Sunday 29 March 2015

    Another Rediscovered 18th century plaster bust of Handel.

 The bust of Handel now in a private collection (January 2015)
Series of photographs of the plaster bust of Handel taken with an I phone in poor light
The two plaster busts of Handel for comparison - the black painted version is probably a later reworked version of the white painted bust - note incised sculpting of the embroidery of the waistcoat, otherwise the detailing is the same. The form of the socle is also one used on busts of the mid 18th century and later, popularised by Cavaceppi and much used by Nollekens.
It is now clear that the photograph in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and in the Coke Collection at the Foundling Hospital of the bust belonging to John Bishop of Cheltenham in the 19th century was of the same type as the black painted bust with the worked waistcoat.

Saturday 28 March 2015

                     Pulteney Bridge, Bath.

   As a bit of light relief - I understand that the Post Office is to issue stamps of English Bridges.

"The Bridges stamp issue celebrates the leaps in engineering that have seen the UK’s bridges evolve   from humble stone crossings to dramatic symbolic landmarks conceived by progressive architects".

Completed to designs by Robert Adam in 1774, part of the bridge collapsed and had to be rebuilt after the floods of 1799 /1800.

       To celebrate, I include here, an experimental photograph taken with my new i- phone 6.

                        Engraving of Pulteney Bridge by Thomas Malton, 1785

Thursday 26 March 2015

The Gloucester Cathedral Plaster bust of Handel by Roubiliac


The Plaster Bust of Handel at Gloucester Cathedral.

More on the Roubiliac Busts of Handel.

It has been known since the 1980's that a life size plaster bust of Handel existed - stored away in Gloucester Cathedral. There is a file on it in the Heinz Archives of the National portrait gallery dated 1986.

I had foolishly assumed with the publication of the Marble Index by Malcolm Baker in February of this year, that we would see the definitive researches into the subject of the Roubiliac busts of Handel - I was wrong.

When I contacted Christopher Jeens, the Archivist at the cathedral in December 2014, it appeared that nobody at the cathedral knew where the bust was located, or even that it existed. It seems to have been locked away since the 80's.

Shortly afterwards Chris Jeens was able to locate it in the Bridge Chapel by the Whispering Gallery, above the nave of the Cathedral and I was invited to visit on 5th of January and photograph it in the chapel.

This wonderful bust was slightly the worse for wear - it had suffered minor damage to the clothing (see following photographs) and several coats of paint but fortunately all the facial features remained intact.


The Marble bust of Handel in the Royal Collection. 

In 1817 it was at Buckingham House where it was placed above the organ in the Queens Japan Room shown in an engraving by Pyne. David Wilson has convincingly ascribed this bust to John Bacon the Younger who sent an account dated November 1806 for a marble bust of Handel placed over the organ in the Brighton Pavillion £105 and also for a plaster while the marble was being made.
Total cost £112.18s.9d.

Information from "By Heaven Inspired" by David Wilson from The British Art Journal Vol. X no.1 and verbal communications.


The Gloucester plaster bust of Handel with the Grimsthorpe terracotta for comparison.

The so called life mask recently exhibited at the Handel House Museum in Brook Street, London  with the Gloucester plaster bust for comparison.

An amusing photograph of David Coke and almost certainly not the life mask, but a cast taken from a version of the Handel bust without a hat.

Three more not very good photographs above of the Grimsthorpe terracotta from the Heinz Archive at the National Portrait Gallery.

Plaster busts of Handel in The Harris Correspondence of the 1740's.

Handel's friend James Harris (1709-80), who seems to have been involved in procuring from Roubiliac plaster busts of Handel for the Countess of Shaftesbury (Lord Shaftesbury, another friend of Handel, was Harris's cousin); for Charles Jennens, the wealthy patron of the arts, librettist for four of Handel's oratorios (including Messiah), and the composer's friend; and possibly for Harris himself. It is not known whether these busts were plaster versions of the rediscovered Sotheby's bare headed bust (which would therefore date it to 1741 at the latest) or of another bust of Handel by Roubiliac, such as that now in the Royal Collection (the latter dated 1739) the one with the hat. The letters (from which extracts are quoted below, as they are written, but with the addition of punctuation) are included in the James Harris archive, which itself is part of the wider Malmesbury collection at the Hampshire Records Office. (96) Some of the letters are from Roubiliac to Harris, and some are between Harris relatives and refer to the plaster busts of Handel by Roubiliac.

In a letter written from London and dated 16 April 1741, Roubiliac informed James Harris in Salisbury that a plaster 'busto' of Handel was finished and ready to be sent wherever Harris should direct, enquiring further whether Harris would like him to leave the bust white or 'put a coluor upon it' (ie a patina). On 21 April, James's brother, Thomas (a friend also of Handel and the recipient from him of a legacy of 300 [pounds sterling]), wrote to James from Lincoln's Inn that he had visited Roubiliac that evening and seen the bust, 'and like it very well. What he [Roubiliac] mean't by colouring was only making the whole of a light dun colour, as the original you saw is: and that he says will keep clean better, and I think it looks handsomer. If therefore you approve of that, write him word that you would have it colour'd as the original is, and he says he'll do it immediately.' On 18 June, Thomas again wrote from London to James in Salisbury, 'I called at Roubilliac's to day about the bust for Lady Shaft[esbury] but found it was not coloured yet, so it cant be sent till the carrier that sets out next week.' On the 27 June 1741, Lady Shaftesbury wrote, probably from St. Giles's, to James Harris in Salisbury, 'Thursday I received the busto of Hendel and am very thankfull to my cousin Thomas Harris for negociating this affair for me[.] I have dispos'd of it in a place of highest eminence in my room and please my self with thinking you will approve of it[.] I hope soon to have an opportunity of reimbursing my cousin T. Harris for this and the expences attending its coming down.'

On 10 July 1741, Roubiliac wrote in reply to a letter he had received from James Harris: 'I have receiv'd your obliging letter, and in answer I shall acquaint you that Mr Hendel's busto shall be near ready to morrow, so I hope you will be pleas'd to send how to direct it. You know I have Mr Popes busto which I have likewise made after life. I have also Milton's and Newton's[,] so in case any of your friends should want you will be pleas'd to reccomend them[;] but bustos being works by which there is little to be got but reputation [,] I desire you will let your friends know that my chief talent is marble works, such as monuments, chimneys, tables, all which I hope to do, to the satisfaction of those that will do me the honour to employe me.'

With reference to another bust of Handel that was intended for Jennens, on 24 July 1741, Jennens's cousin, Lord Guernsey, at Powderham in Devon, wrote to James Harris in Salisbury, As soon as I can inform myself, who is Mr Jennens's carrier, I shall beg the favour of you to give Roubillac directions how to send the bust'.

from "By Heaven Inspired" by David Wilson British Art Journal

Tuesday 10 March 2015

The Plaster busts and Statuettes supplied to Arniston House, Midlothian, Scotland by John Cheere.

This post edited 7 October 2020

After reviewing these busts and figures itis now clear that most of the busts were not supplied by CheereMost of the 16 busts are now believed to have been collected in Italy by the second Robert Dundas II,(1713 - 87) also a Lord Presidents of the Court of Session, whilst on his grand tour in the 1730's when he was studying at Utrecht University, but the figure of Shakespeare after Scheemakers monument and the accompanying statuette of Hercules after the Rysbrack Hercules at Stourhead and the bust of Newton are later casts perhaps by John Cheere but given the subjects could be by Harris of the Strand or Robert Shout of Holborn.

 An undated but mid to late 18th century list from the Arniston Muniments, Bundle 171 (Small Volume) personal Accounts Book of R Dundas (1750 - 85) records 'the busts in the Library at Arniston'

 Sir Isaac Newton        Diogenes

Aristotle                      Lucretia

Nero/supposed            Zeno

Jeron                           Antinous

Vestal Virgin               Solon

Homer                         Socrates

Cuero                          Euripides


Info from Architectural Heritage, vol 12, 2001. Pat Wigston

 The attribution of the figures of Shakespeare and Hercules and at least the bust of Newton to Cheere is based on the fact that work on the the Library refurbishment commenced in February 1756, when the alterations were made to the joinery and paint work and the busts were cleaned under the supervision of Edinburgh Wright George Stevenson. Stevenson had worked for the Dundas family since the 1730's at their town house in Edinburgh, at Ormiston Hall in Lothian and at Arniston. The Library was repainted by James Norrie the Edinburgh house painter who invoiced for £14 14 8d for painting the library in "oil white" for March and April 1756.  Norrie also gilded he capitals in library in1756.

see -


Original post -

Although, as yet I have not been able to discover any paperwork to confirm, it can be safely assumed that these busts and statuettes were supplied by John Cheere in the 1740's for the old library at Arniston House, which was designed in the late Baroque style by William Adam (1689 - 1748), for the Scottish lawyer Robert Dundas.

                                    Shakespeare Statuette after Scheemakers, Homer and The Farnese Hercules.  

Possibly Pythagoras
Veiled Vestal and Cicero.
Zeno, Madonna, Nero.

Edit - the Madonna is based on St Susanna by Duquesnoy in Santa Maria di Loretto, Rome.

Possibly a cast by Cheere
Roman General there is a version by Roubiliac at the Huntington Library California, Zeno perhaps after Scheemakers.
Demosthenes, Isaac Newton and Agrippina.
Unknown classical? Female bust, Socrates, undetermined male bust.
Aristotle, unknown female bust, Antinous.
I am very grateful to Henrietta Dundas of Arniston House for supplying these images.

For the History of the Dundas Family and Arniston see -

John Cheere Sculpture at Blair Castle


The Plaster Busts at Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Perthshire.

John Cheere

John Cheere provided a substantial amount of statuary to the Duke of Atholl at Blair Castle.

        Including documented plaster busts for the library and lead statues for the garden.








Isaac Newton


These photographs along with the document detailing the objects supplied to Blair Castle by John Cheere in 1742 were kindly supplied by Jane Anderson, the current  Archivist at Blair Castle.

I hope to be able to visit Blair Castle this Summer and to obtain better photographs - these will have to do for the time being.

Along with the photographs of the Kirkleatham busts and statuettes supplied in 1749, and if one assumes that those busts and statuettes at Arniston House, Midlothian (see the next blog entry) were supplied at about the same time this give us a somewhat clearer picture than hitherto of the output of the plaster busts of John Cheere in the 1740's /50's.

Lead Statues at Blair Castle supplied by John Cheere in 1753 - 55.




Documents dated March 1755 and April 1753 detailing statuary supplied to the Duke of Atholl at Blair.

The Black and white photographs were lifted from and for more information see -