- Museum number
Fired clay bust of Dr Richard Bentley FRS (1662-1742) by Louis-Francois Roubiliac (1702-62), slightly to right, in clerical dress.
Height: 650 millimetres
Width: 566 millimetres
- Curator's comments
The bust is thought to be the model for the marble of Bentley in the Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge.
Bibliography: E. Beresford Chancellor, The Lives of the British Sculptors, and those who have worked in England from the earliest days to Sir Francis Chantrey, London, 1911, pp. 123-4; 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; K. A. Esdaile, The Life and Works of Louis François Roubiliac, Oxford and London, 1928, pp. 103-5, 181, pl. XXX; M. Snodin (ed.), Rococo Art and Design in Hogarth's England, exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum, London, May-September 1984, p. 301; M. Baker, 'The portrait sculpture', in D. McKitterick (ed.), The Making of the Wren Library, Cambridge, 1995, Appendix B6, p. 134, illus. pl. 87
Displayed: 1817, not in list of busts in the Print Room; probably in Print Room in 1881 when drawn by Sir George Scharf;(1) 1888, over the cases in Glass and Ceramic Gallery (Guide, 1888, p.18); 1922, 'in private rooms' (Esdaile, 1922, XIII, p. 451); 1927, removed 'from a private room to the King Edward VII Galleries' (Esdaile, 1928, p. 105), cleaned before display; ?post Second World War, MLA Dept; 1994, Gallery 46 'Europe 1400-1800' (shown in situ in Fox, 1995, p. 393, fig. 49)
Richard Bentley was born in the parish of Rothwell, near Wakefield, Yorkshire, and enrolled in St John's College, Cambridge in May 1676. Between 1683 and 1689 he lived in London, acting as tutor to the second son of Dr Stillingfleet, Dean of St Paul's and later Bishop of Worcester. Bentley took Holy Orders in 1690. He followed his pupil to Oxford and first published classical criticism in 1691. He subsequently delivered the first Boyle Lectures, devoting the last three of them to Newton's proofs of the law of gravitation. In the same year (1692) he became keeper of the royal libraries and a Fellow of the Royal Society. Three years later he became chaplain in ordinary to the King. In 1696 he occupied lodgings in St James's Palace, assigned to him as royal librarian, where he would regularly invite a group of friends: the diarist John Evelyn, Sir Christopher Wren, John Locke and Isaac Newton. Bentley resided in Trinity College, Cambridge from February 1700 after being appointed Master. For thirty-eight years he was in almost constant conflict with the Fellows, but continued his textual criticism of classical authors. He is buried in the chapel of Trinity College.
For information about Louis-François Roubiliac, see registration no. 1762,0528.16.
The bust is the model for the marble in the Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge, which is dated 1756. There is a plaster at Lambeth Palace.(2) It is close to a portrait by James Thornhill engraved by George Vertue. The head is hollow, and was made separately and attached at the neck. A plaster strut, presumably contemporary with the bust, acts as a support at the reverse. The head is turned half to proper right; the deeply incised pupils give the sitter a piercing gaze, and the fleshy face emphasizes the realism of this portrait. Malcolm Baker(3) has commented on the virtuoso carving of the wig, a feature he believes is derived from French portraits, and on the rococo nature of the treatment of the shifting drapery, carved to emphasize the play of light on different textures.
The clay has been found by analysis by the British Museum Conservation Research Group(4) to be a mixture of calcite, quartz, kaolin and illite which has undergone low level heating but has not been fired above 6oo°C. At least six layers of paint seem to have been applied to the clay surface, but it is not easy to determine whether any of these were put on by the artist. The upper surface was certainly applied some time after lower areas, as a layer of dirt below it is visible with the scanning electron microscope.
(1) There is a pencil drawing of the bust (with the bust of Willoughby) dated 17 February 1881 in Sir George Scharfs notebook, National Portrait Gallery, London, ref. TSB XXVII, p. 53.
(2) Baker, 1995, p. 134.
(3) In Snodin (ed.), 1984, p. 301.
(4) L. R. Green and S. M. Bradley, 'Investigating a bust of Dr. Bentley by Roubiliac, MLA 1762,5-28,17', British Museum, Department of Conservation, Conservation Research Group Internal Report, 1992/12.
- On display (G46/od)
- Exhibition history
Formerly kept in Medieval and Later Antiquities Deputy Keeper's Room (Hugh Tait) above cpbd 40, in 1970s and 1980s, and probably earlier (A. Dawson)
- Damage to truncation of right arm and losses to front drapery fold in c. 1928 visible in photograph in Esdaile, 1928, pl. XXX; shoulders repaired with plaster; some damage to lower front; surface discoloured.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Presented by Dr Matthew Maty, 1762, who purchased it at Roubiliac's sale, lot 81 in the third day's sale, 14 May 1762
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number