Wednesday 3 June 2015

John Hamilton Mortimer (1740 - 79) and Roubiliac's Laughing Child. Updated 4 March 2024.

 John Hamilton Mortimer. ARA (1740 - 79).

and the bust of the Laughing Child by Roubiliac.

Self portrait of John Hamilton Mortimer with a student.

There is some doubt about this attribution. Malcolm Baker has suggested that it shows the sculptor Joseph Wilton instructing a student.

National Portrait Gallery.

It depicts the student holding a cast of a bust perhaps of Chryssipus of Soli (a marble version is in the Louvre - see below).

Much more interesting for me is the (plaster?) bust of the laughing child which has always been attributed to Roubiliac and is believed to represent Democritus, the pair to the crying child Heraclitus.


There are 6 versions of a laughing boy which are listed in the Roubiliac Sale Catalogue of 1762 - 2nd day lots 22 - 4; 3rd day lots 25 and 64; 4th day lot 33;  Crying boy 4th day lot 24.


For an article on the Ashmoean and V and A busts of February 2023 see -

There is a Chelsea porcelain version of this head in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford until recently believed unique until another version came up for sale at Bonhams Auction Rooms London Lot 174 18 April 2012 (see below). described by Dr Nicholas Penny as '...the most celebrated piece of porcelain in the Ashmolean Museum...' (Penny 1992, p.17). 

It was donated by Cyril da Costa Andrade in 1965, in honour of Sir Winston Churchill and was originally from the collection of C.T. Fowler who is said to have discovered it in a London shop, shortly before August 1938.

It was published in The Connoisseur of August 1938, pp. 59-60, illustrated in colour on the cover, where it was romantically suggested (on no real evidence at all) that it was modelled on the head of Roubiliac's daughter Sophie.

The Chelsea Porcelaine factory was started in 1743 by the silversmith Nicolas Sprimont and Charles Gouyn. Sprimont was the godfather of Sophie Roubiliac who was born 25 August 1744 and baptised 23 Sept 1744 at the Huguenot Church in Spring Gardens by M Isac Lesturgeon. It should be noted that Matthew Maty was also a parishioner.

Intriguingly In Roquet's book Etat des Arts en Angleterre of 1755 referring to the Chelsea pottery there is mention of  "a useful French Artist" - an ambiguous reference which could refer to either Roubiliac or Sprimont.

Malcolm Baker in Figured in Marble, pub.V and A Studies, 2000 also points out the inclusion in the sale of William Smith, lot 82 - 25 Feb, 1800, - two sculptural figures in marble, laughing and crying boys. These are followed immediately by a bust of Princess Amelia.

He then goes on to mention the inclusion in an anonymous Paris sale on 30th January 1728 (this date needs confirming) of Le Brun and Boileau - relief models in wax of a celebrated English artist representing busts of a child laughing and a child crying under glass in black frames.... he goes on to suggest that Isaac Gosset (1713 - 99) may be the author but the dates do not tie in, he is unlikely to have been described in France as a famous artist at the age of 16!).

Baker goes on to mention the marble bust of a boy laughing, noted in the pocket book of Edward Knight on 9 May 1771. This bust was referred to in the Burlington Magazine (E. Hendriks Oct 1984, 623) as by John Flaxman (1755 - 1826) who would have been 22 at the time - perhaps he was referring to the famous sculptor's less well known father John Flaxman I, who was a well respected modeller and caster of plaster figures and busts who had taken premises in New Street, Covent Garden in 1766.

Flaxman Senior -

In 1770 he was producing models of classical statuettes for Matthew Boulton, the Birmingham ormolu manufacturer, and probably began to work for Wedgwood and Bentley. 

He supplied a great many designs for Wedgwood in 1775 (5, 26-32, 37, 38). He continued to work for Wedgwood until the 1780s, but the firm sought to attract the services of members of the newly-founded Royal Academy and undervalued Flaxman’s models. 

Wedgwood wrote to Bentley in February 1771.

‘I wrote to you in my last concerning Busts, I suppose those at the Academy are less hackneyed and better in General than the plaister shops can furnish us with: besides it will sound better to say this is from the Academy, taken from an original in the Gallery of etc etc than to say we had it from Flaxman’

(Wedgwood Archives, quoted in Bindman 1979, 47).

John Flaxman I in 1776 took over larger premises in 420 Strand, opposite Durham Yard. He is known to have taken over moulds from John Cheere.

Although little is known of his early life he is believed to have modelled for both Scheemakers and Roubiliac.- Given the possible) link with Roubiliac the bust of the laughing boy could have come either from the Roubiliac Studio or have been a cast by Flaxman senior. 

for more on Flaxman the Elder see  -

Literary Refs.

Farington, vol 2, 581; Cunningham 1829-33, vol 3, 274; Graves 1905-6, II, 123; Graves 1907, 93; Goodison 1974, 98-103; Irwin 1979, 46, 223 n35; Bindman 1979, 26, 39, 47, 50; Haskell and Penny 1981, 80; Galvin and Lindley 1988, 894-5; Reilly 1995, 184
Archival References: IGI; Flaxman Leases; Grantham Correspondence; Flaxman Papers BL, Add MS 39791, fols 3, 120, 124-8, 196
Will: PROB 11/1390, 225-6
Auctions Catalogues: Flaxman 1803

Trade Cards of John Flaxman the Elder - Heal Collection, British Museum.


The Marble Bust
Sold 4 December 2019.


The V and A Chelsea Laughing Child.


The Chelsea Laughing child sold by Bonhams.

Now at the Holburne Museum, Bath.

For the auctioneers photographs see below.


The Ashmolean Laughing Child.

Laughing Child Chelsea Porcelain, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.


The Two laughing Boys sold by Bonham's Auctions, London.

18 April 2012.

The porcelain boy Lot 174 and  a terracotta boy Lot 175.

Bonham's Essay

They don't say who wrote it


The only other recorded example is in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, described by Dr Nicholas Penny as '...the most celebrated piece of porcelain in the Ashmolean Museum...' (Penny 1992, p.17). It was donated by Cyril da Costa Andrade in 1965, in honour of Sir Winston Churchill and was originally from the collection of C.T. Fowler who is said to have discovered it in a London shop, shortly before August 1938. From 1938 until the discovery of the present lot in 2011, the Ashmolean head was thought be unique. The Oxford head has been painted with enamel colours, possibly at a slightly later date. The decoration does not follow the modelling, with tiny teeth painted below the upper lip and some hair on the forehead represented where there is no corresponding relief. There are significant areas of black kiln specking on the surface of the enamelled head, most notably in a crescent-shaped patch above the left breast and under the chin. There is also some lighter specking on the face and forehead and on the back of the right shoulder. The newly-discovered head has been left in white, as the potter must have intended and although it exhibits some very light kiln specking, this is far less evident compared with the enamelled piece.


The Ashmolean head was published by Dr Bellamy Gardner in The Connoisseur of August 1938, pp. 59-60, illustrated in colour on the cover. Gardner attributed the modelling to Louis-François Roubiliac and went further by suggesting that it was a portrait of Roubiliac's daughter, Sophie. Gardner's assertion appears to be based solely on the fact that Sophie's godfather was fellow Huguenot, Nicholas Sprimont, who became the proprietor of the Chelsea factory. A search for sources of the head suggests that it was unlikely to have been made as a portrait and instead is drawn from 17th century Italian sculpture.


In his 1992 catalogue Dr Penny hints at possible sources of inspiration, starting with major works by Bernini in Rome. Two of the most celebrated of Bernini's angels are his magnificent Angel Administering Intolerable Pleasures to St Teresa, in the church of S Maria della Vittoria, and his equally dramatic Angel Lifting Habbakkuk by a Lock of Hair, in the Chigi Chapel of S Maria del Popolo. These predate Bernini's Gloria in the Cathedra Petri in St Peter's Basilica, a monumental gilded relief carved with joyful angels, created between 1657 and 1666. These Bernini angels and the Chelsea head seem to share the same cheeks, mouths and pointed locks of hair. They differ in the way the Chelsea model exhibits slanting eyes and a slightly more exotic look, which Dr Penny suggests may be the result of the development of Bernini's style by Permoser.


Like most Baroque sculptors, Balthasar Permoser was heavily influenced by Bernini, while in turn Permoser was even more influential on so many sculptors who came across his work. After fourteen years working in the studio of Giovanni Battista Foggini in Florence, Permoser was summoned to Dresden to work for the Elector of Saxony, and then to Prussia to work on the Charlottenburg Palace. He is best known for his architectural sculptures on the Zwinger palace, built by Augustus the Strong from 1710-28. On a smaller scale, but equally ambitious was another commission from Augustus for a sculptural pulpit for the Elector's chapel. Liberally strewn with angels' heads, Permoser's pulpit was made of polished white marble and bears an uncanny resemblance to porcelain. Porcelain was Augustus's overriding obsession and he also asked Permoser to create models on a much smaller scale for Meissen, figures to be made in polished red stoneware and in white porcelain.


Among the many students who trained in Permoser's Dresden studio was a young sculptor from Lyon named Louis-François Roubiliac. The young Frenchman returned to Paris but was frustrated that his work was not appreciated in his own country and instead he moved to London. Roubiliac joined the community of Huguenot artists living in London and forged a career as a sculptor of monuments and portrait busts. Roubiliac married in St Martin's-in-the-Fields in 1735 and when his daughter, Sophie, was born in 1744 he asked his friend Nicholas Sprimont to stand as Godfather, her christening held at the Huguenot church in Spring Gardens (Adams 2001, p.19).


Roubiliac and Sprimont must have been more than simply like-minded acquaintances. At the time Sprimont was establishing his porcelain factory in Chelsea, the sculptor was working on his first major monument, a funeral work commemorating Bishop Hough, to be erected in Worcester Cathedral. Malcolm Baker, in his paper to the English Ceramic Circle (Baker 1997), drew attention to a letter written by Theophilus Biddolph on 7 May 1745 which discussed the monument at length. An important feature of the commission was a bas relief panel to be incorporated within the monument. Biddolph had visited Roubiliac's workshop to check on progress and in his letter he mentions 'The Basso Relievo is to be in Chelsea China'.


The porcelain panel was never created and the monument was instead carved entirely in marble. The letter, however, shows that in the first months of the Chelsea venture, Roubiliac was contemplating using the new material of porcelain for a monumental sculptured plaque. Roubiliac will have worked in Permoser's studio in Dresden at the time when Permoser was modelling for Meissen porcelain. Moving to England, the idea of his own work being cast in porcelain must have seemed an impossible dream for Roubiliac. The prospect of working with Sprimont to create a porcelain panel must have excited both men enormously, though it would appear this particular collaboration did not come to fruition.


In order to appreciate the excitement caused by Sprimont's new Chelsea porcelain, it is worth reviewing the history of porcelain figures in England prior to the mid 1740s. Before Chelsea, the only porcelain sculptures available were Chinese figures, the pagods and magots collected in the grandest of homes and mocked by William Hogarth. In his series Marriage a la Mode, one well known image shows the playboy hero before his mantelshelf where he has gathered a profusion of slender Guanyins and podgy Buddhas. These were the Dehua figures of blanc-de-chine which had been imported en-mass from China half a century earlier. No longer available from the East, these white Chinese porcelain ornaments had achieved iconic status in the age of rococo and were sold by dealers in fashionable St James's. The Adventurer of November 20th 1753 published a fictional account of a visit to Bedlam and introduced the reader to Harriet Brittle, whose 'opinion was formerly decisive at all auctions.....about the genuineness of porcelain.' Harriet paid an exorbitant price for 'a Mandarin and a Jos' that she intended to place 'in a little rockwork temple of Chinese architecture, in which neither propriety, proportion, nor true beauty, were considered'. When a careless wagon driver smashed her priceless figures, this completely turned her mind. To soothe poor Harriet, her family provided her with Chelsea vases and urns to decorate her cell in Bedlam as she believed these to be real Chinese porcelain.


Among other costly trinkets of silver and gold, the London dealers around St James's and The Haymarket offered society customers 'Old China' and 'Old Japan', antiques of their day and far more precious than the cheaper Chinese tableware which, thanks to the East India Company, was now readily available and falling in price. A few shops sold Dresden China, enormously costly and in very limited supply, pretty porcelain enamelled in colours and in European, not Oriental taste.


As a silversmith in London with origins in Europe, Nicholas Sprimont was well aware of the marketplace for luxury goods. By embarking on a porcelain manufactory, he knew that there was more to success than simply producing perfectly white chinaware. The biggest problem was manufacturing porcelain cheaply enough to compete in the shops with the antiques and imports. There was no point trying to make blue and white or even famille rose teasets or armorial dinner plates. Enamelled decoration added enormously to manufacturing costs. Sprimont's greatest asset was an almost pure white porcelain glaze, better than anybody else in England had yet perfected. He also understood fashionable design from his work as a silversmith. Bringing his two materials, silver and porcelain together was pure genius. Making the very latest English silver shapes in white porcelain meant these could be sold as something unique.


Silver forms, closely related to objects known to have been made in Sprimont's silver workshop in Soho, are to be found in early Triangle-period Chelsea porcelain. There can be no clearer evidence that Sprimont was the designer, if not also the modeller. In his introduction to the Victoria and Albert Museum's Rococo exhibition catalogue (Mallett 1984, p.237), John Mallett quoted the enamel artist André Rouquet who reported of the Chelsea factory that 'an able French artist supplies or directs the models of everything that is manufactured there'. Mallett noted that Sprimont came from Liège, from a family of silversmiths, so technically he was Flemish, not French, Liège being part of the Holy Roman Empire at that time. Mallett agreed with Rouquet that in the early days of the Chelsea factory Sprimont is likely to have done all of the modelling and designing. There can be little doubt that the Teaplant teawares originated from the mind of a silversmith, and even curiosities such as Chelsea's Chinamen teapots share the whimsy of Sprimont's rococo silver designs. Adams 2001, p.19 describes a Sprimont silver tea kettle dated 1745/6 with a dragon spout and a laughing Chinaman on the cover.


Sprimont may have picked up the idea behind the Chelsea teapots when he was in France, from the white china Magots made at St Cloud. These would have been unknown in England, however and more likely it was old Dehua Blanc-de-Chine that inspired Sprimont's Chinaman teapots and also the Chelsea Budai made during the Triangle period. Together with a slightly later seated Guanyin, this was the only exercise in directly copying the Orient in early Chelsea. Sprimont did not want his Chelsea porcelain to be associated with mere copies of the Chinese. Stoneware potters in Staffordshire made their cheaper versions in white saltglaze. Sprimont, though, was making something that could not be bought anywhere else in England. His porcelain was aimed at an altogether more refined market. Here was an artist making fine sculpture, not craftsman-made crockery.


Horace Walpole appreciated the new material and bought a pair of white Crayfish salts for his collection at Strawberry Hill (these are now in the British Museum, 1887,0307,II.18). Sprimont's shell-shaped dishes and modelled creamjugs were close to perfection, but some of the three-dimensional modelling was not perhaps up there with the finest art. A squirrel and an owl are comical, yes, but not perhaps best sculpture. Sprimont's talents lay as a silversmith and designer, not a sculptor, yet he moved in the highest artistic circles in London and mingled with the top painters and sculptors.


Casts of great works were readily available to purchase, either in bronze or plaster. Small sculptures by Francois Duquesnoy, known as Il Fiammingo, inspired two small models in white Chelsea porcelain, a sleeping child and a boy's head. The sleeping child was also made in porcelain at Vincennes and while it is debateable which factory made it first, the French version probably post-dates the Chelsea and is likely to have been based on the same bronze prototype. The head of a boy first appeared as a detail on a tomb in Rome carved by Il Fiammingo and Sprimont must have acquired a cast. Chelsea's version is delightfully subtle, though some of the sculptural quality was lost along the way.


The boy's head was probably not made until 1749-50, whereas the Chelsea sleeping child in the British Museum is incised with the date June ye 26 1746 and exhibits the slightly creamy glaze which is characteristic of the earliest figure models. The present Head of a Laughing Child appears whiter and reflects the rapid improvements made to the Chelsea body during the Triangle Period. This brilliant white porcelain was an entirely new material for sculpture in England.


Porcelain sculpture had been made elsewhere in Europe before the 1740s. Models in Meissen white porcelain had been created for Augustus the Strong's palace and a stunning Böttger Porzellan head of Apollo is well known, as well as a baby's head. Roubiliac undoubtedly came across such things while training in Permoser's Dresden studio, but this is not the kind of Meissen retailed by the dealers in London amongst their 'Old Dresden'. In Italy the Doccia factory made some of the most striking of all European porcelain sculpture, much of it after Classical antiquities. As with Vincennes, however, most Doccia sculpture post-dates Chelsea and here again there is no evidence to suggest any white Doccia sculptures had been seen in England at the time of Sprimont's early productions. In London in 1746, therefore, Chelsea's white porcelain sculptures were unique.


So what about the present Head of a Laughing Child and the important question of whether Roubiliac provided Sprimont with the model? We know that in September 1744 Sprimont had stood as Godfather for baby Sophie Roubiliac and the following year Louis-François Roubiliac considered using Chelsea china for part of his monument to Bishop Hough. All other evidence is circumstantial, however. One strong pointer to the Child's parentage is the existence in white Chelsea porcelain of two separate models of William Hogarth's dog Trump, one a mirror image of the other. John Mallet has shown that Chelsea's Trumps were taken from a terracotta by Roubiliac and that Sprimont will have acquired a version in terracotta, or possibly a plaster cast, directly from Roubiliac's studio (Mallet 1967). White Chelsea models of Trump are in the Colonial Williamsburg Collection and the Victoria and Albert Museum (C.101-1966), while a coloured version, illustrated here, was one of the treasures at Rous Lench Court.


Terracotta versions of a similar, though not identical Head of a Laughing Child are well known and an example is offered in this sale as the following lot. Numerous versions of this model are recorded in bronze, marble, terracotta and plaster and these have been discussed by Penny 1992, Baker 1997 and others. Most are given 18th century dates although they all probably postdate the Chelsea model. The only signed example so far recorded is a marble version in the Hermitage in St Petersburg which is signed by Joseph Nollekens RA. A plaster or possibly terracotta version appears in a painting in the Royal Academy, showing the artist John Hamilton Mortimer with Joseph Wilton and a Student. This fascinating painting, probably a self portrait by Mortimer, depicts a student using the Duke of Richmond's Cast Gallery, a collection of plaster casts after the Antique made available to students c.1758-62 under the direction of the sculptor Joseph Wilton. The version of the Child's Head placed at the side of the composition bears a striking similarity to the Chelsea model.


It seems likely that all these related versions, including the Chelsea one, originate from the same source. The Head of a Laughing Child has become popularly known as 'Roubiliac's Daughter', an attribution probably resulting from Dr Bellamy Gardner's 1938 article discussing the Chelsea version. There is presently no known autograph version that can be linked unquestionably to Roubiliac's workshop, but as most surviving versions have a British provenance, an authorship by Roubiliac does seems most likely. Following Roubiliac's death in 1762 the contents of his studio were auctioned and the sale included various items that may be related. In the sale were moulds of 'a young child', 'a laughing boy' and 'a boy's head', as well as a plaster model of a 'crying boy'. These are discussed on the Victoria and Albert Museum Website in relation to a pair of bronze busts in the Museum collection nos. A.2-2008 and A.3-2008.

These 18th century busts in the Victoria and Albert museum comprise a bronze laughing head paired with the head of a crying child. No Chelsea crying head is recorded, but the existence of a companion model in bronze does suggest the Head of a Child was intended to be a likeness not of Roubiliac's daughter but that of an infant philosopher. The so-called 'Laughing and Weeping Philiosphers', Heraclitus and Democritus, were well-known subjects in art and sculpture as opposing images of Joy and Sorrow, reflecting different attitudes to life. Penny 1992, p. 18 discusses many different versions where the subjects are depicted as children. Roubiliac would therefore have been very familiar with the concept.

Some of the surviving bronze and terracotta versions will most likely correspond to the 'Laughing Boy' and 'Crying Boy' models included in Roubiliac's studio sale. Logic suggests that Sprimont will have acquired one of the terracotta versions, in the same way as he used a terracotta from Roubiliac's studio to create his Chelsea porcelain model of Hogarth's Trump. There are significant differences, however, between the bronze, terracotta and plaster versions and the Chelsea porcelain Head of a Laughing Child. Heraclitus and Democritus as children are by necessity male. In the Chelsea version, the sex of the child is more ambiguous.

The Chelsea head is not cast from any known terracotta or plaster version. In the porcelain version the mouth is closed with no hint of teeth and the eyes, too are almost closed. The subject is smiling rather than laughing. In these respects the Chelsea head differs from all the other known versions. If the origin was a terracotta, such as the following lot in this sale, someone has totally re-modelled it before the casting in porcelain.


This prompts the question of whether Nicholas Sprimont was up to the job? Did Sprimont simply take Roubiliac's model and adapt it, or did Sprimont ask Roubiliac himself to recreate a new model to be cast in porcelain? There can be no doubt that the modeller of the Chelsea Head of a Laughing Child was a very accomplished sculptor, far more accomplished than the modeller of, say, the Chinaman teapots. If the task was given to Roubiliac, it is worth remembering that his daughter Sophie would have been between three and five years old. Was Dr Gardner right all along? Was his own daughter in the sculptor's mind when he created the unique mould for Chelsea?


The end of the Triangle Period marks a significant change in direction for the Chelsea factory, coinciding with the move from Mr Supply's House to new expanded premises in Lawrence Street. Sprimont gave up his silversmith business in Soho to give his full attention to developing porcelain 'in a Taste Entirely New'. Instead of his own ideas and models based on silver, totally new productions were almost entirely copied from the best foreign porcelain. This meant copies of the latest designs from Vincennes and Meissen and from old Japanese Kakiemon.


Realising he needed an experienced modeller full-time within the factory, it was probably in 1748 that Sprimont brought in Joseph Willems who was also Flemish. A major new series of bird models was introduced, based on prints by George Edwards, while Sprimont's new financial backer, Sir Everard Falconer arranged to borrow Sir Charles Hanbury Williams' extensive collection of Meissen figures and every piece was copied exactly. A taste entirely new indeed.


Very few of Sprimont's designs from the Triangle period survived the changes in direction that swept through his business. Crayfish salts, formerly made largely in white, were now issued in new colours. After 1750 fine white porcelain was no longer the sole domain of Chelsea. Some truly magnificent models came from the kilns at Derby during the so-called 'Dry Edge' period, while the Muses Modeller's work at Bow presented the London market with a very different kind of English porcelain figure. Sprimont's former business partner, Charles Gouyn now produced white figure groups at St James's, but to Nicholas Sprimont white porcelain had apparently lost its appeal. His new models copied from Meissen are rarely found in white; indeed the little Chinaman in this sale is an exception.


Sir Everard Falconer was secretary to the Duke of Cumberland and Faulkner no doubt encouraged the production of a white porcelain portrait bust of the Duke, made at Chelsea during the Raised Anchor period. This bust of Cumberland is disappointing as a piece of sculpture. Some old white stock from the Triangle period was probably coloured during the Raised Anchor period, and this raises again the question of precisely when the colouring was added to the Rous Lench Trump and the Ashmolean Head of a Child. Were these coloured at Lawrence Street, perhaps?


For more than fifty years visitors to Oxford have been able to admire the Ashmolean's coloured head in its own case in the Chambers Hall Gallery among 18th century British paintings. With this newly discovered example in pure white porcelain it is possible to appreciate in full the unique sculptural quality of the model. In every respect the Head of a Laughing Child is a true masterpiece of European porcelain.






Adams 2001

Adams, Elizabeth. Chelsea Porcelain. London: British Museum Press, revised edition, 2001


Asche 1978

Asche, Sigfried. Balthasar Permoser: Leben und Werk, Deutscher Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft


Austin 1977

Austin, John C. Chelsea Porcelain at Williamsburg, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1977


Baker 1997

Baker, Malcolm. Roubiliac and Chelsea in 1745, English Ceramic Circle Transactions, Vol 16, pt. 2, 1997, pp.222-225


Esdaile 1928

Esdaile Katherine A.M. Louis-François Roubiliac, Oxford, 1928


Gardner 1938

Gardner, Dr Bellamy. Sophie Roubiliac in Chelsea Porcelain, in Connoisseur, pt. 102, 1938, pp. 59-61


Hillier 1996

Hillier, Bevis. Nicholas Crisp and the Elizabeth Canning Scandal, English Ceramic Circle Transactions, Vol 16, pt. 1, 1996


Hodgson 1994

Hodgson, Zorka. A Chelsea Boy's Head after François Duquesnoy-Il Fiammingo, English Ceramic Circle Transactions, Vol 15, pt. 2, 1994


Legge 1984

Legge, Margaret. Flowers and Fables, A Survey of Chelsea Porcelain 1745-69, National Gallery of Australia, 1984


Mallet 1984

Mallet J.V.G (contributor). Rococo: Art and Design in Hogarth's England, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, Exhibition Catalogue 1984


Mallet 1967

Mallet J.V.G. Hogarth's Pug in Porcelain, London, Victoria and Albert Museum Bulletin III, No. 2, April 1967, pp. 45-54


Penny 1992

Penny, Dr. Nicholas. Catalogue of European Sculpture in the Ashmolean Museum, 1540 to the Present Day, Vol. 3, Oxford University Press, pp.17-18, fig. 457.


Young 1999

Young, Hilary. English Porcelain, 1745-95: Its Makers, Design, Marketing and Consumption, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1999


The Bonhams Terracotta Laughing Boy.

18 April 2012.

Lot 175.

Height 22.3 cms.




The Laughing and crying children attributed to Roubiliac. 

Victoria and Albert Museum. 

The bases are later additions.

Another bronze of the Laughing child, was sold at Sotheby's, 8th December 2006


The Laughing Philosopher and Crying Philosopher - Democritus and Heraclitus.

Democritus engraved by Arnold Houbraken (1660 - 1719),

 Dutch late 17th / early 18th century.

Heraclitus engraving by Arnold Houbraken, Dutch Late 17th / early 18th century.

British Museum.

Roman Bust of Chryssipus of Soli, Louvre.

 John Hamilton Mortimer (b Eastbourne, Sussex, 17 Sept. 1740; d London, 4 Feb. 1779). 

English painter and etcher. He studied under Thomas Hudson and became a lifelong friend of his fellow pupil Joseph Wright. His work included portraits, similar in style to those of Wright and conversation pieces in the manner of Zoffany, but he was at his best in historical and imaginative subjects. Among these were pioneering scenes from medieval British history, but he found his true bent in the 1770s with pictures showing the exploits of soldiers and banditti in the ‘savage’ style of Salvator Rosa (Bandit Taking Up his Post, c.1775, Detroit Inst. of Arts 

Many of his paintings have disappeared and are now known only through engravings. Mortimer led an eccentric and disorderly life, but he became more settled after marrying in 1775 and his early death cut short the career of one of the most individual British painters of his generation.

Self Portrait of John Hamilton Mortimer - c 1765 -70.

29" x 24.5" - private collection. 

Formerly with dealers Malletts of London.

nb. bust and ecorche statue on the table.

 Another portrait (c. 1765 - 70) of an unidentified man and boy and bust on table by John Hamilton Mortimer (1740 -79),
76.2 x 63.5cms.

Yale Paul Mellon Centre for British Art.


William Seward attributed to John Hamilton Mortimer.

Sold Lot 14 Christies 15 June 2001.

30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm.),

Provenance Mrs. Kenrick. with Thos. Agnews & Son Ltd., London (no. 9367).

It was exhibited in Canterbury, 1937, lent by Mrs Kenrick (according to an old label attached to the stretcher).

An alternative attribution to Henry Walton (c.1746-1813) has been put forward by Evelyn Bell.

Mr Seward by John Hamilton Mortimer, circa 1767 -70, sold Christie's 15 June 2001.

There are no more details available but it almost certainly represents William Seward (1747 - 1799).

 Seward was the owner of the bust of Alexander Pope by Roubiliac previously explored in this blog on 7th February 2014.


Literary figures assembled round a Medallion of Shakespeare a pen and ink drawing by
 John Hamilton Mortimer. 

Drawn for John Kenyon of Chalfont St Giles Buckinghamshire.

1776, 20.8 x 28.6 cms

 Yale, Paul Mellon Centre for British Art.

It satirises the Shakespeare Jubilee celebration orchestrated by David Garrick.

The figure with the hat on the left is believed to represent Roubiliac. Mortimer's plinth parodying Scheemaker's monument in Westminster Abbey sports three similar heads, although in this case they represent Tragedy, Satire and Comedy. It supports the medallion of Shakespeare struck especially for the jubilee celebrations. Amongst those present are Baretti squinting at his book (after Joshua Reynolds), next to him Garrick declaiming and Samuel Johnson at the front right.
see - The Artist as Original Genius: Shakespeare's Fine Frenzy in Late 18th Century British Art, William Pressy, 2007.


Stratford upon Avon, Shakespeare Jubilee Festival, silver pass, 1769, by J. Westwood, draped bust of Shakespeare profile right, SHALL NOT LOOK UPON HIS LIKE AGAIN (A QUOTE TAKEN FROM HAMLET, ACT 1, SCENE 2, rev. JUBILEE/ AT STRATFORD/ IN HONOUR/ AND TO THE/ MEMORY OF/ SHAKESPEARE/ SEPTR 1769/ D. G. / STEWARD, 32 mm, (BHM. 136), pierced for suspension.

The initials D. G. on the reverse refer to David Garrick, Steward for the event who, after the oratorio in the Stratford great church, led a procession to the ampitheatre and then presided over a grand lunch. The festivities concluded with various musical performances and songs set to music by Dibden and Arne, ending with and address and epilogue by Garrick. The Gentleman's Magazine of 1769 carries a letter from a correspondent attending the Festival in which he states that "my dress consisted of ... a silver medal of Shakespeare, pendant from a sky blue ribbon round my neck.". Also present was James Boswell, who , in his report, makes a similar reference, "We all wore, hung in a blue ribband at our breasts, a medal of Shakespeare, very well cast by Mr Westwood of Birmingham. On one side was the head of Shakespeare, and round it this inscription We shall not look upon his like again ..."
From the Website of Timothy Millett - a highly recommended dealer