William Shakespeare

Bust
after 1726 (made)
William Shakespeare thumbnail 1
William Shakespeare thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 52, The George Levy Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This historicising bust of Shakespeare may well have been one of a group of British Worthies. Shakespeare, along with John Milton, Isaac Newton and other figures became important symbols in the 18th century for what were perceived as the great British traditions of independent and creative thought and action.

This particular bust is a version of one in the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe, Buckinghamshire; the bust at Stowe was carved by Rysbrack for Lord Cobham in about 1730. This version may also have been one of a set, although its original context is unknown. This terracotta bust may have been a model for the stone bust at Stowe.

John Michael Rysbrack (1694-1770) was one of the most successful sculptors working in Britain in the 18th century. Born in Antwerp, he arrived in England in about 1720, and soon established himself as a leading sculptor of funerary monuments and portrait busts in particular. Many of his monuments are in Westminster Abbey. His bust of the architect James Gibbs (1682-1754) commemorates his friendship with him (the bust was commissioned and owned by Gibbs himself); he and Gibbs worked together on a number of projects, at Stowe and elsewhere.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Terracotta
Brief Description
Bust, terracotta, of Shakespeare, by John Michael Rysbrack, England, ca. 1730
Physical Description
The playwright William Shakerspeare is shown in contemporary dress with a buttoned jerkin.
Dimensions
  • Height: 57cm
  • Width: 50cm
  • Depth: 26cm
Gallery Label
British Galleries: Shakespeare (1564-1616) was revered in the 18th century as a British genius. Along with Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), he was celebrated through busts and statues demonstrating pride in the nation's history. This example is based on a stone bust by Michael Rysbrack, made for the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe, Buckinghamshire.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Presented by Mrs M. A. Miller, in memory of her father, Augustus William Roxon
Object history
Modelled in England after a model by Michael Rysbrack (born in Antwerp, Belgium, 1694, died in London, 1770). Given by Mrs M.A. Miller, Anglesey House, Isle of Wight in 1924 in memory of her father Augustus William Rixon, to whom the bust had previously belonged. A business card for E.W. Field, Dealer in Antiques and Works of Art, 28 Union Street, Ryde, Isle of Wight, was found amongst the papers relating to the objects offered as gifts to the Museum by Mrs Miller, and may indicate he acted as an agent for the donor.
Subject depicted
Summary
This historicising bust of Shakespeare may well have been one of a group of British Worthies. Shakespeare, along with John Milton, Isaac Newton and other figures became important symbols in the 18th century for what were perceived as the great British traditions of independent and creative thought and action.



This particular bust is a version of one in the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe, Buckinghamshire; the bust at Stowe was carved by Rysbrack for Lord Cobham in about 1730. This version may also have been one of a set, although its original context is unknown. This terracotta bust may have been a model for the stone bust at Stowe.



John Michael Rysbrack (1694-1770) was one of the most successful sculptors working in Britain in the 18th century. Born in Antwerp, he arrived in England in about 1720, and soon established himself as a leading sculptor of funerary monuments and portrait busts in particular. Many of his monuments are in Westminster Abbey. His bust of the architect James Gibbs (1682-1754) commemorates his friendship with him (the bust was commissioned and owned by Gibbs himself); he and Gibbs worked together on a number of projects, at Stowe and elsewhere.
Bibliographic References
  • Bilbey, Diane and Trusted Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2002. p. 129. cat. no. 179.
  • Sturgis, Alexander. Presence. The Art of Portrait Sculpture, exhibition catalogue for exhibition held at the Holburne Museum, published by the Art Collector’s Club Ltd, Old Martlesham Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK, 2012, cat. no. 41, p. 70, illus. p. 68
  • Shakespeare Memorial and Theatrical Exhibition, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1910, p. 24, cat.no 173
  • Review [1911-1938], Victoria & Albert Museum. Review of the Principal Acquisitions during the Year, London, 1912-1939, 1924, p. 4 and fig. 3
  • Esdaile, K.A., The life and works of Louis François Roubiliac, Oxford and London, 1928, pp. 128, 186
  • Risdell, Marcus (ed.) The face and figure of Shakespeare : how Britain's 18th century sculptors invented a national hero , Twickenham : Orleans House Gallery, 2009no.12
Collection
Accession Number
A.6-1924

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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