Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait Bust of John Locke FRS (1632 - 1704) 1700c.

 English School 

Portrait Bust of John Locke FRS (1632 - 1704),  English School
Wood painted to resemble marble
18th Century
25 inches 76.2 cm high
This wooden bust, white-washed in suggestion of stone, of the eminent English philosopher John Locke is an interesting and important example of sculpture in Britain before the advent of French masters such as Roubiliac and Rysbrack slightly later in the century. Although apparently crude in execution compared with the absolute versimilitude that foreign and native sculptors were later able to achieve it projects a forceful presence. The bold, almost anguished characterisation communicates to its audience a Baroque intensity, and suggests the dynamic mind in the failing body. This sense of a medium barely able to contain the raw power of its subject is present even in the work of John Cheere (1707 1787), which makes the same contrast with the ease and elegance of the rococo sculptors.

Locke was later sculpted in 1736 by Roubiliac for Queen Caroline''s pantheon of worthies, and other near-contemporary sculptural portraits are known. A stone bust in a private collection very closely resembles the present bust, and bears a date of 1708, although it is less clear that the various busts depend on each other rather than that they derive from painted portraits executed in the previous century, such as the examples by Harmen Verelst or Sir Godfrey Kneller, rendered into the Augustan undress that was thought the proper appearance of a man of genius.

This bust would appear to have been designed for a setting in an architectural interior, most probably, from its subject, in a library. The shaping of the bust resolves itself most satisfactorily when viewed di sotto in su and this further reinforced the belief that it was designed to be viewed in some elevated position.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.