- Museum number
Unfired clay bust of Dr Isaac Barrow (1630-177) by Louis-Francois Roubiliac (1702-62) on a box support.
Height: 61 centimetres
Weight: 40.50 kilograms
Width: 57 centimetres
Depth: 23.30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Dawson 1999
Bibliography: K. A. Esdaile, 'Studies of the English sculptors from Pierce to Chantrey. XIII. Louis François Roubiliac (1695-1762) continued', Architect, 16 June 1922, p. 450; Esdaile K. A. Esdaile, Roubiliac's Work at Trinity College, Cambridge, Cambridge, 1924, p. 197; K. A. Esdaile, The Life and Works of Louis François Roubiliac, Oxford and London, 1928, pp. 100, 103, 105, 181, pl. XXX; M. Baker, 'The portrait sculpture', in D. McKitterick (ed.), The Making of the Wren Library, Cambridge, 1995, Appendix B5, p. 134, illus. fig. 86.
Displayed: 1817, over the bookcases in the Print Room (formerly in Mr Baber's department, note from J. T. Smith, 17 November 1817, P&D Archive, Trustees' Reports); 1847, probably still in the Print Room (BM Archive, Officers' Reports, Sir Henry Ellis, 3 June 1847); 1881, probably still in the Print Room;(2) 1888, over the cases in the Glass and Ceramic Gallery (Guide, 1888, p. 18); 1922, 'in private rooms' (Esdaile, 1922, XIII, p.451); 'cleaned in 1927 before ... removal from a private room to the King Edward VII Galleries' (Esdaile, 1928, p. 105); subsequently MLA Department.
Isaac Barrow was born in London, the son of Thomas Barrow, linen draper to King Charles I, and was educated at Charterhouse and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was elected a scholar. He became a Fellow in 1649 at the same time as John Ray (see registration no. 1762,0528.14). In 1655 Barrow went to Paris, visiting his exiled father, then to Italy, where he passed time at the Court of the Medici in Florence, examining medals and reading in the Library. He then spent more than a year in Turkey, returning by way of Venice, Germany and Holland, taking Holy Orders in 1659. Under the Restoration he was elected to the Chair of Greek at Cambridge, and subsequently became Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, resigning in 1669 in favour of his pupil, Isaac Newton (see registration nos 1765,0629.1, SLMisc.1984-5). He was briefly in charge of the Cottonian Library. In 1672 he became Master of Trinity College and is said to have initiated the building of the Library there.(3) He died aged forty-seven and is buried in Westminster Abbey. He is remembered as Newton's teacher and as a precursor of Newton and Leibniz in the invention of the differential calculus. His sermons, although prolix, were admired by John Locke, and the politicians Chatham and Pitt the Younger.
Louis-François Roubiliac was born in Lyon on 31 August 1702(4) of a family active in banking and commerce, and, like his father and grandfather, was baptized a Catholic. It is thought that he went to Dresden around 1720 and was trained under the sculptor Balthazar Permoser. In the late 1720s he settled in Paris and entered the Académie Royale, winning a second prize for sculpture in 1730. The identity of his master remains unknown. His name first appears in England in 1730, as a member of a masonic lodge meeting at the 'White Bear in King's Street Golden Square'. Two busts of opera singers on which Roubiliac was working in 1737(5) preceded his statue of Handel for Vauxhall Gardens dating from 1738, which established his career as an independent sculptor. In the following decades Roubiliac carved busts of many of the leading figures in British national life and commemorated aristocrats and the wealthy in monuments all over the country.(6) But although celebrated in his lifetime, he died penniless on 11 January 1762, probably because, as his accounts show,(7) payments came slowly and materials and labour were expensive. His capital seems to have come from at least one of his wives,(8) and possibly also from his brother.(9) His funeral was attended by all the leading members of the art world,(10) including Sir Joshua Reynolds, and his executor was Thomas Harrache, best known as a goldsmith, with whom Roubiliac had close relations since the late 1750s.(11) Attempts by his principal assistant, Nicholas Read, to keep his studio going were unsuccessful,(12) and its contents were sold off.(13) There are several portraits of the artist, including one by Adrien Carpentiers dated 1761 in the National Portrait Gallery, as well as a marble bust attributed to Wilton in the same collection.(14)
The bust of Barrow is the model for the marble in the Wren Library at Trinity College, Cambridge, which is signed and dated 1756, donated by Edward Montagu.(15) The drapery, consisting only of clerical bands and tassels, is much more simply delineated than on many other busts from the same series with the possible exception of the bust of Bentley (registration no. 1762,0528.17), but the face, turned half left, with its folds under the mouth and deep-set eyes with drilled pupils, is lifelike. As usual, the model is more immediate than the marble.
The clay has been found by analysis by the British Museum Conservation Research Group(16) to contain calcite, quartz and possibly feldspar, kaolin and illite. It is a similar material to that used for Dr Bentley. It is likely that the calcite, quartz and feldspar were added to the clay, probably to make it suitable for use in a sculptural context. The maximum temperature at which this bust would appear to have been fired is no more than 6oo°c. The organic-type layer over the bust may have been applied in the artist's studio, but the grey paint layer on top, which is cracked and lifting, is probably of later date as barium is present. Although the bust was described, along with the more familiar red-coloured busts, as 'terracotta' when it was acquired, it is made of a different material to them and is most similar to the bust of Dr Bentley (1762,0528.17).
(1) Notes dated 22 October 1959 on file: the clay was not originally built up around an armature. One restoration consisted of beeswax plus resin which had been poured into the back of the head, which was hollow, in an attempt to strengthen it. Another consisted of plaster reinforced with slate at the back of the bust, built up in stages starting with the spine and extending to the shoulders of the bust. Two coats of cream oil paint were noted on the surface of the bust. No conclusion could be given in 1969 about the date when the above repairs were carried out. Cleaning in 1927 is noted by Esdaile, 1928, p. 105, where she records that both Barrow and Bentley are terracotta, not plaster as she had originally thought.
(2) There is a pencil drawing of the bust (with Bewick and Revd. C.Burney) dated 17 February 1881 in Sir George Scharf s notebook, National Portrait Gallery, London, ref. TSB XXVII, p. 51 (see fig. 16), and another (with Ray and Newton), ibid., p. 52 (see fig. 42).
(3) D. McKitterick, 'Introduction', in D. McKitterick (ed.), The Making of the Wren Library, Cambridge, 1995, pp. 5-8.
(4) The most up-to-date biographical information is given in D. Bindman and M. Baker, Roubiliac and the Eighteenth-century Monument: Sculpture as Theatre, New Haven and London, 1995.
(5) Bindman and Baker, 1995, pp. 65-6. For the earliest busts carved by Roubiliac after his arrival in England, see Malcolm Baker's essay on busts of Turenne and the duc de Condé made for the Duke of Argyll in 1733, 'Ancient and modern, French and English: the Duke of Argyll's gallery at Adderbury', in M. Baker, Figured in Marble: the making and viewing of sculpture in eighteenth-century Britain, London, forthcoming.
(6) See Bindman and Baker, 1995, for a detailed study of this aspect of Roubiliac's output.
(7) I am grateful to Tessa Murdoch for discussing with me his bank account kept at the archive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, for assisting me to interpret it and for making available to me her unpublished paper given to the Art Historians' Conference, 1987, 'The studio of Louis François Roubiliac'. Phillip Winterbottom, archivist at the Royal Bank of Scotland and his staff kindly allowed me access to Roubiliac's account.
(8) His first wife was 'Miss Crosby of Deptford, a celebrated Beauty, with a fortune of ten thousand pounds', according to the General Advertiser, 11 January 1752, quoted in Murdoch, 1987.
(9) A ledger entry for 27 February 1756, DR/427/35, f.286, records that £25-4s was paid: F. Roubiliac's bill'. Another entry, on 9 September 1757, DR/427/36, f.227, records the payment of £5-2S to 'Mr Bailif. Mrs Régnier was paid £8 on 30 March 1759, DR/427/39, f.423.
(10) Esdaile, 1928, p. 172.
(11) Harrache's name appears frequently in Roubiliac's accounts.
(12) Bindman and Baker, 1995, p. 97.
(13) Ibid., sale catalogue reproduced pp. 362-9. A picture by Roubiliac was included, lot 88, first day's sale, 12 May 1762: 'A portrait of Mr. Roubilliac's father-in-law, by Mr. Roubilliac', and another of Shakespeare is illustrated on p. 96, fig. 60 (see fig. 56 in this catalogue).
(14) J. Kerslake, National Portrait Gallery, Early Georgian Portraits, London, 1977, pp. 236-7; this author discusses the iconography of the artist on pp. 237-8.
(15) Baker, 1995, cat. B5, p. 134, illus. fig. 86.
(16) L. R. Green and S. M. Bradley, 'Further investigations of busts by Roubiliac: Dr Isaac Barrow and John Milton', British Museum, Department of Conservation, Conservation Research Group Internal Report, 1994/5.
In the 1980s and earlier it was kept in the Iron Age Gallery (Reserve). An old neg exists: M18.1 (A.Dawson, dec. 2010)
- Not on display
- Extensively repaired after accidental damage in 1950 (recorded as having been dropped on the main steps of the Museum on the way to be cleaned on 22.2.1950, part of forehead, nose and small area to right of nose remade in plaster; tassels broken off. Cleaned in 1997. When the bust was restored in 1959, it was noted that it had been extensively restored at least twice before [(1) - see notes in curatorial comment]. Numerous cracks, especially in hair and on face. Now attached to metal support and mounted on wooden box for safety.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Presented by Dr Matthew Maty, 1762, who purchased it at Roubiliac's sale, lot 79, third day's sale, 14 May 1762.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number