The Architect James Gibbs
- Place of origin:
England, Great Britain (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
British Galleries, room 54c, case WE, shelf FS
This portrait bust of the architect James Gibbs (1682-1754) was made by his friend and associate John Michael Rysbrack (1694-1770). Gibbs commissioned the bust, and it remained in his ownership until his death. He is shown wearing a wig and dressed in casually (the shirt unbuttoned at the neck); another bust of Gibbs, also by Rysbrack, belonging to the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and now shown in the Radcliffe Camera, depicts the sitter in a more classicising mode, without a wig, and bare-chested. Gibbs and Rysbrack lived near one another on the Harley estate north of Oxford Street in London. They collaborated together on a number of projects, notably monuments in Westminster Abbey (designed by Gibbs, and executed by Rysbrack), and garden ornaments and sculpture for the grounds at Stowe House, Buckinghamshire.
John Michael Rysbrack (1694-1770) was one of the leading sculptors of his day, and, along with Louis Fran‡ois Roubiliac, was one of the most important sculptors active in Britain in the first half of the 18th century. He was a native of Antwerp, but arrived in England in 1720 and carried out all his known work in this country. He specialised in portrait busts, such as this one, and tomb monuments, many of which are in Westminster Abbey. He also collaborated on sculpture for the grounds at Stowe, and most notably sculpted a series in limestone of seven Saxon gods, two of which (Thuner and Sunna) are in the V&A.
Materials & Making
This bust is carved in marble, one of the most popular materials for portrait busts in the 18th century, although busts were also commissioned in terracotta, bronze, lead and plaster. Rysbrack almost certainly initially modelled the bust from the life in clay, which was then perhaps fired to form terracotta, and this used in turn to cast a plaster model from which the bust would be carved. If all these stages were indeed part of the process for the present bust (and certainly at least one form of initial full-size model would have been necessary), unfortunately none of the other versions has survived. Rysbrack trained in the Low Countries, where modelling terracotta was an established practice as a preliminary to a finished marble piece.
Place of Origin
England, Great Britain (made)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
'THIS BUST BY RYSBRACK / OF / JAMES GIBBS / 16  17 / / THE ARCHITECT OF THE CHURCH OF ST MARTIN IN THE FIELDS. / WAS PRESENTED TO THE CHURCH / BY / WILLIAM BOORE, 1885'
'IAC GIBBS / Arch.'
Height: 76.2 cm including original socle
Object history note
Carved in London by John Michael Rysbrack (born in Antwerp, Belgium, 1693, died in London, 1770).
Purchased with contributions from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the National Art-Collections Fund (through the Eugene Cremetti Fund), from The Vicar and Churchwardens of the Parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields for £465,000, in 1988.
Bust, marble, James Gibbs, by Michael Rysbrack, England, dated 1726
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Williamson, Paul, ed. European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996, p. 155
Baker, Malcolm, Figured in Marble. The Making and Viewing of Eighteenth-Century Sculpture, London, 2000, pp. 95, 98-9, pl. 77 on p. 99
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, p. 128, 178
Wilson, D., 'Roubiliac, the Earl of Pembroke and the chancellor's decision', in: Church Monuments, XXI, 2006, fig. 14 on p. 164
Friedman, T. F., James Gibbs as a Church Deigner, exh. cat., Derby, 1972, cat. no. 1
Webb, M. Michael Rysbrack Sculptor, London, 1954, p. 53
Whinney, M. Sculpture in Britain 1530 to 1830, (revised by J. Physick), London, 1988 (second edition), p. 168 and fig. 112
Friedman, T. F., James Gibbs, New Haven and London, 1984, p.14 and frontispiece
Gunnis, R., Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851, London, 1953, p. 335
Labels and date
James Gibbs (1682-1754), was one of the most influential architects of the first half of the 18th century. The church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London was one of his best-known works. His 'Book of Architecture', published in 1728, became a standard textbook, spreading his personal version of the Palladian Style as far as India and North America. [27/03/2003]