Sculpture Journal

The business practice of Louis François Roubiliac, 1752-62

Sculpture Journal (2021), 30, (3), 285–301.

Abstract

Evidence for the organization of Roubiliac’s workshop in the last ten years of his life is provided by the ledgers of his bank account opened with Drummond’s, Charing Cross, in the year of the sculptor’s third marriage to the Deptford heiress Elizabeth Crosby in 1752. The resulting financial confidence, albeit short-lived, enabled Roubiliac’s visit to Italy with Thomas Hudson, also in 1752. The ledgers reflect the sculptor’s expanding business between 1755 and 1760 and document his assistants Christian Carlsen Seest from 1756 to 1759, Nicholas Read from 1756 to 1760 and Nathaniel Smith between 1755 and 1761. Other payees can be identified as masons assisting with installation and suppliers of marble. Payments to and from silversmiths and jewellers indicate Roubiliac’s close connection with those of French origin trading in the London luxury market, including Thomas Harrache, who served as the sculptor’s executor. Roubiliac’s ledgers also provide negative evidence - he was not always paid in full for his work, as his will drawn up six days before his death indicates: ‘all my book debts which is due to me to be equally divided into four parts’. This suggests that Roubiliac’s reputation for taking an excessively long time to complete commissions resulted in his forfeiting full payment, and explains why he died in debt. A letter from the sculptor to the agent of the 4th Earl of Gainsborough in 1751, requesting settlement of a bill for plaster busts supplied four years earlier, published for the first time, demonstrates Roubiliac’s poor grasp of the English language as well as his lack of business acumen.

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Author details

Murdoch, Tessa