Monday 13 July 2015

The Roubiliac Busts of George Frederic Handel (1685 - 1759). 
A Brief Overview and Conclusions.
The Grimsthorpe Terracotta -
No record of when it entered the collection of the Dukes of Ancaster at Grimsthorpe.
First noted by John Mallet and Malcolm Baker in 1985.
It is my belief that this is the terracotta sold at the Roubiliac sale on the third day, Friday 14 May 1762.
If the following terracotta bust of Handel had been with the Tyers family, then this bust was the most likely bust in the collection of John Stanley, which was sold in auction along with Milton and Shakespeare, in 1786 (see Morning Post and Advertiser 22 June 1786).
The catalogue for a sale by Christies on 29 March 1805 'of ... Vases, Marbles, etc collected by a Man of Fashion during a recent visit to Rome and Naples', also included 'original models in Terra Cotta, by the celebrated Roubiliac, &c, &c.' Lot 118 was described as An original model of the bust of Handel, by Roubiliac, in terra cotta', and it was sold for three Guineas. The preceding lot, 117, was described as 'Tarquin and Lucretia, a singularly fine model in terra cotta, by the celebrated Roubiliac, undoubtedly, with a glass shade'. Lot 119 was described as an original model of the bust of Alexander Pope by Roubiliac.  All were consigned by someone named 'Belcher', Possibly a misspelling of Belchier, the consignor therefore possibly being a relative of the deceased Dr John Belchier (d 1785), who moved in artistic circles, apparently having an acquaintance with both Pope and Handel, and whose own bust Roubiliac had modelled (model or cast, Royal College of Surgeons).  The annotations to the right of the lot descriptions, where the auctioneer has recorded the result of the auction, are incomplete, and do not disclose the name of the purchaser of the bust of Handel, but they disclose that lot 119 (the terracotta bust of Pope) was acquired by one 'Rogers' for five Guineas. (David Wilson)
Sotheby's Marble,
Possibly the ‘remarkable fine bust of [Handel], exquisitely modell’d by Roubiliac’ in a sale of 1766. (this ref needs confirming)
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’. Bought Ashley.
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.
Sold Christie's London, lot 107, 10th February 1900.
Gloucester Cathedral Plaster -
No history
Foundling Hospital Terracotta -
According to Brownlow (1858) it belonged to Barrett the proprietor of Vauxhall gardens (perhaps George Rogers Barrett who died in 1818, and then to the Bass singer James Bartleman (1769 - 1821) although it was not included in the Bartleman sale at Whites 20 Feb 1822. Offered for sale by H. Rodd of 9 Great Newport Street, London and subsequently acquire by Sir Frederick Pollock, 1st Bart (1783 - 1870) and given by him to the Foundling Hospital in 1844.
Royal Collection Marble -
Perhaps commissioned from Roubiliac by Handel himself. It was given by Handel to John Christopher Smith Senior (Johann Christoph Schmidt) (1683-1763); thence to his son, also John Christopher Smith (1712-1795); by whom given to George III, c.1772-4.
A close comparison of these busts, of the so called life masks and the other busts and sculpture of Handel of the Roubiliac type, leads me to believe that they all derive from sittings by Handel to Roubiliac perhaps in 1737 but possibly considerably earlier if the two recently discovered plaster busts show a younger Handel.
They closely resemble the portrait by Balthasar Denner of believed to be of about 1727/8.
By the late 1740's when he was painted by Hudson good living had led to him gaining a great deal of weight. This is amply depicted in the caricature by Joseph Goupy probably not the way Handel wished to be remembered. Although the Hudson portrait of 1756 (NPG) commissioned for his patron friend and librettist Charles Jennens shows a relatively slim man so it is dangerous to make assumptions. This could of course be poetic licence on behalf of Hudson.
The monument in Westminster Abbey certainly shows a much younger Handel than the 74 year old man.
 For Handel his illness and possible stroke in April 1737 and visit to Aix la Chapelle (Aachen) in September 1737 for about six weeks see -

Denner was living in Amsterdam from 1734 to 39.

The Sotheby's Bust of Handel.- Sale Result.

Bust of Handel at Sotheby's London. 9 July 2015. Lot 179.
Sold £209,000.

Despite negativity in certain quarters - the sale price would seem to vindicate the attribution to Roubiliac.

See my previous posts.