Monday 12 December 2016

Marble Bust of John Ray by L.F. Roubiliac in the Wren Library Trinity College, Cambridge.

The Marble Bust of John Ray (1627 - 1705).
in the Wren Library Trinity College, Cambridge.
by Louis Francois Roubiliac.
Signed and dated 1751.

Donated to Trinity College in 1754 by Edmund Garforth.

 Along with the marble bust of Francis Willoughby also signed and dated 1751.

Garforth, an undergraduate at Trinity from 1720 and Fellow of the college from 1726, who then moved to a living in York, married Elizabeth Willoughby, a descendant of the naturalist, in 1750.

All images above copyright the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge.

I am very grateful to Sandy Paul, Sub Librarian at Trinity College Library for arranging for me to receive these photographs.
see - 

Roubiliac used the same basic drapery pattern on other busts including that of Jonathan Tyers and Henry Streatfield.

'John Ray, who is known as the father of natural history in this country, was born at Black Notley, near Braintree, Essex, the son of the village blacksmith.(2) Until 1670 he spelt his name Wray. He was educated at Braintree Grammar School and Catherine Hall, Cambridge. In 1646 he transferred to Trinity College, where he was elected to a minor fellowship in 1649 at the same time as Isaac Barrow.

 In August and September 1658 he rode through the Midland counties and North Wales, making the first of his botanical tours for which the itinerary survives. His 'Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium' published in 1660 described 626 species, and was the first local catalogue of the plants of a district issued in England. Ray made a second botanical journey in July and August 1661, this time to Northumberland and south Scotland. A third followed between May and July 1662 in company with his pupil Francis Willoughby ); they visited the Midlands and North Wales, South Wales, Devon, Cornwall and the south-west. In April Ray and Willoughby, who had devised a project in the previous year to describe the whole organic world, left with two others for Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Sicily and Malta, remaining abroad for three years. During winter 1666-7 Ray arranged Willoughby's collections at Middleton Hall, Warwickshire. In summer 1667 the two men went to Cornwall, returning through Hampshire to London. Ray was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society at this time.

When Willoughby died in July 1672, Ray was left an annuity of £60. He took on the education of his friend's two sons for the next four years, living at Middleton Hall and marrying a member of the household. Ray edited his friend's unfinished works during the rest of his own life.

 In 1676 he moved to Sutton Coldfield, and in autumn 1677 to Falkbourne Hall, near Witham, Essex. On the death of his mother in 1679, he moved to Black Notley where he lived for the rest of his life. He is buried in the churchyard at Black Notley, where there is a monument to him.

Towards the end of his life Ray was in close touch with Sir Hans Sloane  and published his Jamaican collections. Sloane's high regard for Ray can be judged from Per Kalm's description of his visit to Sloane's Museum in Chelsea in 1748: "In another room we saw a number of representations of Kings, learned men and others. Among them was a portrait of Mr. John Ray which must be the only one of him to be found in England [see below]. It very much resembles that which is found on the title page of his 'Wisdom of God in the Creation'."

 Ray's contribution to the study of plants, animals, birds and insects was immense, and especially valuable for its clarity. Linnaeus perpetuated his name in the genus 'Rajania' in the yam tribe. His 'Catalogue of English Proverbs', first published anonymously in 1670, and his 'Collection of English Words not Generally Used' have provided material for scholars of dialect and folklore.

Ray was ordained in December 1660 by the Bishop of Lincoln; he resigned his fellowship rather than subscribe to the "Bartholomew Act" of 1662, but remained a communicant.'

The text above  lifted from British Museum website.


The Wren Library bust of John Ray.

Stipple Engraving by C.G. Lewis, 1848.

Wellcome Collection Images.

The British Museum Terracotta Bust of John Ray.

Height 61 cms, width.

Bought by Dr Maty at the Posthumous sale of the contents of the Roubiliac Sale in St Martin's Lane.
Third Day, 14 May 1762, lot 177.

The terracotta bust is the model for the marble in the Wren Library, at Trinity College, Cambridge which is dated 1751 on the socle, but was probably carved about four years later (see below). 

The marble differs only in one major respect, in the working of the stone to show the fur lapel of the sitter's robe. 

There is a terracotta in Saffron Waiden Museum, (this needs to be checked) and another was on the London art market in November 1970; a later plaster cast is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The donor of the marble, Edmund Garforth, paid the sculptor £108-10s-10d in June 1756.

On 17 January 1755 the sculptor was allowed by the Museum "at the request of the Revd Dr Smith, Master of Trinity College in Cambridge, to make a Draught from the picture of Mr John Ray . . . in 

Order for the making of a Busto of him to be placed in the said College". This picture was one of two contemporary portraits in oil long thought to be the work of Mrs Mary Beale, one now in the Natural History Museum, the other in the National Portrait Gallery.

 The latter belonged to Sir Hans Sloane. A contemporary crayon drawing of Ray by W. Faithorne, engraved, as Ray tells us, by W. Elder in 1690, was published as a frontispiece to 'The Wisdom of God' and again in the following year for the Dutch edition of 'Methodus emendata'. 

It was slightly altered by George Vertue and published in 1713 for the third edition of 'Physico-Theological Discourses'. Evidently Ray himself preferred the Faithorne portrait and it appears to be this artist who inspired Roubiliac.


John Ray.
Height 74 cms

Provenance unknown.

Victoria and Albert Museum.

The piece mould marks are very visible - this bust appears to have been cast directly from the Wren Library, Trinity College Marble.

It shows the extra detail of the fur on the lapel
which does not appear on the terracotta in the BM.


The Plaster Bust of John Ray.
Braintree Museum.
Braintree, Essex

I am very grateful to Leah Mellors of Braintree Museum for providing me with these photographs.


Bust of John Ray
Art Market 1992.

They say terracotta - 25 cms.
I am very doubtful.


John Ray.
After Roubiliac.
Height 73 cms.
Victoria and Albert Museum.

Inscribed on the base 'JOA.S RAY./1751/POSUIT/EDM.GARFORTH AM.'

Signed on both sides of the support, 

'L.F. Roubiliac Sc'

Given by the executors of the sculptor Sir J.E. Boehm, Bart., R.A.

They say late 19th century "This bust of the naturalist John Ray appears to be taken from the marble original by Roubiliac, one of a series of portraits of distinguished members of Trinity College, Cambridge. 
It appears to be cast from the marble itself and is not an eighteenth century multiple".

Given the detail of the fur collar I believe that this statement is correct.


 John Ray (1627รข€“1705), Naturalist and Theologian, Fellow, Junior Dean and Steward

John Ray.
by Thomas Hudson.
Oil on Canvas.
237 x 145 cms.
Trinity College, Cambridge.
Gifted by Richard Ray 1752.


John Ray.


National Portrait Gallery.


William Faithorne (1620 - 91)
Given to the British Museum by Sir Hans Sloane.


Portrait of John Ray, half-length, in an oval formed of laurels and surmounted by ribbons, slightly turned to the right, with a cloak about his shoulders and with bands at his neck, frontispiece to his 'Stirpium Europaearum' (1694), his 'Wisdom of God' (1701) and his 'Three Discourses' (1732) Engraving

John Ray.
After William Faithorne.
Engraved by William Elder.
169 x 100 mm.
This engraving used three times as frontispieces to Stirpium Eupaerium 1694
Wisdom of God 1701. 
and Three Discourses 1732.


Portrait of John Ray, half-length to right, looking to front; wearing clerical robes and bands; in an oval frame on a pedestal; after Faithorne.  1713  Engraving

after William Faithorne.
George Vertue.
168 x 108 mm

British Museum.


John Ray.


Thomas Worlidge (1700 - 66).

c. 1740.

British Museum.

This post was updated 27 March 2018.

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