A re-attribution

Detail of the bust of Charles II at Seaton Delaval Hall, now attributed to Caius Gabriel Cibber. Image: National Trust/Andrew McGregor

In response to the previous post about the bust of Charles II, Alastair Laing has just told me that he now thinks the maker of the bust is in fact Caius Gabriel Cibber (1630-1700). There is no documentation proving that the bust was either by Bushnell or by Cibber, but stylistically the latter seems a better fit. Such re-attributions are part of the ongoing research into our collections.

Sundial in the form of Time with an attendant cherub, by Caius Gabriel Cibber, in the Dutch Garden at Belton House, Lincolnshire.

Cibber was born in Denmark, travelled to Italy when he was about seventeen and moved to England in about 1655. He became sculptor to Charles II in 1667. When he was imprisoned for gambling debts this position allowed him to be released from the Marshalsea prison on a daily basis to carve the large relief on the monument to the great fire of London.

His masterpiece is probably the pair of reclining figures Melancholy Madness and Raving Madness which he created for the gates of the Bethlem Hospital. Other places he worked at include Belvoir Castle, Chatsworth, Hampton Court and St Paul’s Cathedral. A sundial by Cibber is at Belton House (above).

7 Responses to “A re-attribution”

  1. Hels Says:

    Great stuff.

    Belton House was built in the 1685-90 period, perfect timing for the arrival of William and Mary, and for the expulsion of the Huguenots from France to Holland (amongst other countries). So I am delighted to see the Dutch Garden at Belton House.

    Does Cibber’s Sundial in the Form of Time with a Cherub fit in with restrained Palladian-style architecture and Dutch gardens? If not, I wonder why Cibber was commissioned to create the piece.

  2. le style et la matière Says:

    Powerful sculpture. I followed up to the Bethlem site. I had to see Raving and Melancholy Madness. Very interesting there too and though it’s not your main point, it was a good lead.

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Hels, Yes in some ways Belton (there is an image of the house in my earlier post about the Chinese wallpaper there) looks a bit ‘Dutch’, with echoes of the Royal Palace (originally Town Hall) in Amsterdam by van Campen.

    I am not an architectural historian, but I think one can say that both the Royal Palace and Belton were part of the same restrained northern version of the Baroque. So in that sense Belton is an appropriate place for the Baroque Cibber sundial.

    I will find out when the sundial was placed at Belton, and when the Dutch Garden was created, and report back.

    Le Style: Yes those figures are an interesting early depiction of mental illness. Apparently they made a big impression at the time, and they feature in Alexander Pope’s poem The Dunciad.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Hels, It turns out the sundial was brought to Belton by Sir John Brownlow, the 5th Baronet (later created Viscount Tyrconnel), who inherited the house in 1702 – which was after Cibber’s death, but the sundial was obviously still considered fashionable enough to adorn a grand garden.

    The Baroque-style Dutch Garden is one of those surprises you often encounter at country houses: it actually dates from 1879 and was created by the 3rd Earl Brownlow and his wife Lady Adelaide, as part of their restoration of the house and the garden. They were stripping out the eighteenth-century elements and reinserting Baroque ones, a fascinating example of Victorian historicism.

  5. Karena Says:

    I am always astounded by the power of sculpture and the figurative details that stand out so perfectly.

    Art by Karena

    I have an interview up on my site with artist Rober Anders that is fascinating.

  6. Hels Says:

    I actually did consider (briefly) that the sundial might have been added at a later era. Even after all these years, Victorian historicism, or any other era of historicism, always throws me.

    But the Dutch Garden being installed or re-installed in the late 19th century throws me even more. I feel like saying to the owner “Look lady, Dutch gardens fitted beautifully with William and Mary. You cannot strip out all the elements that have appeared since then, and return to the 1690s”. However I have to admit that the gardens do look good.

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Your argument beautifully illustrates the ‘anti-scrape’ point of view, i.e. that it is better to conserve as found.

    But it also shows how the concept of ‘authenticity’ is always changing. The fourth Earl and Countess obviously thought that they were making Belton more authentic. However, as you say, there is a case to be made for saying that they were faking it by obliterating the evidence of the eighteenth century.

    The present arrangement at Belton perpetuates the Victorian historicist version, partly because it works visually and partly because it would be very difficult and expensive to change. At each house and each garden there are different factors at play, which makes this an endlessly fascinating subject.

    No doubt you know Het Loo in Holland, where they dug up the English landscape garden twenty years ago to reinstate the Baroque garden of William and Mary: a fake, obviously, but an amazingly thorough and authentic-feeling fake.

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