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Attributed to Francis Xavier Vispré, active 1730–1790
Formerly attributed to Francis Cotes, 1726–1770

Louis François Roubiliac

Additional Title(s):

Louis François Roubiliac (1702-1762)

ca. 1760
Materials & Techniques:
Pastel on moderately textured, wove paper, mounted to canvas
Sheet: 24 1/2 × 21 1/2 inches (62.2 × 54.6 cm), Frame: 30 1/4 x 27 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches (76.8 x 69.9 x 6.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
Associated People:
Roubiliac, Louis François (1702–1762), sculptor
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IIIF Manifest:

The French-born Huguenot sculptor Luis François Roubiliac (1702-62) settled in London around 1730. Roubiliac "met with small encouragement at first," but his celebrated statue of George Frideric Handel for Vauxhall Gardens established his reputation as the foremost sculptor in the English rococo movement. Renowned for his vivid portrait busts and theatrical large-scale funerary monuments, Roubiliac eclipsed his contemporaries, and only his older rival Michael Rysbrack (see cat. 152) enjoyed such his public estimation. One of his best-known and most influential sitters, Lord Chesterfield, opined: "Roubiliac only was a statuary, the rest stone-cutters."
In this eloquent portrait drawing Roubiliac is depicted with his sculptor's calipers in hand, deep in contemplation or awaiting inspiration. The terra-cotta sculpture on which Roubiliac thoughtfully leans bears some resemblance to the head of the Britannia figure in the sculptor's 1753 monument to Admiral Sir Peter Warren in Westminster Abbey; it was also described as the head of Medusa by a nineteenth-century reviewer - an appropriate emblem for a portrait of a sculptor, whose occupation is to transform living features into stone.
The portrait has been attributed recently to François-Xavier Vispré, a fellow-Huguenot and close friend and neighbor of Roubiliac. Although stylistic comparison with known works by Vispré has not been conclusive, circumstantial detail makes the attribution seem very likely. Vispré exhibited a pastel of Roubiliac at the Society of Artists in London in 1760, and this may have been ca. 6. The exhibited portrait made a powerful impression on the reviewer of the Imperial Magazine, or Complete Monthly Intelligencer, whose enthralled account suggests at least affinities with the Center's drawing: 'the man himself alive, breathing and just going to speak; most admirable! and himself never in marble cut better."

Gillian Forrester

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 21 cat. no. 6

Fame and Friendship : Pope , Roubiliac , and the Eighteenth-Century Portrait Bust (Waddesdon (NT), 2014-06-18 - 2014-10-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Fame and Friendship : Pope , Roubiliac , and the Eighteenth-Century Portrait Bust (Yale Center for British Art, 2014-02-20 - 2014-05-19) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

English Portrait Drawings & Miniatures (Yale Center for British Art, 1979-12-05 - 1980-02-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Art : The Definitive Visual History, DK Publishing, New York, 2018, p. 264, NX440 .A785 2018 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Baker, The marble index : Roubiliac and sculptural portraiture in eighteenth-century Britain, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, 2014, pp. 226, 227;, fig. 250, NB466 .B355 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Katherine Ada McDowall Esdaile, The life and works of Louis François Roubiliac, Oxford University Press, London, 1928, pp. 180-190, NJ18 R764 E83 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Fame & friendship, Pope, Roubiliac, and the portrait bust in eighteenth-century Britain , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 2014, p. 25, V 2515 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Edward Mead Johnson, Francis Cotes, Phaidon, Oxford, 1976, no. 82, NJ18 C799 A12 J64 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

John F. Kerslake, Early Georgian portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1977, Vol. 1, p. 238, fig. 697, N1090 A591 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Tessa Violet Murdoch, Roubiliac and Sprimont : a friendship revisited, Burlington Magazine, vol. 165, June 2023, p. 600, fig. 1, N1 .B87 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Patrick Noon, English Portrait Drawings & Miniatures, Yale Center for British Art, 1979, pp. 48-49, no. 51, NC772 N66+ (Wall Shelf) (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 21, no. 6, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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