Copyright © The British Library Board


Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

Bust of the Black Prince - Sold Sotheby's 9 Dec 2005.
Rysbrack’s bust of the Black Prince is first recorded at Warwick Castle, in the State Bedroom, in an inventory of 1800.


Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.


Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.


George II and Queen Caroline
Terracottas by Michael Rysbrack
Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.


Another version of the Rysbrack bust of Queen Caroline
at the Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, London.


A terracotta bust of Queen Caroline by Michael Rysbrack in the Rijksmuseum. Amsterdam.




Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

This is one of a pair of portrait busts by John Michael Rysbrack. They were ordered for Queen Caroline, King George II’s consort and were commissioned for the decoration of the new library at St James's Palace, designed by the English architect William Kent.
George Vertue, in his diaries, provides valuable information on the origin of these two marble portrait busts. In 1738 he noted that ‘the KING … sat to [Rysbrack] at Kensington twice. to have his picture modelled in Clay. the likeness much approvd on – and with a good Air. – also a Moddel of the Queen vastly like. Tho’ not done from the life’. The resulting terracotta models, which are signed and dated 1738, can now be seen at Kensington Palace (RCIN 1411-1412).

In 1739 Vertue recorded that ‘two Marble Bustos the one of his present Majesty from a Model done from the life by Mr Rysbrack – and another busto of the late Majesty Q. Caroline, both were erected in the New Library at St. James, Green Park’

There is another version in marble along with George I, Dr Busby, Robert Friend, John Locke in the library at Christ Church Oxford and with a bust of Richard Frewin M.D. by Roubiliac.
The King seems to have approved of his portrait, to judge from the fact that he gave a reduced version of it in ivory to his physician, the military surgeon Dr John Ranby.

The two sittings Rysbrack had with George II resulted in the statue for the Greenwich Hospital erected 1735, and a terracotta bust and marble, dated 1738, the pair with the Queen, produced for her new library at St James's. The terracotta of Caroline is incised and dated posthumously, 1739. Both terracottas, were at Teddersley Park, 1953, and now with the marbles in the Royal collection, were probably bought from Rysbrack by Sir Edward Littleton.

There is a statue at Stowe and another at the Royal Exchange, sold after the fire in 1838 and a medallion at the artist's sale, 20 April 1765, lot 15, are now missing.

The marble bust of George II incised and dated 1760 in the Victoria and Albert Museum is a repetition of the 1738 type, of which other versions are at Windsor (unsigned) and Christ Church, Oxford. Roubiliac's fine bust made without sittings, Royal collection, shows the King somewhat older. 

A wax by Gosset bought by Queen Mary at the Clumber Park sale, 1937, has the air of being from life which Vertue's comments of 1752 apparently confirm.

An equestrian statuette by John Van Nost the younger, of George II owned by the late Sir James Mann, is a reproduction of the equestrian statue commissioned in 1753 by the corporation of Dublin.  destroyed by an IRA bomb, it was completed 1756 and erected on St Stephen's Green, 1758.

Bust of George II by Michael Rysbrack.

Signed and dated MR 1760.
Victoria and Albert Museum.

The V and A say - Purchased for £105 from Alfred Spero. In the sale of the property of the late W.J. Broderip Esq., held by Messrs Christie & Manson, 8 King Street, St James, London, on 13 June 1859; it is not possible to confirm if the bust is identical with the present piece. This last statement is ambiguous - it is not clear whether it refers to either the V and A bust or the Sotheby / Hodgkin bust.

Wedgwood executed a version of this bust in black basalt, jasper ware and rosso antico. However, it is listed in Wedgwood’s catalogue of 1773 as a bust of George II ‘from an ivory in the possession of Mr Ranby, carved by Mr Rysbrack’. Although Rysbrack (1694-1770) did not work for Wedgwood directly the busts of George II, Ben Jonson and that of the philosopher John Locke, were all based on  ivory sculptures after Rysbrack by Gaspar van der Hagen.

Wedwood bust of George II after Michael Rysbrack with Finch and Co.
Size: 25cm high, 9cm sq (base) – 9¾ ins high, 3 ins sq (base)
Unmarked c. 1770.

Anoth version of the Wedgwood George II
Impressed mark, late 18th century 9.75 ins tall.
Sold by Skinners, Massachusetts, Lot 85 1st October 2010.

George II after Michael Rysbrack by Gaspar van der Hagen (1683 - 1773)

16.5 x 14.0 x 8.9 cm

The Thomson Collection © Art Gallery of Ontario

An Ivory relief of Georg II after Michael Rysbrack by Gaspar van der Hagen

Victoria and Albert Museum

Bought for £34 through Messrs. Durlacher, London, for £17 from the Rosenheim Collection, sold at Sotheby's, London, 1923, lot 304.

George Vertue said of van der Hagen in 1747 notebooks III p 125, 'Mr van der Hagen sculptor for Mr Rysbrack has done several heads portraits in ivory - very well but not meeting with proper encouragement did not continue'.

He must have had a change of heart - Horace Walpole noted that' he carved heads in ivory'.

Van der Hagen exhibited at the Free Society of Artists 1766 -79.


George II perhaps by Michael Rysbrack
21.5cms tall

An very unusual perhaps unique small terracotta herm of George II appeared at Sotheby's London, Lot 114, 14 July 2010.

The thumb print is very interesting - does it belong to the master?

Previously sold Sotheby's, 8 July 1993, lot 190.


 Statue of George II at Greenwich by Rysbrack

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