Tuesday 31 October 2023

Joseph Browne of Bowlish, Shepton Mallet - the Bust of Pope by Roubiliac - Yale Centre

Post in preparation.

The Yale Centre for British Art Bust of Alexander Pope. 

by Louis Francois Roubiliac.


Formerly in the Collection of Joseph Browne, of Bowlish, Shepton Mallet, Somerset and sold in by Auctioneer  John Gerard of Litchfield Street London in 1791.


Signed and dated by chisel under sitter's shoulder, proper right: "Anno Dom. | MDCCXLI. | L.F. Roubiliac | Scit. Ad vivum"


Inscribed, chiseled on front of socle: 'POPE'; on proper left under sitter's shoulder: 'ALEX. POPE. Nats. LONDINI, | die 8o. junii anno MDCLXXXVIII. | Obiit in vico Twickenham prope | Urbem, die 8o. maii MDCCXLIV"

Eyes cut.

 Yale Centre for the Study of British Art. 

Although signed and dated on the left side underneath rthe drapery  - Anno Dom MDCCXLI  Sc. L.F. Roubiliac ad vivum (1741), there is an inscription in the same manner underneath the right side of the drapery, recording the death of Pope at Twickenham on 8th May 1744, suggesting that this bust was carved and completed posthumously but based perhaps on Popes sitting for the terra cotta in 1741. 

Pope visited the studio of Roubiliac in July of 1741, and reported to Ralph Allen in Bath on the progress of busts for his library.

See Popes Correspondence.

We know that this bust was in the collection of Joseph Browne of Bowlish, Shepton Mallett and sold in


A catalogue of the intire and valuable museum of that well-known collector, the late Joseph Browne, Esq. of Shepton-Mallet, ... Part I. : Consisting of fine Greek, Roman, Saxon, English, and Anglo-Gallic, coins; proofs, pattern pieces, and curious medals of royal and illustrious personages, by Briot, Blandeau, Ramage, Simon, Rotier, Bower,&c. Also his books and coins and medals, a capital miniature, by Cooper, of the Earl of Southampton, set in gold ; a gold repeating watch, by Mudge and Dutton; rins, &c. Which, ... will be sold by auction, by Mr. Gerard, ... on Wednesday, March 16, 1791, and the three following days, at half after eleven o'clock precisely.

see "Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society" 1907. Available on line at -

Joseph Browne of Bowlish and the Marble bust of Alexander Pope, by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

The sale of the Joseph Browne Collections in 1791 in two tranches by Auctioneer John Gerard of Litchfield Street, London.

Gerard died July 1793.

Joseph Browne ….. This occurs in the catalogue of the sale by auction in 1791 of the museum of curios, paintings, etc., etc., of Joseph Browne, of Shepton Mallet, clearly a great, important, and interesting sale of a wealthy man. The museum, etc., occupied March 16th and three following days; the china 15th April and following day; paintings, coins, etc., 23rd May and five following days; and 5th June came ancient and modern coins, manuscripts, etc.

The catalogue describes the prints and paintings as — consisting of a remarkably fine and curious collection of prints of the Italian, German, Flemish, Dutch, English, and French schools, comprehending the best works by or after Albert Durer, Goltzius, Elsheimer, Hollar, Rubens, Vandyck, Jordaens, Teniers, Rembrandt, Bergheim, Ostade, Visscher, Walker, Faithorne, Loggan, Vertue, Le Brun, Edelinck, Masson, Balechon, etc., etc.

Together with a few capital pictures and drawings by Rubens, Berghem, W ouvermans, Brughell, Potter, Knyp, Both, Ostade, Ferg, etc.,

 and a beautiful marble bust of Alex Pope by Roubiliac.

The catalogue available at Kings College Library - Foyle Special Collections: [Rare books Coll.]          Z999 B81



Dominic Winter Auctioneers, 10 Nov 2021.

Lot 393 - part lots -

14. A catalogue of the entire and valuable museum of that well-known collector, the late Joseph Browne, Esq. of Shepton Mallet, Somerset ... Part I. ... will be sold by auction, by Mr. Gerard ... on Wednesday, March 16, 1791,

15. A catalogue of the entire and valuable museum of that well known collector, the late Joseph Browne, Esq. of Shepton Mallet, Somerset ... Part V. ... will be sold by auction, by Mr. Gerard … on Thursday 2d of June 1791.


1762 -  Auctioneers Prestage and Hobbs.  A Catalogue of a ... Collection of Greek, Roman, Irish and English Coins and Medals [chiefly Belonging to Joseph Browne] ... which Will be Sold by Auction, by Messrs. Prestage and Hobbs ... the 5th of April, 1762. MS. Notes of Prices

Benjamin Rackstrow

 Post under Construction

Benjamin Rackstrow (d.1772). 

Some notes.

From The Walpole Society Journal Vol. 27 - Notes by Horace Walpole...on the Exhibitions of the Society of Artists.... 1760 -.1791.

Transcribed and edited by Hugh Gatty.

Page 86. Additional Notes by Walpole ...

Society of Artists.

1763 (2). Title: April. P. 16: In this exhibition a whole figure of an elderly man sitting, cast in (lead erased) plaister of Paris and coloured, & so very near to life that every body mistook it for real. 

It was removed, on having frightened an apothecary. It was the performance of Rackstrow, Statuary. [This is probably no. 172, in Algernon Graves, p. 207.].



The Busts of Alexander Pope belonging to Lady Luxborough and William Shenstone and Rackstrow.

See - Letters written by the late Rt Honourable Lady Luxborough: to William Shenstone published in 1775

 In a letter From Barrells Hall dated 28th April 1748, she mentions a head of Pope over a chimneypiece (page 22) and having Mr Outing sending Shenstone a bust of Pope made to look like marble, and mentions 4 more busts treated in the same way by Rackstrow for her brother Saint John.

 2 August 1750 she mentions Mr Moore of Warwick (plaisterer) “also to desire him to see your white bust of Pope, for I have a mind to have Lord Bolingbrokes painted the same”

 On Easter Sunday 1748, she wrote -The chimney in my study was not exactly in the middle of the room: which has occasioned my moving it 12” and consequently moving Popes bust to be in the centre. The lines wrote above it are put up again (which, you know, are out of Virgil).

 In another letter from Barrells of 13 August 1750, she mentions Mr Williams (of New Street, Birmingham) who was visiting Shenstone “I desired him not to forget to look at your bust of Pope; hoping he may be able to paint mine of my brother Bolinbroke after the same manner”. (page 215).


Henrietta St John Knight, Lady Luxborough was the half sister of Henry St John, Lord Bolingbroke, a close friend of Alexander Pope and executor of his will.

 She and a group of Poetic friends were known as the Warwickshire Coterie.

 Barrells Hall, Wooten Wawen, near Henley in Arden, Warwickshire. She had been banished there in 1736 by her husband Robert Knight (created Baron Luxborough in 1745), for an indiscretion (probably with poet and clergyman John Dalton. Horace Walpole said they Rhymed till they chimed and never saw her husband again.

Here we have two busts of Alexander Pope mentioned in letters of 1748 and 1750. From these letters there is no doubt that William Shenstone owned a plaster bust of Pope. Lady Luxborough also owned a bust of Pope but she does not make clear what material it was made from -

This bust could be one of the marble busts by Roubiliac. Given the lack of headroom at Barrells Hall, this could have been the small bust or head now at Temple Newsam signed L.F.Roubiliac, ad vivum 1738. 

Currently there is no record of this bust prior to about 1922 when a Mr ARA Hobson suggests that his father GD Hobson (of Sotheby's) acquired it..

 Illustrated in a wall niche at I Bedford Square and illustrated in Country Life in February 1932, sold at Sotheby's 17 Nov 1933 - see Wimsatt -



Roubiliac and John Mealing, Waterman


A Miniature of John Mealing, waterman 

by Ozias Humphrey. 1766.

Exhibited at the society of Artists 1766.

From Notes by Horace Walpole..... on the Exhibitions of the Society of Artists and the free Society of Artists 1760 - 1791

From the Walpole Society Journal.

1766.no 71. A portrait in miniature, good, head of old John, porter of the Academy, this picture was purchased by the King, he had been a waterman, was chosen by Roubiliac for a Model, having been rowed by him to Vauxhall, when he went thither to place his figure of Handel.

[Graves, p. 125, says 'John Mealing, dressed in scarlet lined with fur'. Whitley, p. 370, quotes Walpole 'Good head of Old John, porter of the Academy', and refers to his vol. i, p. 184, where he says that the King bought this picture