Saturday 30 January 2016

A Plaster Statuette of Shakespeare after Scheemakers at Arniston House.

 The Arniston House, Plaster Statuette of William Shakespeare.
After the Monument in Westminster Abbey.
Perhaps by John Cheere.
Plaster Statuette of William Shakespeare
After the Monument by Scheemakers in Westminster Abbey.
Possibly cast by John Cheere.
Approximately 12 inches tall.
In the 'Skied' Library at Arniston House, Midlothian, Scotland.
This statuette is one of a collection of plaster casts in the Skied Library at Arniston House which was designed by William Adam, father of the Adam brothers in 1725, for the first Robert Dundas (1685-1753), Lord President of the Court of Session.
William Adam designed the first phase of the building at Arniston the East wing and central portions which was constructed between 1726 and the 1740's, the west wing was constructed to the specifications of John Adam in the 1750's.

In 1819, 4015 volumes are recorded there. This library was replaced by a new library on the first floor level some time after 1819.
Most of the 16 busts are now believed to have been collected in Italy by the second Robert Dundas II, (1713 - 87) also a Lord Presidents of the Court of Session, whilst on his grand tour in the 1730's when he was studying at Utrecht University, but the figure of Shakespeare after Scheemakers monument and the accompanying statuette of Hercules after the Rysbrack Hercules at Stourhead and the bust of Newton are later casts perhaps by John Cheere but given the subjects could be by Harris of the Strand or Robert Shout of Holborn.

An undated list from the Arniston Muniments, Bundle 171 (Small Volume) personal Accounts Book of R Dundas (1750 - 85) records 'the busts in the Library at Arniston'

Sir Isaac Newton        Diogenes
Aristotle                      Lucretia
Nero/supposed            Zeno
Jeron                           Antinous
Vestal Virgin             Solon
Homer                         Socrates
Cuero                          Euripides
info from Architectural Heritage, vol 12, 2001. Pat Wigston

The attribution of the figures and at least the bust of Newton to Cheere is based on the fact that work on the the Library refurbishment commenced in February 1756, when the alterations were made to the joinery and paint work and the busts were cleaned under the supervision of Edinburgh Wright George Stevenson. Stevenson had worked for the Dundas family since the 1730's at their town house in Edinburgh, at Ormiston Hall in Lothian and at Arniston. The Library was repainted by James Norrie the Edinburgh house painter who invoiced for £14 14 8d for painting the library in "oil white" for March and April 1756.  Norrie also gilded he capitals in library in1756.

The woodwork of the library was oak grained probably in the early to mid 19th century this graining remains - the original white paint can be seen on the interior of the bookcases.

An invoice for 10 shillings from George Stevenson was paid in April 1756 for hanging and mending old windows, and washing and cleaning the heads that stands in the library (bundle 236 Arniston Muniments).

All the plaster casts in the library have been painted a uniform orange brown to give the appearance of terracotta. This is probably the earliest collection of reproduction of classical plaster busts in England still in their original setting.
Both Lord Presidents studied law at Utrecht as part of the well-known temporary migration of Scottish legal scholars between the 1680s and 1750s.
It has been assumed in the past that the busts were from the workshop of John Cheere - but they are too early if collected in the 1730's given that Cheere did not start in business until 1739,  a close inspection reveals that the majority which have turned socles have a thin surface layer of approximately 5mm thick of a variegated coloured yellow and dark brown plaster giving them a Sienna marble like appearance, which I have never encountered before.
Given that the originals for some of these busts are in the National Museum in Naples, Italy it is distinctly possible that this bust and its fellows came from a workshop in Naples or Rome.

 I am so far not aware of any in depth research into the manufacturing of plaster casts of classical subjects either on the continent or in England in the early to mid 18th century.
Certainly casts were available in Paris in the late17th Century, Louis XIV ordered a set of casts for the French Academy in Rome. A set of casts were sent to the Hague Academy and in 1687 Nicodemus Tessin noted that it was easy to obtain permission to buy casts which Guillaume Cassegrai was taking from French moulds. In 1698 Tessin sent casts to Sweden from Paris which were later to adorn the Academy of Arts. In 1713 the Elector Pallatine had a collection of casts made in Rome for a projected academy and shortly afterwards were on view in Dusseldorf.
In the mid 18th century Joseph Wilton certainly collected casts in Italy as did Matthew Brettingham the younger.
For Brettingham and Statuary see his Rome Account Book (1747 - 54). John Kenworthy Brown, Published by the Walpole Society 1983.  available online for free if you sign up. -
Brettingham had intended to open an Academy in London on his return from Rome and had purchased many plaster casts of classical statuary. He had struck a deal with Paulo Posi to obtain casts of subjects in the Vatican Collection. Coutu suggests that Prince Frederick was enthusiastic about the idea which eventually came to fruition with the opening of the Charles Lennox, the third Duke of Richmond's Gallery at Richmond House in Whitehall in 1758. Unfortunately although highly regarded it only survived as a place for artists to study and draw from the antique until about 1768 when the Duke appears to have lost interest. The foundation of the Royal Academy in 1768 must have hastened its demise although the casts remained at Richmond House until 19 July 1820 when the majority were sold by Christies. 
see also - ‘The Duke of Richmond’s Gallery in Whitehall’, British Art Journal X.1, 2009. Kenworthy Brown. This is an account of the Duke’s academy of plaster casts, for artists and students of art, 1758-1767: details of the location, contents and the students who attended. This is an expanded version of a paper read at a conference on Plaster Casts, at Oxford, September 2007.
See also -Taste and the Antique, Yale 1981 and 1998 by Nicholas Penny and Francis Haskell chapter XI -The Proliferation of Casts and Copies. 

see also - Then and Now: Collecting and Classicism in Eighteenth-Century England by Joan Coutu, 2015.
The High Library at Arniston
Designed by William Adam in 1726.
From Vitruvius Scoticus
by William Adam
Showing the position of the busts as conceived by William Adam.

I am very grateful to Henrietta Dundas for allowing me the opportunity to visit Arniston and to photograph the busts and statuettes in the upper library.
It is my intention to publish further on the 16 plaster busts and plaster statuettes of Hercules and Shakespeare in due course.
 For Arniston House see -
For more on Arniston see -
Vitruvius Scoticus - William Adam - the engravings were made in London in 1727 or Edinburgh in the 1730's published by William Adam in 1748 but he work was not finally completed until 1812.
Arniston Memories -George Omond, Edinburgh. 1887.
Country Life, Christopher Hussey, 15 - 22, August 1922.
The Dundases of Arniston, Scottish Field, June 1953.
Arniston and the Country Seat, Burlington Magazine, March 1969.
The Adam Family at Arniston, Mary Cosh, Architectural History. Vol 27. pages 214 - 230, 1984
William Adam  (1689 - 1748) John Gifford Mainstream Publishing.1989
For William and John Adam and their work for the Dundas Family at Arniston see -
Architectural History, Vol. 27, Design and Practice in British Architecture: Studies in Architectural History Presented to Howard Colvin (1984), pp. 214-230 The Adam Family and Arniston - Mary Cosh.
Available at -

For further studies on the architectural and decoration history of Arniston and the Dundas family
see -
 Architectural Heritage, vol.10, November, 1999. - Arniston House: A recently discovered account for plasterwork. Pat Wigston.
Architectural Heritage, vol. 12, November, 2001. - A Grain of Truth. Pat Wigston. Notes on the Library at Arniston,
Architectural Heritage, vol. 15, 2004. - The Decorative Evolution of the John Adam Dining Room at Arniston House. Pat Wigston.
Photograph of the Chimneypiece at Arniston Country Life 1922
Showing the bust of Homer and the statuettes of Shakespeare and Hercules.
Plaster Statuette of Hercules - Possibly by John Cheere.
Approximately 12 inches tall.
I will be posting more on the 16 busts at Arniston in the near future.
Arniston House
Arniston House,
North Front
Photograph Bob Smith
Arniston House,
South Front.
Arniston House,
North Front
Robert Dundas II (1713 - 87),
in old age.
Engraving by William Sharp After Raeburn
504 x378mm.
British Museum

Wednesday 27 January 2016

A Plaster Bust of Shakespeare with Westenholz

A Plaster Bust of William Shakespeare.
Early to Mid 19th Century.
with dealer Westenholz.

Another loose version of the Scheemakers Trinity College, Dublin Library bust and the bust in the Royal Collection attributed to John Cheere

Perhaps adapted from a  bust by John Cheere but the socle would suggest later and could equally have been cast in the middle of the 19th century, pirated by one of the many Italian manufacturers of plaster replicas who inhabited the Leather Lane area of London.

This is a very similar bust to that currently on the Art Market with dealer Philip Mould.
38.5 cm wide x 23 cm deep x 56 cm high.
The bust illustrated currently with English dealer Westenholz.

Friday 22 January 2016

A Wedgwood bust of Shakespeare

A Wedgwood Basalt Bust of William Shakespeare.
Sold Aspire Auctions.
Spring Summer 2009.
12.75 inches Tall.
no date letter

Another version of the Scheemakers Trinity Library Dublin Bust.

Perhaps adapted from a plaster by John Cheere.
 I suspect that the impressed date letter has been erased - the abraded area to the left of the impressed Wedgwood Mark is suspicious - the bust perhaps late 19th Century. 

The Alscot Park Marble and Plaster busts of Shakespeare by Rysbrack.

The Alscot Park Busts of William Shakespeare.
by Michael Rysbrack.
The Marble bust of William Shakespeare
Signed by Michael Rysbrack
dated 1760.
Made for James West. P.R.S., F.S.A., (1703 - 72),
Secretary to the Treasury and recorder successively for Poole and St Albans.
Formerly at Alscot Park.
585mm tall. socle 215 mm tall.
Now at Birmingham Museum.
A Letter dated 16 January 1758 from Joseph Greene schoolmaster of Stratford on Avon to James West of Alscot Park:-
The first two paragraphs relate to his work on West's collection of books but the third and fourth relate to the making of Rysbrack's bust of Shakespeare.
If Mr Rysbrack carves your Shakespeare from ye mask you had of me, I am very sure it answers exactly to our Original bust; for Heath ye carver and I took it down from ye chancel wall and laid it exactly in a horizontal posture before we made ye cast, which we executed with much Care, So that no Slipping of the Materials could occasion ye unnatural distance in the face that he mentions.
If ye have ye Folio Edition of Shakespeare plays printed in 1632, there is facig ye Title-page a picture of ye Poet engraved by Martin Droeshout, and declared by Ben Johnson in a few verses affix'd to be a thorough resemblance of him. Mr Kendal our late recorder and I agreed in our sentiments that there was a Considerable lightness of that picture to ye bust in our church. I have not ye Cut but perhaps ye irregularity of features may be observed in that also.
If it could be done for an inconsiderable expense, before ye Mould is destroy'd I wish your Honour would Secure for me a plaister face from it.
I am with great thankfulness
                                 Your Most oblig'd humble Servant
                                               Joseph Green.'
The next we hear is Rysbrack writing to Sir Edward Littleton in November 1759, by which time he had modelled the bust saying it was 'to the liking of every person who have seen it' and continues 'Mr West belonging to the Treasury who lives in Stratford upon Avon likes it so well that I am going to do it for him in Marble'
 In his letters to Littleton he talks about receiving Lord Rockingham's portrait of Shakespeare (Knellers copy of the Chandos Portrait and says that he will make a drawing from it, though 'I don't think it is so good a Picture as they Brag of neither is there Spirit in it'
 Although dated 1760 it must have remained in Rysbracks London workshop until 1763 when Rysbrack wrote to West on 11th July
' The last time You did me the Pleasure to call at my House, you said there Must be some letters put on the Pedestal of the Bust for Shakespeare which have been finishes a long while since. I desire You will please to let me have them and they shall be put on the pedestal directly, as I have nothing to live on but my Business I want money and am to Great Expenses to Continue where I am without business, I must therefore retire for my Own best advantage.
Your Most Obedient and humble Servant
                                                                    Mich: Rysbrack
P.S. Sir  If you do not want any letters put on the Pedestal, I will send it home as it is'
 Tardiness with payment was a common occurrence and must have made very difficult for many artists and craftsmen of this period as this letter shows.
These letters are quoted from Michael Rysbrack, Sculptor, by MI Webb, pub. Country Life, 1954.
The Plaster bust of Shakespeare in the hall is a version of the Rysbrack Shakespeare supplied by John Cheere (check source!) to James West at Alscot Park, Warwickshire. This is a plaster version of Rysbrack's Shakespeare.

There were also plaster busts of Newton and Prior in the Hall.

The Engraved Portraits of William Shakespeare


Portrait of William Shakespeare
Martin Droeshout
Engraving from the First Folio, 1623.

Title page of the First Folio, by William Shakespeare, 1623.
with copper engraving of the author by Martin Droeshout.
Second State.
34 cm × 22.5 cm (13 in × 8.9 in).

Image courtesy of the Elizabethan Club and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.

For more on the four states of this engraving see -

William Shakespeare
by William Marshall
Engraving - 1640.

Engraved for John Bensons collection of Shakespeare's Sonnets


The Eighteenth Century Engraved Portraits
of William Shakespeare.
Rysbrack as an avid collector of engravings would certainly have been aware of the following engravings and as in his other historicising portrait busts it is not difficult to see how these engravings were used as sources for his busts
William Shakespeare
Engraving by Gaspard Duchange (1662 - 1757)
After a miniature by Benjamin Arlaud (1670 - 1721).
180 x 115 mm.
The BM says after Arnaud's version of the Chandos portrait;

This Illustration to Theobald's edition of the 'Works of Shakespeare'. 1733.

British Museum.
It appears that this engraving came from a retouched plate of 1709 used in the Nicholas Rowe (1674 - 1718) 6 volume edition of the works of Shakespeare published by Jacob Tonson. Rowe became Poet Laureate. 
For a downloadable article written on the Arnaud/ Duchange engraved portrait see

William Shakespeare
Engraving by George Vertue.
Inscribed - Done from the original in the possession of Robert Keck of the Inner Temple Esq.
The 'Chandos portrait', now in the NPG, which was first recorded when it passed from the collection of Robert Keck to his cousin, Francis, on the former's death in 1719.

George Vertue, writing on the Chandos Portrait in 1719 records -

'The picture of Shakespeare ('the only' crossed out) one original in Posesion/ of Mr Keyck of the Temple. he bought for forty guinnea/of Mr Baterton who bought it off Sr W. Davenant. to whom it was left by will of John Taylor. who had/it of was painted by one Taylor a player and painter contemp: with Shakes and his intimate friend. The name 'Richard Burbage' is crossed out in the margin. (later insertions in bold.
 Mr Betterton told Mr Keck several times that the / Picture of Shakespeare he had, was painted by one John Taylor / in his will he left it to Sir William Davenant.& at / the death of Sir Will Davenant - Mr Betterton bought / it & at his death Mr Keck bought it in whose / now is (1719 in the margin)'.
Despite this there is still some doubt - Davenant is known to have embroidered his relationship with Shakespeare for his own ends
For a fuller discussion on the subject of this portrait see -
Searching for Shakespeare, Tarnya Cooper, Yale University Press. 2006

William Shakespeare
Engraving by George Vertue
After a miniature in the possession of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford.
Engraving, 1721.
228 x 163 mm.
 Inscribed 'Ad Originalem Tabulam penes Edwardum Dominum Harley. / G. Vertue, Sculp. 1721.'.
Annotated in pencil on the verso 'front. to Pope's ed. of Shakspeare, 1725 / Qy a proof'.
British Museum.
The Ruff is perhaps an invention of Vertue.
William Shakespeare.
Gerard van der Gucht (1696 - 1776)
Undated Engraving
believed circa 1730.
130 mm x 78 mm
© National Portrait Gallery, London
I include this mezzotint illustrated below as Michael Rysbrack would certainly have owned or seen a copy of it.
William Shakespeare
after Zoust (Gerard Soest) c 1600 - 1681.
Worked in England in the late 17th century.
Mezzotint by John Simon mid 18th century.
 "Zoust pinx."; "Shakespeare Ob: A.D. 1616. AEtat: 53."; "Done from a Capital Picture in the Collection of T. Wright Painter in Coven Garden." and "I. Simon fe et ex."
Based on the portrait illustrated below.
345 x 250 mm.
John Simon: Mezzotinter. b. Normandy, trained Paris as a line engraver, fled to England as a Huguenot c.1700 where became a mezzotinter. Early work for Edward Cooper; by c.1720 published most plates himself. Ceased work after 1742. Plates sold in November 1761. Address (until late 1710s) Cross-Lane Long Acre (after 1720), Seven Stars in King Street, Covent Garden Golden Eagle in Villiers Street New Street, Covent Garden.
William Shakespeare
Gerard Soest (Zoust) (c.1600 - 1681).
Dated 1667.
Oil on canvas
765 x 645 mm.
It has been suggested that this portrait is based on the Chandos Portrait possibly painted by John Taylor in about 1610.
George Vertue suggested that it is a painting of a man who resembled Shakespeare.
BBC your paintings records 50 paintings by Soest (Zoust). 
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Sir Thomas Clarges, c. 1667;
Thomas Wright, c. 1685 - c. 1725;
William Douglas, Esq., c. 1790;
Captain Drake sale, Tregoning, Penryn, Cornwall, 30 March 1807, lot 19, as Portrait of Shakespeare, supposed by Zoust, 2' 9§ x 2' 1§ in a black and gilt frame;
  John Lister Kaye (Sir), c.1827; Stamford (Earl of); J. F. Grey, (Sir); Christie's sale, 9 April 1954, lot 92.
  Bought from Antiqualia Lda., Lisbon Portugal in 1959

Monument of William Shakespeare

George Vertue.
Etching and Engraving
225 x 156 mm. (image Size).
'Ingenio Pylium, Genio Socrates, arte Maronem, Terra Tegit, Populus Maeret, Olympus Habet. / Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast? Read if thou canst, whom envious Death has plac'd Within this Monument; Shakespear, with whom Quick Nature dy'd, whose Names doth deck the Tomb Far more than Cost, since all that he has Writ Leaves living Art, but Page to serve his Wit. / Obt. Ano. Dni. Aetat. 53.Die 23 Apr.
Illustration for Alexander Pope's 1723 edition of Shakespeare's works.

Sketch of the Shakespeare Monument drawn by George Vertue when visiting with Edward Harley the Earl of Oxford 1st January 1737 from his notebooks.
Self portrait of George Vertue
It appears to be showing Vertue holding a miniature of Lord Oxford in his left hand and the drawing or engraving of the portrait being pointed to with his right hand.
Pencil and red chalk, 1741
9 1/4 in. x 5 1/2 in. (235 mm x 140 mm)
Purchased, 1972
NPG 4876
National Portrait Gallery.

Collections: bought 1972 through Colnaghis at Sotheby's, 23 March, lot 78; previous history unknown.

Literature: (Sir) George Scharf, Catalogue of the Pictures Belonging to the Society of Antiquaries, 1865; R.W. Goulding, The Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, 1916; H.W. Foote, John Smibert Painter, 1950.


Signed or inscribed on papers at table edge: inv & del / G. Vertue / 1741 and inscribed below: G. Vertue / London; within a cartouche to the right, below the Prince of Wales crest: HONOR / ALIT ARTES.

This drawing is almost identical in technique and size with the self-portrait tipped into Vertue's notebook Aj in the British Museum, Add. MS 21111. Both are drawn in black pencil heightened with red on handmade eighteenth-century paper and show Vertue holding a miniature, apparently of his patron, the Earl of Oxford. The setting and the inscriptions are the same. The BM drawing, whose history is unknown before the nineteenth century, is more crisp and detailed. Close comparison reveals a. number of small differences, e.g. in the drapery top left, in the area where the sitter's right sleeve touches the arm of the chair; in the drawing of the face and below the rule in the lettering and the crest. There are also two strokes of red, bottom right, in the BM drawing. Some of these differences may be held to point to another hand, and the question of authorship of NPG 4876 remains, to some extent, open. There is, nonetheless, sufficient resemblance of style not to exclude Vertue. It is worth bearing in mind that some eighteenth-century draughtsmen such as Richardson and Carmontelle sometimes made several drawings of the same subject.
Notes lifted verbatim from National Portrait Gallery website -