Wednesday 9 August 2017

Soane Museum 4, Bust of Shakespeare by Bullock

The Soane Plaster Bust of William Shakespeare.

From the Original Sculpture on the Monument in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon.

The Original is Attributed to Gerard Johnson c.1620, by Sir William Dugdale the Historian in his diary of 1653.

Soane Museum.

Lincolns Inn Fields. London.



Cast by George Bullock  (1788 - 1818). 

Some notes -
No size given. Traditionally believed to have come originally from a death mask (probably apocryphal).
see my previous post. -
 I have written at some length on the various busts of Shakespeare by Scheemakers, Rysbrack and Roubiliac and their variations and derivation.
For the engraved portraits see -

see also the link below and many other posts.

The blog is easily searchable using the box on the top left hand corner of the blog.

Cast of the bust of William Shakespeare 

by Ghereraert Janssen? on his monument in the church at Stratford-on-Avon

Museum number: SC18


I have lifted the text below from the Soane Museum website -
George Bullock (1778 – 1818) began his career as a sculptor but later established an important furnishing and cabinetmaking business first in Liverpool then in London. For a short while, from April 1808 he was in partnership in Liverpool with Joseph Gandy who had previously worked for Soane and in whose office John Soane junior was at the time a trainee.
 It was the antiquarian John Britton who prevailed upon Bullock to make a mould from the Shakespeare Monument at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1814. The exercise took longer than Bullock had anticipated but he wrote to Britton that he was pleased to give up the time from ‘my London affairs’ because he believed the bust to be an extremely accurate likeness of the Bard, having perceived ‘evident signs of its being taken from a cast’, by which he presumably meant a life or death mask. Like many of his contemporaries Bullock and Britton had a great interest in Shakespeare’s physiognomy and Bullock even invited Dr. J. C. Spurzheim, one of the founders of the theory of phrenology, to view the bust over breakfast shortly after his return from Stratford.
In 1816 Britton published a pamphlet, a copy of which is in Soane’s library entitled Remarks on the Monumental Bust of Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, defending the likeness.

Soane owned two other busts of Shakespeare (L62 and SC68) and some twenty paintings and drawings of Shakespearian subjects. In addition he acquired the first four folios of Shakespeare’s works published in 1623, 1632, 1664 and 1685. This bust was placed by Soane in the Shakespeare Recess, a niche off the staircase intended as a shrine to the Bard, whom Soane evidently revered. It was cleaned in 1990 and repainted in its original pale stone colour. This painted surface was then re-done in 2011-12 by Taylor Pearce Restoration when a major restoration of the Shakespeare Recess was carried out.
For a concise overview of the monument in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon
by Dr Adam White see -

This version of the Bullock Shakespeare Bust at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford upon Avon.

Another version of the Bullock bust but with a more traditional 19th century socle. 
Image result for shakespeare monument stratford upon avon

There is a photograph of this bust circa 1890 in the house in Henley Street, Stratford upon Avon.
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Photo. - Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Image result for shakespeare monument stratford upon avon
William Dugdale's Sketch of the Shakespeare Monument.

Engraving by Wenceslas Hollar in Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire, 1656.

Monument to William Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, after Gerard Johnson, published 1709 (circa 1620) - NPG D21014 - © National Portrait Gallery, London
Shakespeare Monument.


Pub 1709.

164 x 101 mm.

National Portrait Gallery.
Monument to William Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, by George Vertue, after  Gerard Johnson, circa 1700-1750 (circa 1620) - NPG D21013 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

 George Vertue.

Mid 18th Century.

228 x 161mm.

National Portrait Gallery.


Sketch from George Vertue's notebooks

John Hall.

Painting on Pasteboard.

Circa 1748 when the Monument was "restored" This was organised by Parson Joseph Greene
 John Hall was a Bristol man hired to do the work.
Greene wrote that "the figure of the Bard" was removed to be "cleansed of dust &c". He noted that the figure and cushion were carved from a single piece of limestone. He added that "care was taken, as nearly as could be, not to add to or diminish what the work consisted of, and appear’d to have been when first erected: 

And really, except changing the substance of the Architraves from alabaster to Marble; nothing has been chang’d, nothing alter’d, except supplying with original material, (sav’d for that purpose,) whatsoever was by accident broken off; reviving the Old Colouring, and renewing the Gilding that was lost”.  
John Hall, the limner from Bristol hired to do the restoration, painted a picture of the monument on pasteboard, Greene also had a plaster cast of the head made before the restoration began.
see - Price, Diana. "Reconsidering Shakespeare's Monument". Review of English Studies 48 (May 1997), 175.
Earl of Warwick's Collection.

Currently on loan to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.


update 6 Sept. 2023.

Excellent post on the subject of the 1749 restoration.

I shall return to the subject in due course
William Shakespeare, after Gerard Johnson, 1846, based on a work of circa 1620 - NPG 1281 - © National Portrait Gallery, London
Plaster cast
813 x 686 mm
National Portrait Gallery
Funerary monument to William Shakespeare by Gerard Johnson, by Francis Bedford, 1860s - NPG x197552 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

97 x 63 mm. 

by Francis Bedford.


National Portrait Gallery.


The above images from -


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