Tuesday 31 October 2023

Benjamin Rackstrow

 Post under Construction

Benjamin Rackstrow (d.1772). 

Some notes.

From The Walpole Society Journal Vol. 27 - Notes by Horace Walpole...on the Exhibitions of the Society of Artists.... 1760 -.1791.

Transcribed and edited by Hugh Gatty.

Page 86. Additional Notes by Walpole ...

Society of Artists.

1763 (2). Title: April. P. 16: In this exhibition a whole figure of an elderly man sitting, cast in (lead erased) plaister of Paris and coloured, & so very near to life that every body mistook it for real. 

It was removed, on having frightened an apothecary. It was the performance of Rackstrow, Statuary. [This is probably no. 172, in Algernon Graves, p. 207.].



The Busts of Alexander Pope belonging to Lady Luxborough and William Shenstone and Rackstrow.

See - Letters written by the late Rt Honourable Lady Luxborough: to William Shenstone published in 1775

 In a letter From Barrells Hall dated 28th April 1748, she mentions a head of Pope over a chimneypiece (page 22) and having Mr Outing sending Shenstone a bust of Pope made to look like marble, and mentions 4 more busts treated in the same way by Rackstrow for her brother Saint John.

 2 August 1750 she mentions Mr Moore of Warwick (plaisterer) “also to desire him to see your white bust of Pope, for I have a mind to have Lord Bolingbrokes painted the same”

 On Easter Sunday 1748, she wrote -The chimney in my study was not exactly in the middle of the room: which has occasioned my moving it 12” and consequently moving Popes bust to be in the centre. The lines wrote above it are put up again (which, you know, are out of Virgil).

 In another letter from Barrells of 13 August 1750, she mentions Mr Williams (of New Street, Birmingham) who was visiting Shenstone “I desired him not to forget to look at your bust of Pope; hoping he may be able to paint mine of my brother Bolinbroke after the same manner”. (page 215).


Henrietta St John Knight, Lady Luxborough was the half sister of Henry St John, Lord Bolingbroke, a close friend of Alexander Pope and executor of his will.

 She and a group of Poetic friends were known as the Warwickshire Coterie.

 Barrells Hall, Wooten Wawen, near Henley in Arden, Warwickshire. She had been banished there in 1736 by her husband Robert Knight (created Baron Luxborough in 1745), for an indiscretion (probably with poet and clergyman John Dalton. Horace Walpole said they Rhymed till they chimed and never saw her husband again.

Here we have two busts of Alexander Pope mentioned in letters of 1748 and 1750. From these letters there is no doubt that William Shenstone owned a plaster bust of Pope. Lady Luxborough also owned a bust of Pope but she does not make clear what material it was made from -

This bust could be one of the marble busts by Roubiliac. Given the lack of headroom at Barrells Hall, this could have been the small bust or head now at Temple Newsam signed L.F.Roubiliac, ad vivum 1738. 

Currently there is no record of this bust prior to about 1922 when a Mr ARA Hobson suggests that his father GD Hobson (of Sotheby's) acquired it..

 Illustrated in a wall niche at I Bedford Square and illustrated in Country Life in February 1932, sold at Sotheby's 17 Nov 1933 - see Wimsatt -



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