A Marble bust of George II
by Michael Rysbrack
at the Sotheby's Howard Hodgkin Sale.
Lot 193, Tuesday 24 October 2017.
signed M: RYSBRACK F
White Statuary Marble.
Sotheby's say circa 1739.
Height 63 cms.
With the badge of the order of the garter on his left breast and the Great George on a ribbon around his kneck
Sotheby's Condition Report.
The marble is a very finely carved autograph portrait bust by Rysbrack. There is dirt and wear to the surface consistent with age. The surface is consistent with the marble having been outdoors for a period of time. There is general wear to the surface due to weathering, for example to the lesser George pendant and the inscription on the garter star. The surface is dry in areas, in particular at the back. Parts of the surface, in particular the sash and the face, have been repolished. There is possible restoration and paint residue to under the nose. The tip of the laurel above the forehead is reattached. There are a few small losses and chips to the laurels.
There are small naturally occurring inclusions to the marble, in particular at the proper left side of the face and the sash on the proper left side.
There are residues of blue-green paint including to the back of the bust. There is dirt, particularly to the crevices, and dark dirt marks particularly at the back and behind the shoulders.
The marble would benefit from a professional cleaning and waxing. There are a few small losses including to the edges of the knot at the neck and to the dragon's wing on the pendant. There are a few small chips, including to the sash. There is veining to the marble consistent with the material. There is a small chip to the edge of the proper right shoulder.
My opinion - for what its worth.
This bust has suffered a great deal from being outside and much of the surface where it has been exposed has sugared probably by acids in the atmosphere. This is very evident in the laurel leaves and curls of the hair. At some time in its past it has been restored by polishing the sugared surface particularly on the face and front of the bust. In doing so this has removed the majority, if not all of the original surface and thus the original intentions of the sculptor.
Whilst historically interesting it can no longer be described as an original work of art. It should be compared with the other versions which are in much better condition - the photographs of the Christ Church marble bust and the Victoria and Albert marble bust by Rysbrack (below) show clearly what the bust must have looked like originally.
My advice to any potential purchaser - think very carefully before bidding tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds for a bust whose distressed surface has been altered and therefore a work where the sculptors intentions have been severely compromised!
Photographs from the Sotheby's website
in the Christchurch Gallery, St Aldates, Oxford.
This bust was placed over the hall chimney-piece when the Hall was repaired and adorned under the direction of Dean Gregory in about 1752 and removed to Christchurch Library when the new Chimney-pieces were built before 1804 - see Oxford Almanack, Christ Church Hall drawn by JMW Turner and engraved with variations in 1807.
All photographs below by the author.
I am very grateful to Jaqueline Thalman curator of the Christ Church Gallery for allowing me to visit and to take photographs for this blog of the busts at the Gallery.
I am also very grateful for the assistance of Dana Josephson and for suggesting that I investigate and record the various busts in the Bodleian Library and at Christ Church and for enabling me to photograph this and the other busts.
Signed at the back with the initials MR and dated 1760
Height 89 cms.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Photographed by the author.