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Louis François Roubiliac, 1702–1762, French, active in Britain (from 1730)

Alexander Pope

Overall: 24 3/4 x 17 x 9 inches (62.9 x 43.2 x 22.9 cm)

Signed and dated by chisel under sitter's shoulder, proper right: "Anno Dom. | MDCCXLI. | L.F. Roubiliac | Scit. Ad vivum"

Inscribed, chiseled on front of socle: 'POPE'; on proper left under sitter's shoulder: 'ALEX. POPE. Nats. LONDINI, | die 8o. junii anno MDCLXXXVIII. | Obiit in vico Twickenham prope | Urbem, die 8o. maii MDCCXLIV"; on front of twentieth century pedestal: "GIFT OF PAUL MELLON | IN MEMORY OF | BASIL TAYLOR | BRITISH ART HISTORIAN | 1922-1975 | FRIEND, MENTOR | AND GENEROUS SOURCE | OF WISE ADVICE | IN THE COURSE OF ASSEMBLING | THIS COLLECTION OF | BRITISH ART"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Paul Mellon in memory of the British art historian Basil Taylor (1922–1975)
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
Enlightenment | poet | portrait
Associated People:
Pope, Alexander (1688–1744), poet
On view

The English poet, man of letters, satirist, wit, translator of Homer, and editor of Shakespeare, Alexander Pope (1688–1744) was one of the greatest figures of the Enlightenment. Largely self-educated, Pope was also one of the first English poets to generate a comfortable income from nondramatic writing. His brilliance was such that he came to dominate the world of English poetry and letters in the first half of the eighteenth century in a manner to which no subsequent poet could reasonably aspire or possibly emulate. The fluency and elegance of his poetic writing were matched by the originality and sharpness of his intellect. Pope was a Catholic, a friend of Jonathan Swift, a keen gardener, and a neighbor, at Twickenham, of the traveler and diarist Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Pope’s fame was such that he was also one of the most frequently portrayed men of the age. Wimsatt catalogued more than sixty portraits, many of which exist in multiple versions, and still others reappear from time to time. There are portraits of Pope by Godfrey Kneller, Jonathan Richardson the elder, Jervas, Hoare of Bath, and Van Loo. And there are busts by Michael Rysbrack and four marble versions of the present work, which in due course spawned sets of four successfully marketed library busts of Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, and Pope, based on the original terracotta modello (1738, Barber Institute of Arts at the University of Birmingham) by Louis-François Roubiliac. This fine version, which was given to the Center by Paul Mellon, was possibly commissioned by the author, Tory politician, and diplomat Viscount Bolingbroke (1678–1751) and was subsequently owned by two prime ministers. It is not clear whether it was one of the two marble busts of Pope that were listed as “marble head” and “marble bust” in the sculptor’s studio sale of 1762. The socle is modern. The other three versions are at Temple Newsam House, Leeds; the Fitzwilliam collection at Minton, Peterborough; and the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead. George Vertue thought Roubiliac’s busts of “Mr. Pope more like than any other sculptor has done I think” (Vertue, “Note Books”), and Reynolds told Malone that the sculptor had described Pope’s appearance during the sittings “as that of a person who had been much afflicted with the headache, and that he should have known the fact from the contracted appearance of the skin above the eyebrows, though he had not otherwise been apprized of it” (Wimsatt, 1965, p. 229).

Acquisition of the Year, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection : 775 paintings purchased by the Spanish Government , Apollo, 139, London, December 1993, pp. 358-359, fig. 5, N1 A54 138:2 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Malcolm Baker, The making of portrait busts in the mid-eighteenth century, Roubiliac, Scheemakers and Trinity College, Dublin , Burlington Magazine, vol. 137, December 1995, pp. 822-823, 826-827, 829, 830, pl. 40, fig. 48,49, N1 B87 137:3 OVERSIZE (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. 69, 70, 172, 196, 1197, 200, 206, 208-09, 267, 268, 269-70, 273-74, figs. 68, 218, 229, 233, 287, NB466 .B355 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, pp. 10, 247-248, no. 15, fig. 9, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Calendar, USA and Canada , Burlington Magazine, 136, The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd., London, February 1994, p. 143, no. 73, N1 B87 136:1 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Lorna Clymer, Ritual, routine and regime, repetition in early modern British and European cultures , University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2006, pp. 12-13, 225-227, 232-236, fig. 10.1, 10.3, BH301.R46 R58X 2006 (SML)

Walter Cupperi, Multiples in pre-modern art, Diaphanes, Zurich, 2014, pp. 278, 278, fig. 7, NB60 .M85 2014

Alan Phipps Darr, Virtuoso carvings, Three Eigtheenth-century British portrait sculptures by Le Marchand, Roubiliac, and Chaffers , Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts, vol. 83, 2009, p. 45, V 2189 (YCBA)

Aileen Dawson, Portrait Sculpture, A catalogue of the British Museum collection c. 1675-1975 , British Museum Press, London, 1999, pp. 165-166, no. 64, fig. 46, NB1305 G7 D28 1999 (YCBA)

Martina Droth, Britain in the world: Highlights from the Yale Center for British Art in honor of Amy Meyers, Yale University Press, New Haven, London, p. 36, N6761 .Y33 2019 (LC) (YCBA)

Lindsay Duguid, The Recollected Works, TLS, the Times Literary Supplement, Issue no. 5458, November 8, 2007, p. 17, Available Online : TLS Archive Also Available on microfilm : Film S748 (SML)

Katherine Ada McDowall Esdaile, The life and works of Louis François Roubiliac, Oxford University Press, London, 1928, pp. 2, 47-49, 103-105, 107, 178-179, 185, NJ18 R764 E83 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Fame & friendship, Pope, Roubiliac, and the portrait bust in eighteenth-century Britain , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 2014, cover,pp. 5 9, 15, 17, 21, 23, , V 2515 (YCBA)

Mark Hallett, Reynolds : portraiture in action, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, 2014, pp. 303, 304, fig. no. 292, NJ18.R36 H35 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Roger Hinks, Le Bicentenaire de Louis François Roubiliac, Etudes Anglaises, vol. 15, January/March 1962, p. 3, Available online at British Periodicals I

Muriel Julius, Rococo, The Art of Frivolity , Contemporary Review, vol. 245, London ; New York, NY, August 1984, p. 99, Available online at British Periodicals I

Kenwood House, Eighteenth Century Portrait Busts, Exhibition at the Iveagh Bequest Kenwood : June to September 1959 , London County Council, London, June to September 1959, pp. 22-23, no. 21, NB1309 L65 (YCBA)

John F. Kerslake, Early Georgian portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1977, p.218, N1090 A591 (YCBA)

Madeleine Mainstone, Roubiliac's Handel, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1976, pl. 7, V 2279 (YCBA)

Robinson & Fisher Sale Catalogue :The Peel Heirlooms including fine engravings , clocks , candelabra , decorative furniture , China , curios , sculpture ... :May 10-11 1900, Robinson & Fisher, Robinson & Fisher, London, May 10 - 11, 1900, p. 13, lot no. 142, Available on line : Art Sales Catalogues Online Lugt 58170

Ingrid Roscoe, A biographical dictionary of sculptors in Britain, 1660-1851, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2009, pp. 1063, 1067, no. 69, NB496 B56 2009 (YCBA) (Wall Shelf 3) Also available in online database (Herts [England] : The Henry Moore Foundation, 2010-) : see Orbis record for link to internet resource

Sotheby's sale catalogue : European Works of Art and Sculpture including ... an English Marble Bust of Alexander Pope by Louis-Francois Roubiliac signed and dated 1741 : 5 July 1990, , Sotheby's, Sotheby's, London, July 5, 1990, pp. 32-36, lot 57, Auction Catalogues (YCBA) Unbound catalogue

The Yale Center for British Art, An Anniversary Celebration of Paul Mellon's Great Legacy , Apollo, April 2007, front cover, N5220 M552 A7 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Appeared as April 2007 issue of Apollo;; all of the articles may also be found in bound Apollo Volume [N1 A54 165:2 +]

Angus Trumble, The Marble Bust, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2004, no. 12, V 1304 (YCBA)

Blakey Vermeule, The party of humanity, writing moral psychology in eighteenth-century Britain , Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 2000, pp. 64-65, fig. 2, PR448 P75 V47 2000 (SML)

Giles Waterfield, Mr Mellon, RA : the magazine for the Friends of the Royal Academy, No. 96, Autumn 2007, p. 71, V 1905 (YCBA) Detached from RA, no.96 (2007:Autumn)

Marjorie Isabel Webb, Michael Rysbrack, sculptor., Country Life Limited, London, 1954, pp. 77-78, NJ18 R973 W43 (YCBA)

Margaret Whinney, English Sculpture 1720-1830, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1971, front cover, pp. 80-82, no. 21, NB1305 G7 W45 (YCBA)

Margaret Whinney, Sculpture in Britain, 1530-1830, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England, 1988, pp/ 201-03, 545 n. 16, fig. 139, NB464 W5 1988 (YCBA)

David Wilson, Michael Rysback's Antique Head on Modern Shoulders, Georgian Group Journal, vol. 21, Georgian Group, 2013, P. 17, Fig. 2, NA966 G46 (YCBA)

William K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1965, pp. 227-229, 244-246, 248-249, no. 61.1, , PR3633 W55 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

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