This is a bronze cast after a plaster version of the original terracotta statuette by John Michael Rysbrack (now in a private collection). In the early 1740s, as his popularity came under threat from rival sculptors Scheemakers and Roubiliac, Rysbrack made a series of three full-length terracotta statuettes, representing Rubens, van Dyke and Fiamingo Quenoy. All three subjects, like the sculptor himself, were artists from Flanders. The engraver and antiquary George Vertue wrote in praise of the sculptures in 1743:
‘the gracefulness of the Actions the dispositions of their habit, attitudes, and natural likeness, is most excellent. Q[uestion] if any other Artist living could do better and more masterly execute them.’
In 1744, the ‘Daily Advertiser’ announced a proposal to cast the statuettes in Plaster of Paris and invited subscribers to order the complete set for seven and a half guineas. It appears Joseph van Aken, a drapery painter who had travelled to England from Antwerp at about the same time as Rysbrack, had purchased the original terracotta models from the sculptor and was in partnership with Rysbrack in this financial venture.
John Michael Rysbrack was born in Antwerp, the son of landscape painter Peeter Rijsbrack. He is thought to have trained under Michiel van der Voort from 1706 to 1712. He later became a member of the Guild of Painters in Antwerp. In 1720, he moved to England. Rysbrack enjoyed a successful career in London as a sculptor of portrait busts, statues and funerary monuments. However, by the 1740s he was losing commissions to rival sculptors Scheemakers and Roubiliac. In 1745, he became a Governor and Guardian of the Foundling Hospital and, in 1769, a founder member of the Royal Academy. However, he suffered increasingly from fluid retention in his later years and retired in 1764, devoting his time to drawing for pleasure. He died six years later.
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