Another Rediscovered 18th century plaster bust of Handel.
Sunday 29 March 2015
Another Rediscovered 18th century plaster bust of Handel.
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
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.
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'.
Tuesday 10 March 2015
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
Vestal Virgin Solon
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.
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.
For the History of the Dundas Family and Arniston see -
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.