Enfilade

Display | Two Busts by Rysbrack

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 22, 2017

From the DIA press release (19 January 2017). . .

Two Busts of John Barnard by John Michael Rysbrack
Detroit Institute of Arts, January 2017 — Summer 2018

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John Michael Rysbrack, Portrait of John Barnard, 1744, marble (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976.330).

The Detroit Institute of Arts welcomes two new ‘guests of honor’: a terracotta model and a marble bust of a young boy, John Barnard, by John Michael Rysbrack. The model is on loan from a private collector and the bust is on loan from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Shown together for the first time, these immaculately preserved portraits provide a rare glimpse of Rysbrack’s creative process. The sculptures, both of which the artist signed and dated, showcase both Rysbrack’s mastery of modeling terracotta and his exceptional skill as a marble carver. They will be on view through summer 2018.

Born and trained in Antwerp, Rysbrack moved to London in 1720 and quickly became one of the leading sculptors working in 18th-century England. Along with his fellow expatriate sculptor Louis François Roubiliac, whose arresting bust of the architect Isaac Ware stands as a major highlight of the DIA’s British portrait collection, Rysbrack was instrumental in elevating the popularity of the sculpted portrait bust above that of more conventional painted portraits in England.

While Rysbrack was highly sought after for his psychologically dynamic portraits, only a handful of his surviving works represent children. On the back of the marble bust, Rysbrack inscribed the name of his young sitter, John Barnard, the son of a British clergyman. The boy is fashionably outfitted in a Hussar’s costume, the uniform of a Hungarian cavalryman. Deriving from England’s sympathy for Hungary and Vienna during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), the fad for the Hussar’s uniform appeared often throughout the 1740s in portraits of children and adults alike.

The livelier expression on the boy’s face in the hand-modeled terracotta contrasts with his graver yet youthful appearance in the marble, suggesting that the portrait was intended as a posthumous tribute to a child who died at a young age. Viewing the Metropolitan Museum’s marble bust alongside its corresponding terracotta model presents a unique opportunity to appreciate Rysbrack’s ability to transform keen observation of youthful vitality into an enduring memorial portrait. The two works are on display in the third floor British portrait gallery.

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