Wednesday 22 July 2015

The Busts in the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe

Temple of British Worthies.
In the Elysian Fields at Stowe, Buckinghamshire.
Designed by William Kent and built 1734 - 5.


 Kent's Drawing


From George Bickham, The Beauties of Stow, 1756.
 From George Bickham, The Beauties of Stow, 1756.
The busts in the Temple of British Worthies.
Life Size carved in Portland Stone.
On the left are the men of contemplation on the right are the men (and woman) of action.

Alexander Pope by Peter Scheemakers.
Who uniting the Correctness of Judgement to the Fire of Genius,by the Melody & Power of his Numbers
gave Sweetness to Sense, & Grace to Philosophy.
He employ'd the pointed Brilliancy of Wit to chastise the Vices,
and the Eloquence of Poetry to exalt the Virtues of human Nature;
and being without a Rival in his own Age,
imitated and translated, with a Spirit equal to the Originals,
the best Poets of Antiquity.


Sir Thomas Gresham.
 Who by the honourable Profession of Merchant,having enrich'd himself, and his Country,
for carrying on the Commerce of the World,
built the Royal Exchange.
 Mezzotint by Faber 1714.

Thomas Gresham engraved by George Vertue. 1739.
Sir Thomas Gresham c 1655.
oil on panel 100.3 x 72.4cms
NPG acquired - Catalogued as an anonymous Dutch painter. 
This painting had been engraved for Lodges English portraits in 1823.


Inigo Jones by Michael Rysbrack.

Who, to adorn his Country,introduc'd and rival'd the Greek and Roman Architecture.


John Milton by Michael Rysbrack.

Whose sublime and unbounded Genius equal'd a Subjectthat carried him beyond the Limits of the World.
William Shakespeare

Whose excellent Genius open'd to him the whole Heart of Man,all the Mines of Fancy, all the Stores of Nature;
and gave him Power, beyond all other Writers,
to move, astonish, and delight Mankind.

John Locke by Michael Rysbrack

 Who, best of all Philosophers, understood the powers of the human mind:
the nature, end, and bounds of civil government;
and with equal courage and sagacity, refused
the slavish systems of usurped authority
over the rights, the consciences, or the reason of mankind.

Isaac Newton by Michael Rysbrack.
Whom,the God of Nature made to comprehend his Works;
and from simple Principles, to discover the Laws never known before,
and to explain the Appearance never understood,
of this Stupendous Universe.
After the Conduit Marble bust of  Newton.
Sir Francis Bacon.
 Who by the Strength and Light of a superior Genius,rejecting vain Speculation, and fallacious Theory,
taught to pursue Truth, and improve Philosophy
by a certain Method of Experiment.
Alfred the Great by Michael Rysbrack
The mildest, justest, most beneficent of Kings;who drove out the Danes, secur'd the Seas, protected Learning,
establish'd Juries, crush'd Corruption, guarded Liberty,
and was the Founder of the English Constitution.
The Stourhead version of the bust in Marble of Alfred the Great
There is a version of the Rysbrack Alfred the Great by Joseph Wilton at University College Oxford.

 The bust of King Alfred was donated to University College in 1771 by Old Member Jacob Playdell-Bouverie (1750-1828), Viscount Folkestone and later 2nd Earl of Radnor.

Prince Edward, The Black Prince by Michael Rysbrack.
The Terror of Europe, the Delight of England;who preserv'd, unalter'd, in the Height of Glory and Fortune,
his natural Gentleness and Modesty.
Terracotta bust of the Black Prince by Rysbrack.
Royal Collection.
 The Marble bust of The Black Prince by Rysbrack formerly at Warwick Castle.
Formerly Warwick Castle sold Sotheby's, London, Lot 134, 9 December 2005.
This bust was recorded in an inventory taken at Warwick Castle in 1800 as being in the State Bedroom. Katherine Eustace in the Sotheby's catalogue suggests that it might have gone to Warwick via Elizabeth Hamilton the wife of Francis Greville, Earl of Warwick (1719 -73) and goes on to suggest that it might have originally been in the Octagon in the Garden at Carlton House, Pall Mall. A voucher exists amongst the Duchy of Cornwall Papers, dated 1736 for busts of Frederick Prince of Wales, The Black Prince and King Alfred. She goes on to suggest that some kind of presentation of these semi-mythic figures from British history was intended. The Prince’s commission was, perhaps, an overt gesture in support of Richard Temple, Viscount Cobham, who had been deprived of his regiment by George II’s Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, tantamount in chivalric terms to being forbidden to bear arms.
A third possibility is a provenance to Adderbury, Oxfordshire, the house rebuilt for John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll and 1st Duke of Greenwich. Argyll was a career soldier who had fought under Marlborough in the War of the Spanish Succession, and had been victorious against the Scots at Sheriffmuir in 1715. He became the first ever Field Marshal.
In the gallery at Adderbury, built in 1731, a version of the Black Prince was one of six busts by Michael Rysbrack in a programme of military heroes ancient and modern. It was probably sold from Adderbury in the 1770s.

Elizabeth I by Michael Rysbrack.

Who confounded the Projects, and destroy'd the Powerthat threaten'd to oppress the Liberties of Europe;
took off the Yoke of Ecclesiastical Tyranny;
restor'd Religion from the Corruptions of Popery;
and by a wise, moderate, and a popular Government,
gave Wealth, Security, and Respect to England.
Terracotta bust of Queen Elizabeth I by Michael Rysbrack, Royal Collection.


William III by Michael Rysbrack.

Who by his Virtue and Constancy,having saved his Country from a foreign Master,
by a bold and generous Enterprize,
preserv'd the Liberty and Religion of Great Britain.
Marble bust of William III by Michael Rysbrack

Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Sir Walter Raleigh.
A valiant Soldier, and an able Statesman;who endeavouring to rouze the Spirit of his Master,
for the Honour of his Country, against the Ambition of Spain,
fell a Sacrifice to the Influence of that Court,
whose Arms he had vanquish'd, and whose Designs he oppos'd.
Sir Francis Drake.

Who, through many Perils, was the first of Britonsthat adventur's to sail round the Globe;
and carried into unknown Seas and Nations;
the Knowledge and Glory of the English Name.

John Hampden. Rysbrack
 Who with great Spirit, and consummate Abilities,begun a noble Opposition to an arbitrary Court,
in Defence of the Liberties of his Country;
supported them in Parliament,
and died for them in the Field.

Sir John Barnard.
Who distinguish'd himself in Parliament by an active & firmOpposition to the pernicious and iniquitous Practice of Stock jobbing;
at the same Time exerting his utmost Abilities to encrease the Strength
of his Country by reducing the Interest of the National Debt; which
he proposed to the House of Commons in the Year 1737, and, with
the Assistance of Government, carried into Effect in the Year 1750; on
Terms of equal Justice to Particulars & to the State; notwithstanding
all the Impediments which
private Interest could oppose to publick Spirit.
Eight of these British Worthies busts were made by Michael Rysbrack for an earlier temple of Fame, designed by James Gibbs and built in 1729,  Elizabeth I, Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, Shakespeare, John Hampden, John Milton, John Locke, Isaac Newton and William III, the other busts were made later, including those of Sir John Barnard and Pope by Peter Scheemakers for the Temple of British Worthies.

View from Gibbs Building Engraved by Jacques Rigaud.
 Cropped image from the above engraving by Jaques Rigaud (1680 - 1754).
published by Sarah Bridgeman, 12 May 1739.
Gibbs Buildings also known as The Belvidere, the Fane of Diana built in 1728.

Showing the positioning Rysbrack busts prior to the building of the Temple of British Worthies designed by William Kent.
Engraving from - Stowe Gardens in Buckinghamshire, Belonging to the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Cobham; Laid out by Mr Bridgman, Principal Gardener to their Majesties King George I and II. Delineated in a large Plan, and Fifteen Perspective Views. Drawn on the Spot by Mons. Rigaud, and Engraved by him and Mons. Bernard Baron..., London: printed for Tho. Bowles, C. Hitch, W.H. Toms, and J. Bowles, 1746, folding eng. general plan. This set of engraved views of the gardens at Stowe are taken from drawings by the French topographical artist Jacques Rigaud. The volume was originally published in 1739 containing plates only, but was reissued in 1746 with a letterpress title-page by Sarah, widow of the garden designer Charles Bridgeman, who created Stowe landscape gardens for Lord Cobham between 1713-38.
Notes - Jacques Rigaud, sometimes incorrectly called Jean Rigaud (or identified with his nephew Jean Baptiste, as in Le Blanc's catalogue)
Engraver, specialised in topographical views after his own drawings. b. Marseilles, worked Prais. Obtained a general privilege for his oeuvre in 1728 which he published under the title 'Recueil choisi des plus belles vues des palais, châteaux et maisons royales de Paris et des environs'. Between 1733/4-6 worked in England for Bridgeman at Stowe and Burlington at Chiswick. Back in France by 1737. Often avertised in the Mercure. Bequeathed his estate to his nephew Jean Baptiste Rigaud, whom he had in effect adopted and who had worked with him for many years. Collection of views published as a corpus c.1759, and later reprinted by Basan.

Original pen and ink wash drawing by Jaques Rigaud c.1739.
37.3 x 53.5 cms
Metropolitan Museum.


 Superb Large Scale Image of the Plan of Stowe.

Birds Eye view after Etienne Duperac (1525 ish to- 1604 of the Villa d'Este with the Exedra on the right - the Inspiration for William Kent's Temple of British Worthies.


Another slightly more detailed birds eye view
after Duperac, published by Mortier in Amsterdam. c. 1560 - 75.



Another possible source is the Exedra in the Villa Mattei in Rome.
Engraving by Giusseppi Vasi, mid 18th century, with the bust of Alexander the Great.

Detail of the Exedra - Villa Mattei.

Another possible source for Kent's Temple of British Worthies is the Exedra at the Villa Benzone, Punta San Vigilio, on Lake Garda, Italy (above).