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Two Putti supporting and Architrave

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1730 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rysbrack, John Michael (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Marble relief

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 22, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries, case SWAL

The exact purpose and original location of this relief is uncertain. It may have formed some part of an interior decoration of a house, possibly that of a doorway or a large chimneypiece. This would tie in with the architectural theme depicted. Alternatively, it could have been a section of a monument. It was said to have come from Carlton House, London. This supposition was based on the recollections of a mason who claimed to have seen the relief in situ. However, this idea has since been discredited as the mason arrived in London some 90 years after the house was demolished. It may however have formed part of a chimneypiece executed by Rysbrack between 1733 and 1736 for John, 4th Duke of Bedford, which was installed in the Great Saloon or Ballroom at Bedford House, London. This chimneypiece is known to have been dismantled in 1800. The present reliew may be identified with that sold at Christie's, Bedford House sale, held between 5-10 May 1800, lot 71.

Whatever its original location, its style can certainly be associated with John Michael Rysbrack who was active in England in the second quarter of the 18th century. The Museum also possesses two related terracotta sketch models (7717-1863 and 7718-1863). These show only slight differences between the original designs in terracotta and the final marble.

Rysbrack (1694-1770) was born in Antwerp, and trained in the Netherlands, but spent his working life in Britain. He was one of the most important sculptors active in this country in the first half of the 18th century, and specialised in portrait busts and funerary monuments. Although he never visited Italy, many of his works are clearly indebted to classical archetypes. His terracotta models are particularly fine, and are often virtually finished pieces in their own right.

Physical description

Two putti support an architrave; the left one looks down over his right shoulder to his right. He stands on his left leg, his right leg bent, and supports the architrave with his head and left hand. The right putto supports the architrave with his head, and raises his left hand to his head, his right hand around the waist of the other putto. He looks down to his left, leaning on his left leg, his right leg bent behind him. Both are semi-nude, with a piece of drapery swathed over their shoulders. A line of egg-and-dart moulding runs around the lower part of the protruding architrave beneath an outer stylised foliate moulding.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1730 (made)


Rysbrack, John Michael (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Marble relief


Height: 133 cm, Width: 127 cm, Depth: 30.5 cm

Object history note

Purchased from Alex Wengraf Ltd., for £14,966.00, in 1990.

Before: Sold at Christie's on 1st December 1911, lot 85, and bought by Harding.
Possibly from the Great Saloon or Ball Room at Bedford House, London. In the possession of the dealers Poulter and Sons, Fulham Road, London, for a number of years, and by whom sold at Sotheby's, London, 1989, lot 169, where it was described as English with the suggestion that the details of the moulding were similar to those on the chimneypiece by Rysbrack at the Foundling Hospital. Reference was also made to the 'traditional belief' that the present piece derived from Carlton House where Peter Scheemakers [q.v.] executed several massive chimneypieces.
Bought on behalf of the Museum by Pat Wengraf, and held by her until the following financial year, when the relief was acquired by the Museum.
The present piece may have formed part of a chimneypiece executed by Rysbrack for John, 4th Duke of Bedford, between 1733 and 1736 for the Great Saloon or Ball Room at Bedford House, following the dismantling of the chimneypiece in 1800, the present relief may be identified with that sold at Christie's, Bedford House sale, held between 5-10 May 1800, lot 71, described as 'A Magificent Statuary Marble Chimney Piece. The Cornice Supported by Four Bacchanalian Boys, in Alto Relievo': the buyer was Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk (see entry for lot 79, Sotheby's, London, 10 July 1998). Two pairs were sold in 1891 and in 1911 respectively by the Duke of Norfolk (noted in sale catalogue as above). Those sold at the Arundel Castle sale, Sparks & Son, 14 and 15 April 1891, lots 298 and 299, were described as 'two figures of boys, in bold relief, supporting richly carved cornice, statuary marble, 4ft 3 in high; 3 ft wide', and Archer suggests that the present relief may be one of those sold in the 1891 sale, probably originally acquired for Arundel Castle, rather than for the recently built Worksop Manor, Nottinghamshire.

Descriptive line

Relief, marble, two putti supporting an architrave, possibly by John Michael Rysbrack, England, ca. 1730

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Williamson, Paul, "Acquisition of Sculpture at the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1986-1991", in: Burlington Magazine, Dec. 1991, p. 879
Bilbey, Diane and Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470-2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2002, pp. 134, 5, cat.no 185





Subjects depicted

Architrave; Putti


Reliefs; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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