Monday 12 February 2018

Bust of John Locke by Peter Scheemakers

The Busts of John Locke 
by and After Peter Scheemakers (1691 - 1781).

John Locke
Peter Scheemakers
Marble Bust
Height 19" 
The Socle is a later addition.

Sold at Christie's King Street, London.
From the Collection of Sir Albert Richardson
Lot 45, 18 - 19th September 2013.

It is worth posting a copy of Christie's Sale Catalogue entry for this bust if only to show wrong the auction rooms can be on occasion.

This majestic bust depicts the great English philosopher and physician John Locke, regarded as one of the most influential figures of the Enlightenment. Locke's theory of the mind is often cited as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self, and it is this self-reflective consciousness and empirical outlook that the artist has so successfully captured in marble.

The flowing and soft nature of the carving evident here were hallmarks of Guelfi's finest works, the majority of which were commissions from the aristocracy that came after his move from Rome to London in circa 1714 to work for Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington and creator of Chiswick Villa. The current bust was almost certainly in the 5th Earl of Hardwicke's collection at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. In an inventory of 1881, in the Ante Library, there is a listing which notes a 'A white marble bust of Shakespeare on scagliola bust supports...Ditto ditto Lord John Sommers ditto.' Although it is not known when the bust of Locke was put onto the present - incorrect - socle, it is likely that the 1881 inventory refers to the present bust.
There is a very similar bust of Locke, carved by Guelfi, in the Royal Collection at Kensington Palace, which is part of a set of five busts commissioned by Queen Caroline in the early 1730s. Despite Vertue writing in 1731 that Guelfi had been commissioned to carve these busts, they were long attributed to the Flemish emigre Michael Rysbrack. However Rysbrack himself wrote a letter to his patron Sir Edward Littleton in 1755 in which he states 'I did not make the bust of Dr was done by Mr Guelphi an Italian who is dead'. The authorship of the busts was conclusively affirmed by Gordon Balderston in his article on the subject of the commission in 2008 (op. cit.).
Cataloguing & details

Almost certainly Charles Yorke, 5th Earl of Hardwicke (1836-1897) at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, and by descent at Wimpole.
Thomas Agar-Robartes, 6th Viscount Clifden at Wimpole Hall from 1894 and by descent.
Captain and Mrs George Bambridge at Wimpole Hall, acquired in situ in 1938.
Probably Collins & Clark, Cambridge, where acquired circa 1951.

Literature: -

G. Balderston, 'Giovanni Battista Guelfi: five busts for Queen Caroline's Hermitage in Richmond', in Sculpture Journal, 17.1 (2008), pp. 83-88.


The Christie's Richardson bust and the Trinity Library, Dublin busts of Locke
presented side by side for comparison.


The Trinity College Library Marble Bust of John Locke
by Peter Scheemakers.

Signed P.S. Ft.

In 1743 £500 was bequeathed "for the purchase of busts eminent for learning to adorn the library" by Dr Claudius Gilbert, the Vice Provost.

One of 14 busts ( 6 ancients - Homer, Socrates, Plato, Demosthenes, Aristotle and Cicero; 6 moderns - Shakespeare, Bacon, Milton, Newton Locke and Boyle and 2 benefactors Archbishop Ussher and the 8th Earl of Pembroke) contracted to Scheemakers, 6 of which were it appears were subcontracted by him.

The Shakespeare bust is signed Peter Scheemakers in full and seven others are signed PS. or P.S. Ft - Demosthenes, Cicero, Milton, Pembroke and Locke.

Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Bacon, Newton and Boyle all have attributes found in other busts by Roubiliac. Plato and Aristotle have drapery found in other Roubiliac Busts, Newton and Bacon are obvious versions of Roubiliac busts of these subjects, the Socrates and Boyle do not have immediate parallels with any other Roubiliac busts but the shape of the busts and the style of the drapery follow other Roubiliac busts.

 It has long been  suggested that Roubiliac was responsible for these 6 busts, but none of them are signed and to my eye they lack the extraordinary intensity of many of Roubiliac's busts - I would suggest that these busts, attributed to Roubiliac, were probably from his workshop in St Martin's Lane, but carved by a lesser sculptor - currently my favourite candidate for this work is John van Nost III, who arrived in Dublin in 1748/9 and perhaps going to Ireland initially to set up these busts. 

These busts all share the same style of socle including the Roubiliac bust of  Jonathan Swift, suggesting that they were perhaps added later in order to unify the set.

There is a receipt at the College from the joiner William Keating for the payment of 2s 8 1/2d for putting up busts in the long room in 1746 (see Trinity College Library a History by Peter Fox, Cambridge 2014).

The majority of these busts must have been in place by 1749 when Faulkners Dublin Journal  21 March 1749 reports that the extra bust of Jonathan Swift who died in 1745, not included in those paid for by the original Gilbert bequest.

These busts are mentioned in Horace Walpole's account of Roubiliac, which stated that the sculptor owed the commission 'to execute half the busts in Trinity College, Dublin' to a recommendation from Sir Edward Walpole but this should probably not be taken too seriously.

Scheemakers work was already known in Dublin as he had previously supplied the church of All Hallows at Drumcondra in the North of the city with an effigy of Marmaduke Coghill in 1743.

All photographs of the Trinity Library bust of Locke taken by the author in very poor light.

There is no easily available biography available of Peter Scheemakers but The Walpole Society Journal, 1999. pp 163 - 304, has a very comprehensive biography and listing of his works - Peter Scheemakers by Ingrid Roscoe.

For a useful of the Trinity College, Dublin, Library Busts, sub contacts and the maufacture of portrait busts see - 

The Making of Portrait Busts in the Mid 18th Century: Roubiliac Scheemakers and Trinity College Dublin. by Malcolm Baker.


The Sudbury Hall Plaster bust of  John Locke after Peter Scheemakers.

Inscribed Shout of Holburn
58.4 cms.

This bust is one of several at Sudbury.

Sudbury Hall © National Trust / Ian Buxton & Brian Birch

I am very grateful to Emma Lipscombe, House Steward at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire for providing me with close up photographs of the five plaster busts by Shout at Sudbury. 

These are - An as yet unidentified man (with a Roubiliac Pope type shirt).
John Locke after Scheemakers, Francis Bacon (as the documented Cheere version from Kirkleatham), Joshua Reynold (after Ceracci), Edmund Spencer (Cheere type), a classical man.

For more on the plaster busts at Sudbury by Robert Shout and some more biographical details - see my post -


John Locke.
Plaster bust after Scheemakers.

with the eared support on socle 

The tallest here 24".

From a set of Plaster busts by B&R Shout, 
sold by Christie's at the Faske, The Scottish seat of the Gladstones Sale of 7 May 2008. Lot 161.

John Milton, William Pitt, Charles James Fox, William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, John Dryden, Alfred the Great after, Edmund Burke, Sir Isaac Newton, John Locke, Samuel Johnson, and Voltaire; each on circular socle topped by a name tablet; variously marked 'made by R. Shout/Holborn' and variously dated '1800' and '1820'.

For students of the works of the plaster shops of 18th and early 19th century plaster portraiture this is a very useful reference group - particularly as it shows King Alfred (after Rysbrack), Shakespeare, Locke (after Scheemakers), Dryden (after Scheemakers), Newton, Milton and Pope (after Roubilliac or possibly Nollekens after Roubiliac) which are all based on mid 18th century sculptures.

It is my intention to put a study together on the works of John Cheere with special reference to his portrait busts in due course.

This extract lifted from Christie's Faske sale catalogue -

"Recorded in Holden's London Directory (1806, 1807) as 'statuaries, masons and plaster figure makers' the firm of Benjamin Shout, and his son Robert (fl. 1778-1823) operated from a studio and spacious showrooms at 18 High Holborn. A bill-head dated 1806 lists their production to include 'several hundreds of figures from the Antique, and likenesses of distinguished personages' (T. Clifford, 'The plaster shops of the rococo and neo-classical era in Britain', Journal of the History of Collections, 1992, vol. IV, no. 1, pp. 63-64).

Probably purchased for Seaforth House by Sir John Gladstone as part of his fervent acquisition of objet d'art around the time he was making extensive alterations to the Library in 1817, the present plaster busts of luminaries would have been a fashionable addition to the where they have henceforth safeguarded the reading matter of many a studious Gladstone. 

The Shouts also supplied plaster busts for the library of Alexander Hood, 1st Viscount Bridport, at Cricket St. Thomas, Somerset, for Salters' Hall in 1827, and of Leigh Hunt's studio, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote:

'His room no doubt is still adorned by many a cast from Shout'

(R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors, London, rev.ed., 1968, pp. 350-351)".

 Gunnis available on line -

A Bronze bust of John Locke.

A Bronze Bust of John Locke.

Perhaps an 18th Century bronze cast from a model by John Cheere and based on an original sculpture perhaps by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

With Gurr Johns, London Art Consultants in 2006 - currently (February 2018) on the London Art Market.

Unfortunately I have so far been unable to obtain any photographs of the profiles or more importantly perhaps, the back of this bust - it would be very useful to see how the socle is united with the bust.

The Bronze bust of John Locke, approx 24" tall side by side with the Bodleian Lead bust, approx 24 " tall for comparison. 

The examination of the detail of these two busts repays close inspection - both of these busts appear very impressive (from a distance), but when seen close up the quality of the finish is surprisingly indifferent. I wouldn't pretend to be an expert in casting, but I would say that both of these casts came from the same mould, and are probably at least second generation - that is to say that they have been taken from an earlier original.
This begs the question - could they have come from the same mould as the plaster at Trinity College Cambridge which was definitely made by John Cheere or have they been cast from a mould taken of the plaster.

Exact measurements would be very useful - if cast from the plaster the bronze and lead would be smaller, given the coefficient of linear expansion of the lead and bronze ie. they would shrink as the metal cooled after leaving the mould.

Below I am posting photographs of several mid 18th Century bronze sculptures which show the quality that could be produced. The detail of the Rysbrack bronze of  Oliver Cromwell particularly on his breast plate, shows what could be achieved.

Rysbrack in a letter to Sir Edward Littleton dated 28 February 1758 regarding plaster casts says that the "mould when made will be good to cast 15 or 20 casts out of it" this suggests that the mould and therefore the casts will deteriorate with each pull.

Bodleian Library Lead Bust (approx. 24" tall) side by side with the Wren Library, Trinity Plaster Bust ( size not determined - about life size) the similar plaster bust of Pope at the Wren Library, Trinity , another with Birmingham Museums formerly at Shardloes, Buckinghamshire bought in 1959 along with busts of Shakespeare Milton and Locke is 23" tall without the socle.

The Wren Library plaster bust to my eye, even although it has been over painted several times in its life, is clearly of a finer quality than the lead or the bronze version and therefore a cast from an earlier generation mould where the detail of the embroidery has been enlarged. 

English Bronze sculpture of the 18th Century is very rare - I am including here photographs of an 18th Century bronze bust of Alexander Pope sold at Sotheby's with an attribution to Roubiliac and of the busts of Isaac Newton and Oliver Cromwell by Rysbrack (below) which illustrate the quality of finish achievable using punches and chisels - particular attention here should be paid to the detailed finish of the hair of the bust of Pope and the clothing and armour in the Rysbrack busts.

For a very useful look at English Bronze Sculpture see  Sculpture Journal Vol XIV (2005) pp. 30 - 40,
Brass sculpture and the ideology of bronze in Britain 1660 - 1851, by M.G.Sullivan and in the same Journal, pp 93 - 150 : Compendium of British Bronzes 1660 - 1851 from the Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain ..... ed Ingrid Roscoe the list compiled by MG Sullivan and Emma Hardy.


Alexander Pope.


Height 46.5 cms

attributed to Louis Francois Roubiliac


The Bronze Bust of Isaac Newton
Michael Rysbrack.
at the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge

NB. the crispness of the casting and detailing of the eyes, the shirt, the buttons, the stitching on both the shirt and waist coat.

This sort of fine detailing is missing entirely from the bronze and lead busts of Locke (above).

Photographed at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge by the author.

Assumed to be lot 74 in the Rysbrack sale catalogue 20 April 1765.

I have previously posted  photographs of this bust, very kindly provided to me by Victoria Avery of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

This bust - has been on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge from Trinity College, Cambridge since 2004.

Formerly in the collection of O.V. Watney of Cornbury Park,sold at Christies on 22 May 1967, Lot & together with a bronze bust of Oliver Cromwell (lot 6), bought by Humphrey Whitbread (1912 - 2000)  - the bust of Cromwell formerly on loan to the Cecil Higgins Museum, Bedford. See my previous post - on my parallel blog.

I will post on the Rysbrack busts of Oliver Cromwell in the future, but here are a couple of photographs of the bronze bust to whet the appetite -

Oliver Cromwell 
Michael Rysbrack

Bronze bust 
Life size.
Sold at the Rysbrack Sale of 20 April 1765.

The pair to the bust of Isaac Newton (above).

Photographs by the author.

I am very grateful to the owner who wishes to remain anonymous, for the opportunity to photograph and publish this bust here.

The terracotta is in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and a marble version at the Huntington Library, California.


There are several other 18th century bronze busts and statues with which the work on the bronze bust of Locke should be compared -

Scheemakers statue of Edward VI at St Thomas's Hospital, Lambeth Palace Road, London. put up in 1737, at the expense of Charles Joye, Treasurer of the Hospital, who had bequeathed the money for its erection in his will. There are currently no reasonable quality images of this statue available on line - I will attempt to rectify this shortly.

 see -

The bronze of Thomas Guy by Peter Scheemakers of 1741 at Guys Hospital. Lambeth

Image above from the website of Bob Speel.


A short and not exhaustive list of  later 17th to mid 18th century English larger scale bronze statuary.

As one can see, a very limited number of these objects were manufactured.

1678/9 - Grinling Gibbons Charles II Royal Hospital Chelsea.

1686 - Grinling Gibbons - Standing Figure James II formerly in Whitehall now in Trafalgar Square.
made by Laurens Vandermeulen and Mr A. Dievot.

Grinling Gibbons - Bronze Equestrian statue of William III, College Green, Dublin - Destroyed

1678/9 - Grinling Gibbons - Windsor Castle Bronze Equestrian Statue of Charles II cast by Josias Ibach of Stone Bridge, Hyde Park Corner.

1717 - 22 - The John van Nost II bronze Equestrian Statue of George I, now at the Barber Institute, Birmingham, formerly on the Essex Bridge in Dublin. Barber Institute Birmingham. - subsequently reproduced several times in lead.

1719 - Bronze King Henry VI by Francis Bird in  Eton College, School Yard.

1733 - 35 - Michael Rysbrack's magnificent bronze equestrian statue of William III at Bristol. This statue was made to be seen from a distance so one would not expect the quality to be as good as a sculpture made to be seen at close quarters.

1737 - Edward VI by Scheemakers - St Thomas' Hospital

1741 Statue of Thomas Guy by Peter Scheemakers - Guys Hospital

c. 1745,  Bronze busts of Lord Chesterfield by Louis Francois Roubiliac. Dublin Castle, Louvre, Victoria and Albert Museum

Roubiliac also produced small scale bronze reliefs of Handel, Garrick, Conyers Middleton and Pope.

1753 John van Nost III - Bronze Equestrian Statue of George II cast in Dublin put up on St Stephen's Green, Dublin  - destroyed. (also tendered for by Roubiliac).

Undated - The Rysbrack busts of Newton and Cromwell sold in the studio sale of 20 April 1765.

Greg Sullivan mentions of 26 people describing themselves as founders between 1660 - 1700  and 122 between 1700 - 1750 but this of course represents the whole trade of which the casting of statuary was a minuscule part.

Sullivan also mentions a Richard Paulson, Brass Founder of St Martin's in the Fields whose will was proven in 1746 Prob 11/751

see -