Sunday 28 June 2015

Plaster Cast of the Head from the Handel Monument in Westminster Abbey and the Modellos for the Monument

The Plaster cast of the head of Handel from the Monument by Roubiliac in Westminster Abbey.

Cast by D. Brucciani. Mid - late 19th Century, in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

The current authorities at Westminster Abbey do not allow photography in the Cathedral Church.
In their need to monetise their holdings - photographs of the sculpture can be purchased from them.

This of course means that they are expensive and old fashioned.

They would do well to read their bibles. Matthew 21: 12 - 17. etc etc.

Height 52 cms.
Given to the Fitzwilliam in 1906

Below is another Brucciani cast of the same subject with rather unsympathetic magnolia repaint, at the Royal Academy of Music - there is another in the British Library.

Another version of the Westminster Abbey Head of Handel by Brucciani at the Royal Academy of Music.

These busts appear to have been taken directly from the Handel Monument in Westminster Abbey and whilst obviously related to the Roubiliac portrait busts of Handel it is also very close to the head of the Vauxhall Statue of 1738 now in the V and A.

I believe that all of the Roubiliac sculptures of Handel were originally derived from sittings - or a life mask taken in about 1736 /77 before the creation of the Vauxhall statue and Royal Collection marble and the terracotta versions of the bust with the hat of 1737/8.

Given the changes in his appearance after this time when he put on a great deal of weight, which does not show in any of these sculptural portraits I believe that Roubiliac used an earlier bust or busts in order to create the monument in Westminster Abbey.

also for company history and much more of interest on plaster casts in the 19th century see -

The Westminster Abbey Handel Monument by Roubiliac.


Model for the Westminster Abbey Monument by Roubiliac in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

98 cms tall.

Given by James Wyatt to Oxford University in 1848.

Slightly higher resolution photograph of the Ashmolean terracotta modello for the Handel monument by Roubiliac. 


Black and White photograph of the modello at the Foundling Hospital Museum noted to have been  recently discovered in Bath, in Early Georgian Portraits by Kerslake. NPG. 1977.

 Photographs of the Modello taken in very poor light at the Foundling Hospital Museum.
12 - 15" tall approximately.

It is possible that there were plaster copies made of the Roubiliac model for the monument although none have come to light so far. John Flaxman senior, father of the more famous sculptor offered casts from the original mould of the monument in The Gazetteer and London Advertiser of 13 January 1764. probably lot 61 on the 2nd day of the sale of the contents of the Roubiliac Studio in St Martins Lane, 13 May 1762.

John Flaxman I (1726 -1803) at New Street Covent Garden from 1763, King Street, Covent Garden from 1773 -76, In 1776 he moved 420 The Strand (opposite Durham Yard) In 1792 he bought several moulds formerly belonging to John Cheere, He is believed to have been employed by both Scheemakers and Roubiliac. (see Dict. of Sculptors in Britain....).

 Above - snippet from The Gazetteer and London Advertiser of 13 January 1764.

Vauxhall Statue of Handel and the Sotheby Bust

Vauxhall Statue at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Sotheby's bust of Handel for Comparison.

Comparison Photographs of the Gloucester Cathedral Plaster and the Sotheby's Marble busts of Handel.

Comparison Photographs of the Gloucester Cathedral Plaster and the Sotheby's Marble busts of Handel.

Also illustrated: The Grimsthorpe Terracotta, the Haendl Haus Plaster and the Royal Collection MarbleBusts.

This Post updated 20 October 2020.


Gloucester Cathedral Plaster - Sotheby's / Morrison marble bust.




Grimsthorpe Terracotta - Sotheby's Marble

Handel Haus Museum (probably a Micheli cast or later copyof the Micheli Bust  - Gloucester Cathedral


The Royal Collection Marble Bust of Handel.

71.0 x 58.0 x 26.0 cm (whole object).

The socle is unlikely to be original unless this bust is a copy - it appears that some of the busts in the Royal Collection had new turned socles to replace the originals

Handel's most important patron was George III, who placed this bust of his favourite composer in a position of honour in Buckingham House, on top of the organ in Queen Charlotte’s Breakfast Room.


Possibly acquired by George III ????

Photograph Courtesey the Royal Collection website.

The Royal Collection Marble Bust of Handel
Barehead version - 

The bust with soft hat which has a firmer provenance is not illustrated here

More recent photographs of The Grimsthorpe Castle Terracotta Bust of Handel from their website


The Aurelio Micheli Plaster Bust of Handel c. 1870.

Height 72 cms.

Gipsformerei (Plaster Workshop), Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

Copies available to order priced at a very (un)reasonable 3216.81 euros

It is a slightly truncated version of the Grimsthorpe terracotta 
- it has been slightly shortened at the bottom.

Image courtesey:

This was the master from which the bust at the Handel Haus Museum in Halle Germany was cast from (see above). It was made for Handel-Haus in 1997 by the Gipsformerei (plaster workshop) of the Stiftung Preutgischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin, and that plaster was cast after a bust in their collection bearing the signature of the German sculptor, Aurelio (Mark Aurelius) Micheli (1834-1908, fl 1860-70), who specialised in portraits of notable Germans, many of them composers, and whose works appear to have been issued in multiples produced by the plaster workshop of the Micheli Brothers in Berlin.


Comparison Photographs of the Sotheby's Marble and the Grimsthorpe Terracotta Busts of Handel by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

Photographs of the Sotheby's Marble Bust and the Grimsthorpe Castle Terracotta Busts of Handel 
All by Roubiliac for Comparison.

Malcolm Baker had problems with this bust but I can find no reason to doubt the authorship of the Sotheby's bust.

My blog entries on the subject should be enough to convince any doubters!

Above The Grimsthorpe Terracotta, and the Sotheby's Marble,
Below the Handel Haus Plaster and The Gloucester Cathedral Plaster.