Wednesday 24 June 2015

Bust of Handel by Roubiliac "By Heaven Inspired".

A Marble Bust of Handel "by Heaven Inspired".
By Louis Francois Roubiliac.
Lot 179, Sotheby's London,9 July 2015.

I have written at length on the subject of the Handel Busts and intend to publish more images on this blog in the near future. For immediate access to my previous blog entry see -

I have also referred to these busts in several other posts.

Possibly the ‘remarkable fine bust of [Handel], exquisitely modell’d by Roubiliac’ in a sale of 1766.

 Possibly lot 35 on the second day (21 February) of the John Blackwood sale at Christie’s in 1778, ‘Roubiliac, marble busto of Handel, on a pedestal’.
In the Collection of Alfred Morrison (1821-97), at Fonthill House, Wiltshire, and 16 Carlton House Terrace, London, from c. 1860- 1897;
By descent to his widow, 16 Carlton House Terrace, London;

Above images from Sotheby's London.


 In 1741 George Vertue, the 18th-century chronicler of the arts, recorded that 'Mr. Rubbilac Sculptor ... had Modelld from the Life several Busts of portraits extreamly like ... Mr. Isaac Ware Architect Mr Handel - &c. and several others' -
Walpole Society, XXII (1933-4), Vertue Notebooks, 2, p105, also quoted in Katharine A.Esdaile, The Life and Works of Louis Francois Roubiliac, Oxford, 1928, p47.


David Wilson, ''By Heaven Inspired': A marble bust of Handel by Roubiliac rediscovered', The British Art Journal, vol. X, no. 1, 2009, pp. 14-29;

An excellent piece of research which covers most of the ground, marred only by David Wilsons suggesting that this and other busts are based on a life mask taken of Handel by Roubiliac prior to the Vauxhall Gardens statue of 1738, and the contemporary busts sculpted in terracotta and marble and manufactured in plaster by Roubiliac. I have written about these so called life masks in a previous post on this blog and have come to the conclusion that these masks were taken from a plaster by Roubiliac. The first published reference to these masks was on the 19th July 1834 in the Mirror.

The link below is for the full article but without photographs.-

M. Baker, The Marble Index. Roubiliac and Sculptural Portraiture in Eighteenth-century Britain, New Haven and London, 2014, p. 259 and note. 63;
 Malcolm Baker dismisses this bust as "a puzzling newly discovered marble bust" and refers to David Wilsons article in the British Art Journal. I find it really very puzzling that Mr Baker was unable to make any further comments about this bust or to enlarge on the points made in David Wilson's article. Given that he was supposed to be publishing at length on the portrait sculpture of Handel this appears to be an important omission. I intend to delve further into the history and manufacture of these busts in some depth in the near future and to provide photographic comparisons of the various versions.

David Hunter, Lives of George Frideric Handel, future publication, references to this bust are to be included.

The Vauxhall Handel by Roubiliac

The Vauxhall Gardens Statue of George Frederick Handel of 1738.
by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

Newspaper clipping from the London Daily Post and General Advertiser, 18 April 1738.

News[paper clipping from London Daily Post and General Advertiser 27 April 1738.
The Roubiliac Statue of Handel photographed at the Victoria and Albert Museum 23 June 2014.
Signed - LF Roubiliac IN "ET SCUL" 1738.

Classified ad from London Evening Post 8 July 1738.

The following was lifted from the V&A collections website see -

It was commissioned by Jonathan Tyers and placed in the pleasure Gardens at Vauxhall in 1738 in a Grand Niche, in the Grove, where it remained for nearly 80 years. 

Undated drawing of the statue of Handel at Vauxhall Gardens attributed to Edward Francis Burney (1760 - 1848). It appears to show the statue underneath a domed rotunda.
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of William Drummond.

The figure is last recorded in the Grove behind the Orchestra in 1813.

 Following the death of Tyers in 1767, management of the Gardens fell to his two sons, Thomas and Jonathan. In 1809 the gardens came into the possession of George Rogers Barrett and the Revd. Jonathan Tyers Barrett, D.D., and in 1818 on the death of George Barrett, the responsibility of the gardens passed to Dr Jonathan Tyers Barrett, whose attempt to sell the gardens in 1818 was unsuccessful.

Before the attempted  sale of Vauxhall Gardens, the 'Handel' was removed to the Stockwell home of George Rogers Barrett, shortly before his death. Around 1818 the figure passed to Jonathan Tyers Barrett, and was placed in the front hall of his house in Duke Street, Westminster.

The death of Tyers Barrett in 1830 resulted in the sale of the figure by Mr Christie, King Street, London on 28 April 1830, lot 80. The 'Handel' was again sold in 1833 by Mr Squibb of Savile Row to 'the sculptor and marble contractor', Joseph Brown of University Street, London, for £215 5s.

Purchased by the Sacred Harmonic Society from Joseph Brown in 1854 for 100 guineas; a pamphlet published by them in 1854 recorded its recent purchase. The marble plinth on which this figure is now displayed was almost certainly made at this time. The statue was displayed in the Society's offices in Exeter Hall, Strand, London until 1880 when it moved premises.

The figure was moved to the offices of Novello and Company at 1 Berners Street, London, as was later purchased by Henry Littleton, chairman of the company. It remained in his possession at his Sydenham home for about twenty years; it was then given by his son to Novello and Company, where it remained at 160 Wardour Street from about 1906 to 1964, until its purchase by the Museum in 1965. Purchased from Novello and Company Ltd in 1965 for £10,000 with assistance from the National Collections Fund.


Model of the Vauxhall statue of Handel by Roubiliac in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Terracotta, hand-modelled and fired, height 47.2cm, width 26.9cm, diameter 36.2cm, before 1738.

 There are two mentions in the mid Eighteenth Century London newspapers of plaster sculptures of Handel.

 Evening Post, 15th March 1751. "To be published by subscription, a figure in plaister of Paris of the celebrated Mr Handel, taken from the statue at Vauxhall. Conditions - the price to the subscriber is one guinea and a half; half a guinea to be paid at the time of subscribing, and the remainder on the delivery, which will be in May next. Subscriptions are taken at Mr Fosters on Ludgate Hill, where the model may be seen.

As far as I know no plaster casts of the Vauxhall statue have have come to light and perhaps this refers to another bust. 
Perhaps it is a coincidence but the fact that Fenwick bull was advertising a plaster bust of Handel in1758. 

Vertue described this terracotta maquette in 1751, as “the model in clay baked of Mr Handel done by Mr Roubiliac - the same from which the Foxhall statue in Foxhall Gardens was done….. this model near 2 foot high is in the possesion of Mr Hudson painter”.

 The Public Advertiser, 19th April 1758. An edition of thirty casts of a bust of Handel was advertised for sale by subscription by F. Bull. 

To the lovers of music particularly those who admire the compositions of Geo Frederick Handel esq. F.Bull at the White Horse Ludgate Hill, London having at Great expense procured a fine model of a busto of Mr Handel proposes to sell by subscription thirty casts in plaister of Paris. The subscription money which is to be paid at the time of subscribing, and for which a receipt will be given, is one guinea and the cast in the order in which they are finished and will be delivered in the order in which the subscriptions are made. The busto which will make a rich and elegant piece of furniture... to be twenty three and a half high and eighteen inches broad. The model may be viewed until Monday next at the place above mentioned.

Fenwick Bull was a map and print seller at The White Horse, Ludgate Hill who married Elizabeth Foster of St Martin’s Ludgate Hill at St Georges Chapel, Mayfair – 25 March 1753.

George Foster (the father of Elizabeth Foster, wife of Fenwick Bull) - Publisher, printer, map-seller, bookseller, in London. was at the White Horse, St Paul's Churchyard (1737-9); and afterwards at the White Horse, Ludgate Hill (1741-7). information from Royal Academy.

This advertisement above from Evening Post, 12 July 1753.

For Vauxhall Gardens see -

Vauxhall Gardens, A History David Coke and Alan Borg, 2011. pub. Yale University Press. £55
ISBN 978 0 300 17382 6