Louis Francois Roubiliac (1704/5-1762)

Image: Vauxhall Bridge

From: Richmond Libraries’ Local Studies Collection:

Garrick’s Villa and Temple to Shakespeare

The statue of Shakespeare referred to is the one which Garrick, in 1756, commissioned Louis Francois Roubiliac (1704/5-1762) to sculpt. It stood in the niche opposite the door of the temple and cost 300 guineas or £315. Roubiliac, the most accomplished sculptor to work here, had been born in Lyons, the son of a Huguenot merchant and came to England in 1735. His first commission was for a statue of Handel for Vauxhall Gardens and this was later followed by the superb monument to John, 2nd Duke of Argyll, in Westminster Abbey. Garrick’s statue of Shakespeare was based on the Chandos portrait while the actor himself is reputed to have modelled the pose. On Garrick’s death the statue was bequeathed to his wife for her lifetime and then to the British Museum where it stands today in the King’s Library.

On completing the Shakespeare statue, Roubiliac turned his skills to its owner and made the gilt bronze now in the Garrick Club. The Roubiliac statue in the niche was joined by other Shakespeare relics which Garrick collected over the years.”

From the website of the Victoria and Albert Museum:

“(This) full-length marble statue of the composer George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) was commissioned by the entrepreneur and collector Jonathan Tyers, who ran Spring Gardens at Vauxhall in London in the mid-18th century. Handel was then a leading figure in the capital’s musical life. Since public life-size marble statues of living subjects were until this date undertaken only for monarchs, noblemen or military leaders, this figure made a considerable impact at the time. It is the earliest-known independent work by Roubiliac, and established his reputation as a sculptor.

Roubiliac probably knew Handel. They might have met at Slaughter’s Coffee House in St Martin’s Lane to exchange gossip and discuss Handel’s scores, which had been published with engraved illustrations by Gravelot, a French artist who was also a friend of the most famous frequenter of Slaughter’s, William Hogarth. They may all have discussed Hogarth’s engravings of ‘The Rake’s Progress’ and ‘Handel’s Oratorios’ before setting off up the river to the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall owned by yet another friend of Hogarth, the businessman Jonathan Tyers.”

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