Study Day | Fame and Friendship: Pope, Roubiliac and the Portrait Bust

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on May 31, 2014

The exhibition Fame and Friendship: Pope, Roubiliac and the Portrait Bust (recently closed at YCBA) opens June 18 at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire (where it will be on display until 26 October 2014). In connection, Malcolm Baker will lead a special interest day on Thursday, 10 July.

From Waddesdon Manor:

Study Day | Fame and Friendship: Pope, Roubiliac and the Portrait Bust
Waddesdon Manor and Stowe Landscape Gardens, 10 July 2014

roubiliac_2014Led by Professor Malcolm Baker, the curator of the exhibition, this day will begin with an in-depth look at Fame and Friendship: Pope, Roubiliac and the Portrait Bust, followed by lunch in the Manor Restaurant. In the afternoon, participants will travel to nearby Stowe Landscape Gardens to see the famous Temple of British Worthies and to explore the central role of the sculpture portrait bust in the creation and celebration of fame and friendship. The day will end with tea at Stowe. The price of your ticket (£70) includes coach travel from Waddesdon to Stowe and return to your car at Waddesdon; normal admissions charges apply to both Waddesdon and Stowe.

Malcolm Baker is Distinguished Professor of the History of Art, University of California, Riverside, and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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In addition to The Marble Index: Roubiliac and Sculptural Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Malcolm Baker’s major publication related to the exhibition and due out later this year from Yale University Press, a more tightly focused catalogue will be published by Paul Holberton:

Malcolm Baker, Fame and Friendship: Pope, Roubiliac and the Portrait Bust (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2014), 128 pages, ISBN: 978-0954731052, £15 / $25.

9780954731052_p0_v1_s600No literary figure of the eighteenth century was more esteemed than the poet Alexander Pope, and his sculpted portraits exemplify the celebration of literary fame at a period when authorship was being newly conceived and the portrait bust was enjoying new popularity. Accompanying an exhibition at Waddesdon Manor (The Rothschild Collection), this publication explores the convergence between authorship, portraiture, and the sculpted image in particular, by bringing together a wide range of works that foreground Pope’s celebrity status.

Pope took great pains over how he was represented and carefully fashioned his public persona through images, published letters and the printed editions of his works. Alongside some of the most celebrated painted portraits of the poet will be a selection of the printed texts which Pope planned with meticulous care. The publication focuses on eight versions of the same portrait bust by the leading sculptor of the period, Louis François Roubiliac.

The marble bust had long been seen as a form appropriate for the celebration of literary fame and Pope’s bust in part imitates those of classical authors whose works he both translated and consciously imitated in his own poems. More than any other sculptor, Roubiliac reworked the conventions of the bust, transforming it into a genre that was considered worthy of close and sustained attention. Nowhere is this seen more tellingly than in his compelling and intense portraits of Pope. Based on a vividly modelled clay original, the variant marble versions were carved with arresting virtuosity, recalling Pope’s own phrase, “Marble, soften’d into Life.” At the same time, the image was reproduced by both the sculptor himself and by others, in a variety of materials.

Multiplied and reproduced throughout the eighteenth century, Pope’s bust was the most familiar and visible sign of his authorial fame. At the same time, it was also used as a way of articulating friendship—a constant theme in Pope’s verse—and all the early versions of Roubiliac’s bust were probably executed for Pope’s closest friends. By bringing together the eight versions thought to have been executed by Roubiliac and his studio, and a number of other copies in marble, plaster and ceramic, this publication will offer the opportunity to explore not only the complex relationship between these various versions but the hitherto little understood processes of sculptural production and replication in eighteenth-century Britain.

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