Wednesday 18 July 2018

Bust of Richard Busby by Rysbrack

The Marble Bust of Dr Richard Busby (1606 - 95).
by Michael Rysbrack
In the Vestibule, Christ Church College Library, Oxford.
and the two plaster busts at Westminster School and Balliol College, Oxford.

Once again sincere thanks are due to Dana Josephson of the Bodleian Library for making all my work on the Oxford portrait sculpture possible.

All colour photographs here taken by the author.

Busby is believed never to have had his portrait taken in his lifetime and that all the portraits are taken from an original death mask taken shortly after his death. 

The closeness of the bust to the effigy on his monument in Westminster Abbey suggests to me that Rysbrack used this or perhaps a death mask as the starting point for his bust of Busby

Dr Richard Busby was the most celebrated schoolmaster of his time and in 1640 was appointed to the position of Head Master of Westminster School a post he held for 55 years. 

He was the second son of Mr. Richard Busby, a citizen of Westminster, but was born, 22 Sept. 1606, at Lutton, otherwise called Sutton St. Nicholas, in Lincolnshire. He obtained a king's scholarship at Westminster, and was educated at that school, whence he was elected, in 1624, to a studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his B.A. degree in 1628 and his M.A. in 1631. He was for some time a tutor at Christ Church College Oxford , and in 1639 was admitted to the prebend and rectory of Cudworth, with the chapel of Knowle near Bristol annexed, in Somersetshire. He was appointed master of Westminster School provisionally when Osbolston was deprived of that office in 1638, but was not confirmed in it till 23 Dec. 1640 (info culled from Dictionary Nat. Biography).

He is buried beneath the black and white marble pavement of the Choir of Westminster Abbey, which he presented in 1677. 
He was famous for his liberal use of corporal punishment to discipline the boys and his pupils included the poet John Dryden, architect Christopher Wren, and scientist Robert Hooke.

He is supposed to have noted that he had that he had tought 16 bishops (Anecdotes William Seward)

An anonymous epigram 'on Dr. Robert Freind's appointment to Westminster

Ye sons of Westminster who still retain
Your antient dread of Busby's awful reign,
Forget at length your fears, — your panic end, —
The monarch of the place is now a Freind.

For a very useful biography of Busby see - Memoirs of Richard Busby DD by G.F. Russell Barker, 1895.

This includes a summery of his accounts and a transcription of his will.

Available on line at -


Richard Busby 
Plaster Bust
Bodleian Library

It has not yet been possible to inspect or take more photographs of this bust as it is in deep store in the Bodleian store in Swindon.


Richard Busby 
Plaster Bust
Westminster School


Richard Busby
Michael Rysbrack
The Balliol College, Oxford Plaster Bust


The Busby Memorial - Westminster Abbey
Francis Bird

Richard Busby

He reclines on a mattress holding a pen and an open book and looks upwards towards the long Latin inscription. This can be translated:

See! underneath, lies the image of Busby: such as he appeared to human eyes. If you desire to see that part of him more deeply impressed in their minds, thoughtfully survey the shining characters of both universities, and the law, in the court, the parliament and the church. When you have viewed around such a full-sown and plenteous harvest of ingenious men; only consider what he must have been who sowed it. This must be he, who, the natural genius in everyone nicely discovered, usefully managed and happily improved. This he, who, by his instructions, so formed and nourished the minds of youth, that they learned to grow wise, as they learned language; and while they were educated as boys, they improved as men. As many as taught by him appeared in public, so many faithful and strenuous asserters were raised to the monarchy and the Church of England. Lastly whatever fame the School of Westminster boasts, and whatever advantages mankind shall reap from thence, is principally owing to Busby, and will be owing to him in all ages. So useful a member of the Commonwealth, God was pleased to bless him with length of days and increase of riches. And in return, he cheerfully devoted himself and his [wealth] for the promotion of piety, to relieve the poor, to encourage learning, to repair churches. These were his ways of enjoying wealth; and what he did not employ in his life-time to this purpose, he bequeathed at his death.

Below on the plinth:

Richard Busby of Lincolnshire, S.T.P. [Professor of Sacred Theology]. Born at Lutton 1606 Sep.22. Head Master of Westminster School 1640 Dec.23. Installed Prebendary in the Church of Westminster 1660 Jul. 5. Installed Treasurer at Wells [Cathedral] 1660 Aug.11. Died 1695 Apr.5.


Francis Bird - a few notes.

Francis Bird (1667–1731) was one of the leading English sculptors of his time. He is mainly remembered for sculptures in Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral. He carved a tomb for the dramatist William Congreve in Westminster Abbey and sculptures of the apostles and evangelists on the exterior of St Paul's, as well as the statue of Henry VI in School Yard, Eton College[1]. Despite his success, later in life Bird did little sculpting. He had inherited money from his father-in-law and set up a marble import business.

Francis Bird is best known for his work at St. Paul's Cathedral. In March 1706 he was paid £329 for the panel over the west door and in December of that year £650 for carving the "Conversion of St. Paul", 64' long and 17' high for the great pediment. This contained "eight large figures” six whereof on horseback and several of them "two and a half feet imbost". 

In 1711 he carved the statue of Queen Anne with four other figures, which was erected in St Paul's Cathedral yard in 1712. This statue was saved from demolition in December 1886 when it was replaced by the present statue executed by Richard Belt. This original Queen Anne statue is now in the grounds of St Mary's School, The Ridge, Hastings. East Sussex. 

Between 1712 and 1713 he executed the two panels over the west portico for £339, but it was not until 1721 that he carved the statues of various apostles and evangelists (each nearly 12 ft (3.7 m). high) for the west front and south side of the Cathedral. For these he received a total sum of £2,040.

Francis Bird 



Richard Busby (1606รข€“1695), and a Pupil

Richard Busby with pupil
John Riley (1646 - 1691).
Oil on Canvas
124.5 x 99.1 cms
Christ Church College
Oxford University

Image from Art UK

John Riley (1646-1691) began practising painting at a young age, which probably meant he was independently wealthy. He became a fashionable society portrait painter. At the height of his success, in the 1680s, Riley charged £40 for a full-length portrait, a considerable amount of money at this time. In 1689, together with Godfrey Kneller, he was appointed Principal Painter to King William III and Queen Mary, though there are no known portraits by him of either as sovereign.

Portrait seated TQL to l with r hand on open book, held by pupil at l, eyes to front, l hand holding handkerchief and resting on arm of chair; wearing bands, black robe and wide, black hat; proof before letters, with some scratched inscription.  1 November 1775  Mezzotint

Richard Busby with a favourite Pupil, Edward Wells

Scratched with production and publication detail below image: "Riley pinxit", "J Watson Fecit" and "Published according to Act of Parliament Novem 1. 1775"

Proof state.
455 x 331 mm
 British Museum

The young man beside Busby has been identified as Edward Wells (1667 - 1730). Wells was an English mathematician, geographer, and controversial theologian. In 1680, Wells was admitted to Westminster School, and so would have attended the school under Busby.

Info from Sanders of Oxford website.
see -


Richard Busby

Richard Busby
Henry Tilson (1659 - 1695).
Oil on Canvas
72.5 x 61 cms.
Christ Church College, Oxford University.

Needhams Accounts given in the Chancery suit after Busby's death note " to Mr Tilson for drawing the Doctors picture and Frame £12, to Mr White for engraving the Doctors Picture £5 10s (Lansdown MSS 655, f.29.

Tilson a pupil of Peter Lely lived in Lincolns Inn Fields shot himself in Nov 1699.

Image Courtesy Art UK

Portrait of Richard Busby, half length in an oval of oak leaves, wearing cap, bands and gown; coat of arms below.  Engraving

Richard Busby
Engraved by Robert White
352 x 258 mm trimmed.

British Museum


Richard Busby

Richard Busby
Unknown Artist
Oil on canvas

based on the White engraving
74.9 x 62.2 cms
Post 1695
National Portrait Gallery
Image Courtesy Art UK


Image result for richard busby portrait

Another Portrait
based on the White engraving

&3 x 61 cms
Recent on Art Market.


Richard Busby

Bought recently at a sale in Cockermouth, Cumbria.

see -



Busby's Reputation lives on.

Westminster School
James Gilray
356 x 250 mm

Image courtesy British Museum

see -


The Busby Library
Westminster School
c. 1840.

Note the bust in the circular niche on the left hand wall.

see -

The Will of Richard Busby


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