Sunday 7 May 2017

Bust of Alexander Pope bought by John Lane of the Bodley Head Publishers in Bath in 1919 (part 2).

Small Bust of Alexander Pope 
bought by John Lane in Bath in 1919 (part 2).

Given to the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath in 1925.
see my previous blog entry.

A photograph of the bust of Pope at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath with the gilt attribution to Prince Hoare added to the socle in 1925

Photographs taken by the author 8 April 2016
in rather poor light in the offices of the Victoria Art Gallery.

I am very grateful to Phoebe Meiklejohn McLaughlin and staff at the Victoria Art Gallery for making the bust available and allowing me the opportunity to take photographs of it.

This intriguing little bust, approximately 20 cms tall is very definitely a smaller version of the original signed and dated Roubiliac bust of Pope of 1740 formerly with Lord Mansfield at Kenwood House, Hampstead and now in the Fitzwilliam Collection at Milton near Peterborough and is perhaps a preparatory sketch model from the Roubiliac studio.

For an in depth look at the Milton Fitzwilliam / Mansfield bust see my blog entry -

The photographs show a creamy colored statuary marble (although this could be the result of tobacco smoke) - it is rather grubby. There are various obvious flaws in the marble which can plainly be discerned in the photographs. Such flaws were disguised on larger 18th Century busts made for display, but in this case there appears to have been no attempt to conceal these flaws - although this disguising might have been removed or washed off by a restorer. There is very little polishing on the surface of the flesh and the eyebrows have not been cut perhaps suggesting that it never received a final polishing - the hair does not appear to have ever been polished

Below are photographs of the two busts side by side provided for comparison. As can be seen it lacks the definition and subtlety of the full size bust and the nose is not entirely successful

The chiseling of the detail of the hair should be noted, particularly the parting on the left hand side of the back.


I am including (below) some very poor photographs of the very thickly over painted plaster bust of Pope at Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire former home of the Prime Minister Benjamin Disreali (now National Trust) for further comparison.

This bust appears to have been cast directly from the Milton Marble bust.


The Metropolitan Museum New York, Marble bust of  Alexander Pope. 

by Joseph Nollekens (1737 - 1823).

see -

Just to muddy the waters I have to point out that Joseph Nollekens (1737 - 1823) or his studio produced at least two versions of this bust paired with a bust of Lawrence Sterne.

Although very close it is not an exact replica - the distinct parting of the hair on the back of Pope's skull is missing in the Nollekens version. See photograph below). This would suggest that the Victoria Art Gallery bust is not a version of the later Nollekens bust.

The bust of Sterne was produced c. 1765 - 66 (Met. Mus).

Bust of Laurence Sterne - pair to the Nollekens bust of Pope at the Metropolitan Museum.

Another pair of these busts were sold

Comparison Photographs of the Bronze bust of Pope sold by Sotheby's London 6 July 2007 
and the Victoria Art Gallery Bath Miniature bust.

Bronze bust 45.6 cms tall.

for Sotheby's Catalogue entry see -

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