Monday, 26 February 2018

Plaster bust of Queen Caroline at Queens College, Oxford.

An Unpublished Plaster Bust of Queen Caroline (1683 - 1737).
Princess Wilhelmina Charlotte Carolina
of Brandenberg - Ansbach.
Wife of George II

at Queens College, Oxford.
Circa 1727.
Not signed or dated.

Here attributed to Michael Rysbrack (1693 - 1770).

Life size.
Possibly a unique survival.

I am very grateful to Dr Graeme Salmon, Curator of Pictures at Queen's College for welcoming me into the college and for all his assistance.

George Vertue in his notebooks entry in 1732 (Walpole Society Journal, Vol. 22,) wrote of a list of busts by Rysbrack which he had seen in the workshop.

Included in this list is a bust of Queen Caroline - given the evident (to my eye) similarities, particularly the facial features, I would say that the Queen's College bust is most probably the earlier bust by Rysbrack and therefore quite an exciting find.

We do not know if she sat for him at the time but George Vertue also mentions a bust of George II in the same list.

I seem to remember he took a life mask of the King in 1728 and so it is quite possible that he modelled the Queen at the same time.


When I started this blog I had no clear idea of where it would lead - my initial intention was to make sure that the research that I had done back in 2000/2 on the William Seward bust of Alexander Pope by Roubiliac was not lost. I was under the impression at the time, that several academics were in the process of writing on the subject of 18th century portrait sculpture - had I realised that it would take many years before these works saw the light of day I might have started this project a little earlier.

One of the joys of this project is that it has been a wonderful voyage of discovery, uncovering some magnificent pieces of  almost forgotten sculpture, tucked away in some fascinating out of the way places, waiting for someone to rediscover, photograph, and hopefully get them in front of a wider audience. 

There have been many highlights in this quest but visiting Queen's College, Oxford to see the plaster bust of Queen Caroline - pictured here - has certainly been one of them.

My current project for this blog - researching and photographing the portrait sculpture in the Colleges and Libraries of Oxford University - enlarging on the work previously carried out by Mrs Reginald (Rachel) Poole in Oxford and latterly Kenneth Garlick at the Bodleian Library - has been a fabulous journey.

I have received a great deal of encouragement and assistance from many people at the University.

I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me and particularly to Dana Josephson of the Bodleian Library for suggesting the project in the first place. 


Mrs Rachel Lane Poole states in her - Catalogue of Portraits in the Possession of University City and County of Oxford, that the bust was in the lower Library at Queen's (vol. II 1925) and suggested that it was a study for the statue by John Cheere in the cupola on the front of the Queens College building, but this does not tally with my photographs, and although there are some similarities in the fur lined mantle, it is quite different. 

For links to all three volumes see -

The Queen's College Plaster bust of Queen Caroline alongside the statue of her by John Cheere in the Cupola on the front of Queens College.

For more on the Cheere statue at Queens see my previous post

Over the Gate way of Queens College, underneath a cupola facing onto the High Street.
Presented to the college in 1735 by the Provost Joseph smith in recognition of the queens gift of £1,000 to the building fund of the college in 1733.

Dr Magrath in The Queens College says that the cost of the statue was £125 - the design was approved by Dr George Clarke and Sir James Thornhill.

A Black plaster bust in the Lower Library is of the Queen and is perhaps a study for the head of this statue.

Info above from Catalogue of Portraits... Oxford,. Mrs Reginald Lane Poole, pub Oxford 1925.


View of Queen's College, showing two quadrangles and Hawksmoor's original design for the cupola, above a frame divided into three; to left, Queen Philippa and the founder, Robert Eglesfield; in the centre, Queen Philippa and Edward III, enthroned, with Eglesfield presenting the plan; to right, Sir Joseph Williamson and Dr Lancaster.  1726  Etching and engraving

Queen's College, Oxford.
The Oxford Almanack 1727.

George Vertue

View of Queen's College, showing two quadrangles and Hawksmoor's original design for the cupola, above a frame divided into three; to left, Queen Philippa and the founder, Robert Eglesfield; in the centre, Queen Philippa and Edward III, enthroned, with Eglesfield presenting the plan; to right, Sir Joseph Williamson and Dr Lancaster. 1726.



Queens College
Michael Burghers


Pages below from The Queen's College, Vol II.
by John Richard Magrath DD, pub. Oxford. 1921.

Image result for Hawksmoor Queens College Oxford

William Henry Fox Talbot: Part of Queens College, Oxford, September 1843

The South Front of The Queen's College, Oxford.
East Side with Statues by Henry Cheerer

Two Views

Photographs by William Fox Talbot. 1843.


Oxford Almanack
Engraving by Benjamin Green


Currently the best image I can find
Image and text below courtesy the estimable image and engraving dealers.
Sanders of Oxford.

The Oxford Almanack for 1762, depicting the new facade of Queen's college, which had been recently completed, with the men responsible for the rebuilding project in the foreground. 

To the left, Sir Joseph Williamson and Dr Lancaster examine the architectural plans for the rebuilding project. Beside them, Dr Halton and Bishop Barlow likewise examine plans for the library. To the right of the scene, John Michel stands in the courtyard, indicating the position for the East Range of the quadrangle that was built with his bequest.

 Below the scene, the title for the calendar is bordered by a pair of lists, representing the succession of the Royal line from William the Conqueror to the left, and the Officers of the University for 1762 to the right. The calendar itself has been trimmed off.

Benjamin Green (c.1736-c.1800) was a British artist and royal engraver to King George III.

South Front of the Queens College Oxford, 1875.
George P. Day.

Another image from Sanders of Oxford.

George P. Day operated from 1872-1876 in 95 High Street, Oxford (presumably breaking away from Wheeler & Day). Wheeler & Day operated from 1866-1871 at 106 High Street after they bought Edward Bracher's business . In 1872, they appear to have split into two separate businesses, with Wheeler remaining at 106 and Day moving into 95 High Street


The Queen's College, Oxford
31.5 x 41.8 cms
by George Balthazar Probst (1673 - 1748).

I have also previously posted on the busts of Queen Caroline

see -

For my earlier post regarding the pair of Rysbrack busts of George II and Queen Caroline and the Rysbrack busts of Kings and Queens and their setting up in the Library at St James' Palace in 1739 see -


This bust has had a chequered history. It had been rescued from a builders skip perhaps sometime in 1965 - 68 when the library was being redecorated. Another very interesting 18th century plaster bust of a bearded man was saved at the same time. ( I will post on this bust shortly). It had been damaged and the new socle appears to be a replacement which is a fairly amateurish affair and could do with replacing, although its basic form suits the bust admirably. 

The black paint is also a fairly recent addition in order to obscure the restoration  this is very apparent on the back fortunately the bust itself appears unscathed - it was probably painted white or stone colour originally. Hopefully in the long term the black paint will be removed and a new socle made for it.

The back (above and below)showing clearly the marks of the tool used for shaping the original terracotta.


The Signed Versions of the Rysbrack Busts of Queen Caroline.

A few notes -

George 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.

George Vertue - 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’. 

The busts probably stood in niches over the fireplaces at either end of the double-cube interior, while Rysbrack’s terracotta kings and queens rested on high brackets along the side walls.

In 1738 after the Queens death Vertue notes - 'Mr Rysbrack has finished as model of the Kings face in Wax, only at opportunities of seeing the king that is thought very like'.

 After the death of Queen Caroline George Vertue wrote ' as he has done more eminent and noble persons from the life his great merit has recommended him to the KING, who sat for him at Kensington twice, to have his picture modelled in clay. the likeness much approved on - and with a good air. also a Model of the Queen vastly like, tho not done from the life'.

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’

Queen Caroline
Michael Rysbrack.
Height 60 cms
Paired with a bust of George II.
Signed and dated 1739.
 Currently in the Presence Chamber, Kensington Palace.

It has been assumed that these terracottas were originally made as a modellos for the Marble busts commissioned by the Queen for the decoration of the new library at St James Palace, but there are subtle differences - particularly in the dress - the work on this terracotta is closer to the bust now in the Wallace Collection ( photograph below).

The Rysbrack terracotta of Queen Caroline in the Riksmusuem is closer to the marble in the Royal Collection

Bought by Queen Mary, consort of George V at the dispersal of Lord Hathertons sale of Rysbrack terracottas at Spinks in 1932. Hatherton was a descendant of Sir Edward Littleton who had bought them for Teddesley Hall.

Royal Collection.

Royal Collection
Low Resolution


Queen Caroline
Michael Rysbrack
Height 68.8 cms

First recorded in the collection at Hartford House in 1870.

Sotheby's in their sale catalogue for The Howard Hodgkin Sale of 2017 make the very valid point that the inscription on the bust of George II in that sale matches very closely the inscription on the base of the Wallace Collection marble of Queen Caroline. Suggesting that they were originally a pair.

For the Howard Hodgkin / Sotheby's Rysbrack marble bust of George II see my post -

Photographed by the author.

Wallace Collection.

Base of the Sotheby/ Howard Hodgkin bust of George II showing the inscription.


Queen Caroline
Michael Rysbrack
they say unfired clay
Signed and dated
Mich. Rysbrack 1738.
Height 66 cms.

The Royal Collection website states that this terracotta version of Queen Caroline’s bust belonged to her daughter Anne, Princess Royal, and was recorded at the Stadholder’s court in Leeuwarden in 1764.

The back of the Rijksmuseum Terracotta
The signature is just discernible in this photograph



Queen Caroline
71.5 cms tall
in the Royal Collection from 1739.

The Inscription just visible on the base of the bust (right hand side proper).
Michael Rysbrack

Royal Collection.


The Four Rysbrack busts of Queen Caroline.

Above left : The Royal Collection Marble 1739 - Right: The Wallace Collection Marble .
Below left:  The Rijksmuseum terracotta, 1738 - Right: The Royal Collection Terracotta 1738.

Note the subtle differences in the dress and hair.
 The Royal Collection Marble follows closely the Rijksmuseum terracotta whilst the Wallace Collection marble follows the Royal Collection terracotta.


Queen Caroline
Michael Dahl
Oil on Canvas
17 x 101.5 cms
Warwick Shire Hall.

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