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John Michael Rysbrack, 1694–1770

William III

ca. 1736
Materials & Techniques:
Overall: 25 1/2 x 18 x 11 3/4 inches (64.8 x 45.7 x 29.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
king (person) | lion | man | portrait | Roman | wreaths (costume accessories)
Associated People:
William III and II (1650–1702), king of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and prince of Orange
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

This posthumous bust of William III was made by John Michael Rysbrack, an émigré Flemish artist who became England’s leading sculptor in the first half of the eighteenth century. The Dutch-born William assumed the English throne in 1688 after landing in England with a small army. He had been invited to intervene in British affairs by a group of Whig grandees who were opposed to the policies of the Catholic King James II, which they feared would lead to the end of English Protestantism. William’s foreign policy led to two long wars against France from which Britain emerged as a major global power. This celebratory bust of William as an ancient Roman was made more than thirty years after his death, indicative of his lasting legacy as an icon of British Protestantism.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

William of Orange (1650-1702), Stadholder or prince of the Netherlands, was the Protestant grandson of King Charles I, and the husband--cousin of Princess Mary of York (1662-1702), the eldest daughter of James II. In the so-called "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, James was deposed-and, according to Bishop Burnet, "his whole strength, like a spider's web, was so irrevocably broken with a touch, that he was never able to retrieve what for want of judgement and heart he threw up in a day." Afterwards, the two cousins reigned together as King William III and Queen Mary II. Rysbrack's bust, which dates from long after William's death, alludes with Hanoverian bluntness to his role in securing the Protestant succession: hHe wears a laurel wreath.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005

Art in Focus : William III (Yale Center for British Art, 2011-04-08 - 2011-07-31) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Entrance Court 2003-4 (Yale Center for British Art, 2003-03-01 - 2004-09-07) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Crown Pictorial - Art and the British Monarchy (Yale Center for British Art, 1990-12-05 - 1991-02-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Linda Colley, Crown Pictorial : Art and the British Monarchy : Exhibition Labels, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1990, p. 20, no. 47, N8219 K5 C761 1990 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Linda Colley, Crown Pictorial : Art and the British Monarchy, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1990, p. 30, no. 47, no. 47, N8219 K5 C76 1990 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Katharine Eustace, Michael Rysbrack, sculptor, 1694-1770, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol (Avon), 1982, pp. 30-32, fig. 12, NJ18 R973 E87 (YCBA) [YCBA]

The British Augustan Oligarchy in Portraiture, Michael Rysbrack and his Bust of the Earl of Orkney , British Art Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, 2010/11, pp. 50, 51, Pl. 13, N6761 B74 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Angus Trumble, The Marble Bust, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2004, no. 13, V 1304 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Giles Waterfield, The Illusion of Life : Michael Rysbrack (1649-1770), Country Life, vol. 171, London, March 18, 1982, pp. 700-701, S3 C9 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ellis Waterhouse, Sculpture from the Paul Mellon Collection at the British Art Center at Yale, Burlington Magazine, vol. 119, May 1977, p. 351, fig. 52, N1 +B87 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

William III, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2011, pp. 8, 11, 22, V2340 [ORBIS]

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