Thursday 19 November 2015

The Rysbrack Statuettes of Rubens, van Dyck and du Quesnoy, Part 18, The Terracotta Statuettes of Rubens by Rysbrack.

The Terracotta Statuette of Peter Paul Rubens
at the Musee d'Ixelles, Brussels.
 After Michael Rysbrack.
A cast taken from the Original Terracotta by Rysbrack.

Height 60 cms.
The Original Terracotta of Rubens by Michael Rysbrack on the left.

The cast from the original on the right -
The original 66cms tall. the cast 60cms tall.
see previous posting for details of the original.

The Terracotta cast in The Musee d'Ixelles, Brussels (detail of photograph below).
The Terracotta in The Musee d'Ixelles, Brussels,

Photograph taken in 1956.


A more recent photograph supplied by the museum of their terracotta which is a reworked cast taken from the original statuette of  Rubens by Michael Rysbrack.  


Details of the impressed mark on the backs of the two statuettes and the signature on the side of the column plainly showing that the Musee d'Ixelles figure has been cast from Rysbracks original.
The difference in height of the two figures is roughly 10% confirming that this is the case. 10% shrinkage in the kiln is considered normal.
Comparison of the two figures with each other suggests a certain amount of hand finishing of the museum example particularly on the collar, but close examination of the tool marks especially around the impressed inscription reveals that the d'Ixelles museum example is definitely cast from the original.
Certainly if it was made with a piece mould then a certain amount of refinishing would be required to disguise the seams of the piece mould.

The Rysbrack Statuettes of Rubens, van Dyck and du Quesnoy, Part 17, The Terracotta Statuettes of Rubens by Rysbrack.

The Original Terracotta Statuette of Peter Paul Rubens
By Michael Rysbrack.
Signed on the supporting column,
Mich. Rysbrack. 1743.
24.4 ins - 622 mm tall.
Impressed on the back of the Column
Private Collection.
I am very grateful to the owner for allowing me the privilege to visit his home and to photograph this wonderful statuette, which is to me, undoubtedly one of Michael Rysbrack's miniature masterpieces.
The quality and detail of the modelling is superb.
There is minor damage to the base, his right arm has been broken and glued back and his left foot is probably a replacement. There are signs that it was painted at one time - probably with some sort of whitewash and there are remains of it visible particularly in the hair.
The announcement of the Publication of the Proposal to cast in plaster of Paris the three statuettes of Rubens, van Dyck and du Quesnoy from the original terracottas by Michael Rysbrack in the collection of Joseph van Haken was made in the Daily Advertiser on 19th December 1743. It appears again on Wednesday 4th January 1744.

Price to subscribers seven guineas and a half for the set. Three guineas to paid at the time of subscription the remaining four and a half guineas paid on the delivery of the set.
Subscriptions taken by Messrs Claessens and van der Hagen at Mr Rysbrack's at Vere St, near Oxford Chapel where the models could be seen, or at John Brindley's booksellers to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at New Bond Street.

It is clear from this that Josephvan Aken had a business relationship with Michael Rysbrack. Whilst the terracotta statuettes were clearly in his possession, the plaster reproductions were being sold from Rysbrack's business premises at Vere Street, Oxford Market. It is unclear who cast these statuettes but it is unlikely that they were made by Peter Vanina, who was first recorded working for Rysbrack after 1753. In 1758 when Sir Edward Littleton approached Michael Rysbrack for plaster copies of his own portrait bust, Rysbrack replied that making multiples was ‘a thing Entirely out of my way’, going on to say that he had consulted ‘Mr Vannini, the Caster in Plaster of Paris. (Whom I Employ when I want). Peter Vanina owned a pair of the statuettes of Rubens and van Dyck which were disposed of from his house in Dover Street in his 2nd sale of 3 July 1770 on the occasion of 'his going abroad', (Rupert Gunnis 1951).
George Vertue wrote in praise of the sculptures in 1743 Rysbrack had 'lately since made three models in clay, being the representation of 3 most excellent artists (about 2 foot hi each figure) Rubens van Dyke and Fiamingo Quenoy all three his countrymen These three models for the invention being standing the gracefulness of the Actions the dispositions of their habit, attitudes, and natural likeness, is most excellent. Q[uestion] if any other Artist living could do better and more masterly execute them.’

Vertue goes on to say that Rysbrack's popularity had been eclipsed by that of Peter Scheemakers, after the completion in 1740 of the latters monument to Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey and that he was feeling 'the effects in the line of Busines' there is no suggestion that there was any financial motive rather that he had time on his hands and that 'these (statuettes) are the effect of leisure and study'.

A brief look at the chronological lists in the Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain pub. 2009
would suggest there was some truth in Vertue's statement and that the early 1740's were a quiet time for Rysbrack - as keen collector of engravings and sculpture (like many collectors) he had a serious habit to feed although by this time he would have been fairly comfortably off he would still have had the expenses of the studio to keep up.
I think these statuettes should be seen as a partial response to Scheemakers full length statue of Shakespeare and a partial  acceptance by Rysbrack of changing fashions - by this time there is a movement away from the classicism of the Palladian to the more lightweight Rococo style exemplified by the statue of Shakespeare depicted in a slightly ludicrous van Dyck style costume. 

  The 'original models of Rubens, van Dyck and Fiamingo' were included in Langford's of the Piazza Covent Garden, posthumous Joseph van Aken auction sale of 11th February 1751. van Dyck

For the entire catalogue of this sale over 15 nights from  Monday Feb 11th 1750, until Saturday 16th, the sale recommencing on Monday 18th until Saturday 23rd, and continued from Monday 24 until Wednesday 27th February 1750.

For our purposes the most instructive day of the sale was the first day - Monday 11th February 1750 when van Aken's collection of  77 pieces of sculpture were sold.

Lot 45 - King William on horseback, by Mr. Rysbrack.
Lot 47 - Palladio and Inigo Jones, by Mr. Rysbrack.
Lot 48 - Rubens, Vandyck and Fiamingo, by ditto.

Under the heading  MODELS &c.

Lot 70 - Sir Isaac Newton and Mr. Lock cut in ivory.
Lot 71 - Vandyck and Inigo Jones, ditto
Lot 73 - The original model of Rubens, by Mr. Rysbrack.
Lot 74 - Ditto, of Vandyck, by ditto
Lot 75 - Ditto, of Fiamingo, by Mr. Rysbrack

Wednesday 18 November 2015

The Rysbrack Statuettes of Rubens, van Dyck and du Quesnoy, Part 16, du Quesnoy at the National Museum Naples

The Marble bust of Francois du Quesnoy
sometimes Francois Duquennois.
In Italy known as il Fiamingo 
Marble bust of Francois du Quesnoy, called il Fiamingo.
Magnified Photographs from a scan of the Burlington Magazine Article.
5th October 1963.
In the de Ciccio Collection - Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy which was bequeathed to the Museum by Commandatore Mario de Ciccio in memory of his brother Guiseppe and his son Francesco and put on display in 1959.
It was suggested by the author of the article, FJB Watson, that it would have been bought in London where de Ciccio purchased much of the majolica which forms the core of the collection.
Watson had spotted the bust at the Capodimonte Museum where it had remained anonymous until he had identified it. 
This bust was sold by Messrs Langford of the Piazza Covent Garden, Lot 65 on 20th April 1765 in the same sale as the terracotta bust of du Quesnoy (lot 43). The terracotta bust of Rubens was lot 44.
See Burlington Magazine Article.
For the terracotta of du Quesnoy now at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
see blog entry for 11, November 2015.
Close up photograph of The Bristol Museum Terracotta Statuette of Du Quesnoy

Monday 16 November 2015

The Rysbrack Statuettes of Rubens, van Dyck and du Quesnoy, Part 15, The Hagley Hall Marble Bust of Sir Peter - Paul Rubens.

The Marble bust of Sir Peter - Paul Rubens
by Michael Rysbrack.

Life size - paired with the bust of Rubens

Hagley Hall, Worcestershire
Home of the 12th Viscount Cobham
After the original Terracotta Model now in the

I am very grateful to Viscount Cobham for allowing me the opportunity to visit Hagley and to take these photographs. I would also like to thank to Joyce Purnell of Hagley Hall who showed me around and made my visit so enjoyable.

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
 Sold at Christie’s, London, Lot 17, 2 June,1961,It is probably the bust of
Rubens sold as lot 44 - “Modelsin Terracotta” Rysbrack sale 26 April 1765.
Signed and dated 1743

The Rysbrack Statuettes of Rubens, van Dyck and du Quesnoy, Part 14, The Hagley Hall Marble Bust of Sir Anthony van Dyck.

The Marble bust of Sir Anthony van Dyck,
by Michael Rysbrack.

This post updated with the photograph from the Paul Mellon Archive 1 June 2023.

Life size - paired with the bust of Rubens.

Hagley Hall, Worcestershire.

Home of the 12th Viscount Cobham.
After the original Terracotta Model now at Althorp Park.

I am very grateful to Viscount Cobham for allowing me the opportunity to visit Hagley and to take these photographs. I would also like to thank to Joyce Purnell of Hagley Hall who showed me around and made my visit so enjoyable.








Bust of Sir Anthony van Dyck - life size.
1746 or earlier.

Michael Rysbrack unsigned and undated.
In 1746 George Vertue writes 'The three busts in marble he has done. of - Rubens. Quellin & van Dyke are highly finished and masterly done- are standing proofs of his great skill'
Webb suggests that Vertue meant du Quesnoy which given the sets of  terracotta plaster statuettes of the same subjects by Rysbrack, produced in 1743 which must be correct.
The Terracotta of Sir Anthony van Dyck by Michael Rysbrack.
Signed and dated 1743.

Almost certainly one of the original set of three terracotta busts.

The Busts of Rubens and Fiamingo were Lots 20th April 1765 in the Rysbrack sale -
copy in the Arts Library of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam -

A Catalogue of the Genuine and Curious Collection of Mr. Michael Rysbrack
of.. Oxford Chapel, Statuary Consisting of a Variety of Heads and Busts from the
Best Antiquities; also Medallions, Vases and Urns in Marble. Several Models in
Terracotta of Busts and Basso Relievos, Modelled by Himself.. which will be
sold by auction, by Mr. Langford and Son, Saturday, the 20th of this instant April
The Terracotta of van Dyck is at Althorp, Northamptonshire, 
the Country House of Charles, Earl Spencer
Note the chain across the chest missing on the marble.
Library Photographs from the Courtauld Institute
I contacted the Estate Office several times earlier this year asking for photographs or failing that permission to visit Althorp and photograph the bust myself, but they insisted that I either pay them £240 to employ a photographer or they could (possibly) supply me with a (in their words) not very good quality photograph for £30. Both offers I was able to politely refuse.

I might just try them one more time.

Photograph of a terracotta bust supposedly of van Dyck.

From the Paul Mellon archives.

I suspect that this not van Dyck but du Quesnoy - it is unsigned and therefor an attribution is difficult.
Perhaps an early version by Rysbrack or a member of his workshop.
see -


All black and white photographs here were lifted from the article in the Burlington Magazine - 5 October 1963 written by FJB Watson in memory of Isabel Webb.


The bust acquired by the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto in 1954.

Sold lot 43 at the Rysbrack sale of 20th April 1765, the marble version (see below) was sold, lot 65 at the same sale. The unsigned marble is now in the de Ciccio Collection, in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples where it was put on display in 1959. The terracotta of Rubens was sold in the same sale lot 44 - it came to light at a sale at Christie's lot 17 29 June 1961.

George Vertue in his notebooks had noted three busts in marble - he had done.- of - Rubens - Quellin & Vandyke - are highly finish. and masterly done - are standing proof of his great skill. The reference to Quellin being a mistake for du Quesnoy.

The de Ciccio marble bust of du Quesnoy by Michael Rysbrack (unsigned), 

Museo di Capodimonte. Naples.


Terracotta statuette of du Quesnoy in the Bristol Museum.

Photograph by the author.