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JAMES TASSIE 2 735-1799 Modeller in Glass A Classical Approach

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H U N T E R , H E N R Y ( 1 7 4 1 - 1 8 0 2 ) , divine, born at Culross, Perthshire, on 25 A u g u s t 1741, w a s the fifth child of David and A g n e s Hunter. In 1754 he w a s sent to the university of Edinburgh. On 2 M a y 1764 he received license to preach from the presbvtery of Dunfermline, and w a s ordained minister of South Leith on 9 J a n u a r y 1766. In 1769 he preached in L o n d o n , and declined a call from the Scots congregation in S w a l l o w Street, I'iccadilly; but in 1771 he accepted an invitation from the congregation at London Wall, and about the s a m e time w a s created D D by the university of Edinburgh. He officiated as chaplain to the Scots Corporatii)n in L o n d o n , and was, on 5 A u g u s t 1790, elected secretary to the c o r r e s p o n d i n g board of the Society for Propagating Christian K n o w l e d g e in the H i g h l a n d s and Islands of Scotland. His closing years w e r e clouded by the loss of four of his seven children. He died at Bristol on 27 O c t o b e r 1802, and w a s buried on 6 N o v e m b e r in Bunhill Fields.

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Tassie intaglios, mainly after the antique, s h o w i n g his use of both clear and coloured glass /ms/c.


J a m e s Tassie by David Allen (1744-1796). The Scottish Nntkvml Portrait GnUcry.


JAMES TASSIE 1735-1799

MODELLER IN GLASS A CLASSICAL APPROACH

John P. Smith Published on the occasion of an exhibition at Mallett of the work of James Tassie and his contemporaries.

MALLETT 1995


Acknowledgements T h e author would like to thank the following for generously giving their time in helping him prepare this v o l u m e for publication: the following librarians for their help: Paddy Rogers and her staff at T h e Corning M u s e u m of Glass, N e w York; Helen Watson, Librarian to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Mrs 1 M c C a b e , Librarian to T h e Royal Institution, London. From the m u s e u m s , the following h a v e given valuable help: J a m e s Holloway and Susanna Kerr of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, together with Helen Smailes, formerly of this gallery and n o w at T h e National Gallery of Scotland; J u d y R u d o e of T h e Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities, T h e British M u s e u m ; Wendy Evans of the M u s e u m of London; Peter Kallgren of T h e Royal Ontario M u s e u m , C a n a d a ; Lucy C u l l a m from T h e Sculpture Department of T h e Victoria and Albert M u s e u m ; Dr Jutta-Annette Bruhn of T h e Corning M u s e u m of Glass; Alyson Pollard of the National M u s e u m s and Galleries of Merseyside; Peter Francis, Q u e e n ' s University, Belfast. From outside the m u s e u m world.

the author w o u l d like to thank G e r t r u d e S e i d m a n n from the Oxford University Department of Archaeology for information on Dactyliothecae; Nicholas G o o d i s o n for information on M a t t h e w Boulton's use of Tassie medallions; Timothy Clifford in his private capacity as a scholar of medallists; Jill and Ed Bace w h o provided nearly all my information on classical history; Professor J a m e s Tassie of O t t a w a a distant relative of the subject of this volume. Also Tim Millett of A W Baldwin, Richard Rigby and Lindsay Grigsby, all dealers w h o s e interest in their subject extends well b e y o n d the needs of commerce; S i m o n Cottle of Sotheby and Peter Tandy, Departmen of Mineralogy, Natural History M u s e u m , London. Al the photographs for this b o o k h a v e been taken by Clive Bartlett with his customary skill and this w h o l e v o l u m e has b e e n assembled by m y assistant, Marika Hughes.

The Trade Card of James Tassie when he was established at no 20 Leicester Fields, now known as Leicester Square.

Š Mallett & Son (Antiques) Ltd Published by Mallett & Son (Antiques) Ltd 141 New Bond Street, London WIYOBS Telephone: O i y i - W 7411 Fax: 0171-495 3179 On the occasion of an exhibition held at Mallett December 1993 ISBN 0 95161,59 3 9 Designed by Paul Sharp Printed in England by BAS Printers Ltd, Over Wallop, Hampshire


Contents Preface

6

J a m e s Tassie - Based on the b o o k written by John G r a y in 1894

9

T h e True M e t h o d s of J a m e s Tassie - Based on our current understanding

21

Dactyhothecae

22

H o w to m a k e portraits

22

Sulphurs

23

Ivory, tortoiseshell & horn

23

T h e hfe of John Henning

24

Excerpts from letters written by J a m e s and William Tassie to Alex Wilson of G l a s g o w 28 Tassie medallions and other manufacturers

32

Apsley Pellatt and the production of sulphides

34

S u l p h u r - its properties and uses

36

Classicism

37

Tassie intaglios

43

Pretty O r n a m e n t s for W i n d o w s

48

T h e King of Naples crystal

49

T h e smaller e n a m e l s of J a m e s Tassie

50

T h e large enamels of J a m e s Tassie

56

Bibliography

66


Preface James Tassie, the eighteenth century sculptor, made his fame and a good fortune by perfecting a method of reproducing his artistic work in glass. These lustrous items, durable and as fresh today as the day that they were cast, remain a lasting memorial to the classical taste of his age. His portraits in white glass are to be found in most of the major museums of the world. The life and work of James Tassie were exhaustively described by John M Gray in 1894. At that time. Gray was Curator at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and also Keeper of the Tassie Collection which was then in possession of the Board of Manufacturers, Scotland. As often happens, a great and extensive work stultified further research for many decades. This was particularly true of James Tassie. Virtually all the subsequent literature on this great artist has been derived from John Gray's work. The only exception being a pamphlet in the Scottish Masters Series in which James Holloway has briefly placed Tassie within an eighteenth century London setting. James Tassie was not, as is sometimes suggested, a pioneer discovering previously unknown fields, but he was that rare combination; a fine artist, a good businessman and apparently a much loved person. His business was continued on his death by his nephew, William, who also had James's latter two qualities but was much less skilled an artist. As a young man, Tassie attended an art Academy in Glasgow and then travelled to Dublin, where he met Dr Quin. Little is known of Dr Quin, other than the fact that as well as being a physician, he was also an ingenious man and a patron of art and artists. Dr Quin had a small furnace and was following the method published by M G Homberg, in 1714 in France. He successfully made copies of ancient jewellery in glass paste. The use of the word paste has caused considerable confusion in the minds of later commentators on Tassie's work. In this context, what is meant by paste is not an admixture of solids with a liquid, as in toothpaste, or as in Pate de Verre where ground glass is mixed with water and a binder, moulded, and then sintered, a method used by French glass artists of the early twentieth century.

A Greek hero in white enamel on a dark bhie ground.


Tassie used the word paste in its gemological context. That is a high lead glass, often coloured, which was used in the production of what we would now call costume jewellery. While in the company of Dr Quin, Tassie learnt not only the production of intaglio jewel-like objects, but also how to reproduce medallions which he had sculptured in wax. Tassie used a white glass which he referred to as enamel, another semantic pitfall for later commentators. As well as befriending Tassie, Dr Quin also encouraged John Mossop Senior, who later became a famous medallist. Tassie briefly returned to Edinburgh but then moved to London which was THE fashionable place in the British Isles. Recent research has shown that in the second half of the eighteenth century, shopping and attending exhibitions had been a fashionable pastime amongst the monied classes. It was important to be seen at the right private view and purchase the most recent novelty. Tassie acquired a showroom next door to Josiah Wedgwood's and although this lost him the patronage of Josiah, who had previously been an important customer of Tassie (Tassie had supplied plaques of both contemporary and classic interest for Wedgwood to use), the resultant gain in business by being in what would we would call, today, a prime retail site, more than outweighed this small disadvantage. Tassie was extremely successful in his new venture. The methods which Tassie used were originally both known and published, but subsequently became lost and misunderstood, with Gray being the main culprit as he was no technical man and did not understand Tassie's methods. Fortunately, contemporary research and analysis has enabled us to present what we believe to be a true representation of Tassie's methods. It is unlikely that the art of making portrait medallions in glass will be revived, as even Tassie complained that because of a very high failure rate in the furnace, his portraits were nearly uneconomic. At the time it was Tassie's intaglios which made him rich, helped by a highly prestigious order from Catherine the Great of Russia for over 10,000 different items to be supplied in special cabinets designed by Digby Wyatt. This order, together with Dr Raspe's enormous catalogue, made Tassie's reputation. Dr Raspe, who also wrote the adventures of Baron Munchausen, was a most interesting man and brief details of his life are given later on in this book. The collection of intaglios in trays in collectors' cabinets is now less in favour and considered a rather musty old fashioned taste. This, the author suspects, is for two reasons. Firstly with the virtual ending of the teaching of Greek and Latin in our schools, we are less interested in the classical period and, secondly, people now prefer their collections to be more obviously displayed. We can do little about the former misfortune but pioneering work in displaying by the British Museum and others has shown that these intaglios can look superb when displayed by transmitted light. Indeeci, Tassie in his correspondence discussed making displays of his work to be framed and hung in windows. The author makes no apology about giving what might appear to be excessive biographies of the people illustrated in this book, nor does he apologize for quoting so much of Tassie and Gray verbatim. This has not been done as an easy way out, but so often what people really write is misrepresented and then presented as fact. Better that people draw their own


PREFACE

conclusions from Tassie's writing rather than from the author's misinterpretation. Also, no artist or production technique can be fully appreciated except in context. Therefore this book contains details of some of the people who inspired Tassie, such as David le Marchand, a Dieppe ivory carver. Also discussed are the contemporary use of wax, plaster, horn, tortoiseshell, ivory and sulphur in the production of miniature works of art. Tassie has become a generic term amongst connoisseurs and although many of the glassy intaglios called Tassies were not made by either James or William, we can be sure, because they are so well documented, of all his works in portraiture, many are illustrated in this book. In the second half of the twentieth century, the major collector of the works of Tassie was Leonard Rakow, a New York Surgeon who was, at one stage, the chairman of the American Wedgwood Society. He was also a major collector of English nineteenth century cameo glass, the majority of which is now in The Corning Museum of Glass, New York. He and his wife, Gypsy, used to give wonderful lectures on their collecting interests, as a duet, both with their own rostrums. Gypsy used to say that Leonard was 'the King of the gallbladders' and his extreme skill and rapidity at this and other operations made him rich enough to collect whatever interested him. Mallett was fortunate to be able to acquire his collection of Tassies and related objects and this collection contributes over half the number of illustrations in this book.

John Smith October 1995


James Tassie by John Gray In 1894, lohn M. Gray FSA Scot, at the time, 'Curator, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, ami Keeper of the Tassie Collection in the possession of the Board of Mannfactnrers, Edinburgh', wrote a book of 175 ptages entitled 'JAMES AND WILLIAM TASSIE a biographical ami critical sketch with a catalogue of their portrait medallions of modern personages'. This has been the main source for all subsequent -writings on Tassie, and there follows here n condensed but verbatim text of this book, with some annotations by the present author.

1 Now usually mistaken for (sealing) wax.

James Tassie, modeller, and reproducer of antique gems, one of the ablest artists born in Scotland during the eighteenth century, was a native of Pollokshaws, near Glasgow, where various branches of the family had long resided. According to tradition the Tassies were of good family, and came originally from Italy as refugees, settled as tanners, skinners, and glovers on the banks of the Cart, and acquired property in Pollokshaws and its neighbourhood, s o m e of which has remained till our own time in the possession of persons of the name. James Tassie was the eldest son, and fourth child, of a family of twelve; and the following entry of his birth is preserved in the Register of the parish of E a s t w o o d : 'James Tassie son lawfull to William Tassie and Margt. McGhie in Pollok-Shawes was born the 15 day of Julv 1735 and baptised the 20 of the same instant by Mr Robert Wodrow, minister in Eastwood.'... In the s a m e Register there appears this entrv of the marriage of the artist's father and mother, - '1728, Octr.lO. This day William Tassie Son lawfull to James Tassie in this parish and Margaret McGhie Daughter lawfull to James McGhie in the parish of Govan gave up their names in order for marriage.'... This 'James Tassie, skinner,' is assessed twelve shillings for trade and poll tax, and 'Jean Shiells, spouse,' is assessed six shillings, in the Poll-Tax Rolls for 'Eastwood Parochine,' in the year 1696. T h e date of William Tassie's death was 8th March 1758. In his early days James Tassie worked as a stonemason, and the family tombstone in the Eastwood churchyard is believed to be the work of his chisel.... But the youth was conscious of powers that fitted him for something higher than merely mechanical handicraft; and, coming to Glasgow one fair-day, he saw the collection of pictures formed by the brothers Foulis, the famous printers, and was stirred with the desire to b e c o m e an artist. Still supporting himself by his trade, he began to study art in tlie A c a d e m y which Robert and Andrew Foulis had established with munificence which impoverished themselves, bringing teachers and the best procurable works of art from abroad. Probably the families of Tassie and Foulis had been previously known to each other, for Dr David Murray informs m e that a certain John Tassie, presumably a connection t)f the modeller's, was a barber in Glasgow, and deacon of the craft from 1740 to 1741, and from 1750 to 1751; and, as is well known, Robert Foulis followed the same business before he became a printer. Modelling was taught and largely practised in the school, as appears from the numerous casts t)f sculpture 'modelled' in Glasgow, and the others 'moulded' or cast there frt)m moulds brt)ught from abroad, that are included in the three-volume catalogue of the Foulis collection exhibited and sold in London in 1776. In the preface to this same catalogue Tassie is referred to, along with David Allan, the;i;i'/;)(' -painter, Robert Paul, William Buchanan, and James Mitchell, the engravers, and M'Lauchlane and William Cochrane, the history-painters, as one of the most

distinguished students of the A c a d e m y 'The pastes by Mr Tassie, in imitation of precious stones, are now generally known as well as his casts in sulphur.' Nor does he confine himself to mechanical parts, but imitates original nature with success. Yet this artist began by drawing, modelling, and moulding in Glasgow.' Having completed his art training, Tassie, in 1763, removed to Dublin, in search of emplovment as a sculptor and modeller. Here he m a d e the acquaintance of Dr Henry Quin, King's Professor of Physic in the School of Physic, Dublin, from 1749 to 1786.The chair is to be clearly distinguished from the Regius Professorship of Physic in Dublin University, a separate office.Dr Quin, an m d of Padua, six times President t)f the Royal College of Physicians, Dublin, between 1758 and 1781, was 'justly esteemed for his extensive learning and musician, and used to take part in the fashionable concerts held in the old theatre, Fishamble Street,' and he also 'had a private theatre at his residence on the north side of St. Stephen's Green.' At this time he had been employing his leisure in casting gems and imitating precious stones; he had ' m a d e many improvements in this art,' and had 'given such exact imitations of cameos and intaglios as even to deceive the proprietor of a fine original who mistook the doctor's copy for his own original.' Dr Quin, finding in Tassie the qualities of modesty, patience, and integrity, united to a fine natural taste, took him as an assistant; and in his laboratory the two worked together and invented the 'white enamel composition,' a vitreous paste which Tassie afterwards used for the moulds of his finest reproductions from the antique, and which was the substance in which he cast his wax portrait medallions modelled from life. In the introduction to Raspe's Catalogue of Tassie's works, 1791, and elsewhere, the artist gratefully acknowledges the instniction he then received 'from Dr Quin, as well as the generous encouragement he has since given him.' Tassie executed a small medallion of his early patron and also one of that patron's father. II. There has been a good deal of mystery as to what was the actual composition of the vitreous paste invented by Dr Quin and James Tassie. Its ingredients and m o d e of preparation were kept secret during the lifetime of the two Tassies, and seem to ha\'e been lost since the death of the younger; no other modeller appears to have employed tliem, though s o m e works by other artists were cast by the Tassies themselves in their paste. Dr P I leron Watson, vvluise father was an intimate friend of William Tassie, and who himself, when a boy, visited at the house of the aged artist in Kensington, informs m e that he told him that the composition which he and his uncle had employed was 'finely powdered glass and finely powdered pigments, annealed bv being placed in a reverberatory furnace.' In order to arrive at the exact constituents of the paste, 1 requested my friend Professor C n n n Brown to have an analysis m a d e of a


JAMES TASSIE

fragment of a Tassie medallion which I handed to him. His assistant, Dr Theodore Rettie, has been so kind as to report upon it as follows:

4 The present author has never seen one.

'Silica (Si O,), Oxide of Lead (Pb O), Ferric Oxide and Aluminium Oxide (Fe, O, and Al, O,) Lime (Ca O) Arsenious Anhydride (As, O,) Oxide of Potassium (K, O) Oxide of Sodium (Na, O)

49.26 33.54 0.50 2.17 3.08 10.40 99.83

It is very easily fusible glass, essentially a lead potash glass. Arsenic is often added to lead glass to prevent darkening by reduction of the oxide of lead.'

2 This is a misunderstanding of the process.

3 Gray misunderstood the process totally.

10

The above ingredients were probably fused by that very moderate degree of heat required for the purpose; and, when of a pasty consistency, impressed with the mould or matrix, and afterwards polished.But, between the original gem, in intaglio, and the mould of glassy paste, in relief, from which the final intaglio impressions were made, there must have been - as an intermediate step - two casts taken; the latter of them composed of some substance capable of being melted without the application of heat. For the first of these two intermediate casts, that done directly from the gem, melted sulphur seems to have been used; and, from the sulphur mould, in relief, thus obtained, an intaglio cast in plaster of Paris appears to have been taken; then, from this latter plaster mould, the mould for permanent use, in relief, was cast in enamel paste, by the process described above, the surface of the plaster being protected from injury, from the heat of the softened glass that was forming the mould, by being covered with a coating of a rouge-like substance, which, to judge from the surface of some existing moulds and unfinished examples, was employed in various Tassie's casting operations. Similarly, when a medallion, in relief, modelled from the life in wax, was to be produced in permanent material, a mould, in intaglio, would be taken; and this, in its turn, would serve for impressing the matrix for permanent use, in intaglio, formed of the glassy paste. That Tassie used his glassy paste for the formation both of his final moulds and for the impressions which he made from these seems undoubted, from the words used by Raspe in his Catalogue of 1791, quoted later and from the fact that all the moulds I have examined those of gems and coins in the collection of the Board of Manufactures, Edinburgh, and the few of medallion portraits that I have seen elsewhere - are composed of the glassy paste; being of opaque white enamel when the final impression was to be transparent; and of clear, or translucently tinted, glass when the final impression was to be in opaque, white enamel. ' The colouring matter of the composition was varied at will, and became transparent or opaque according as the artist wished to imitate the original substance of the translucent gems that he was reproducing, or to display a portrait head in the opaque white material, resembling porcelain or marble, which would best display its contours and light and shade. His varied

treatment of his enamel proves Tassie to have been a practised and most skilful chemist. Frequently he imitated the varied layers of a cameo stone; sometimes, setting different colours side by side, he imitated a stone engraved transversely over the lamination - one side of the subject being white, the other, perhaps, softly red. Another quaint and taking device that he had may be mentioned. He would cast an antique head, or other figure, in intaglio, in a transparent colourless glass; and then fill the sunk portion with white plaster of Paris, which, seen through the glass, produced, by means of the reflection, exactly the appearance of an object in silver enclosed in crystal.' Even in the white enamel paste, which he employed as the final material for his wax medallions modelled from the life, there is great variety of tone, texture, and general effect. Sometimes he attains a porcelain-like colour and surface; at others, he imitates, with great beauty, the yellow tone and peculiar markings of timemellowed ivory; or again, he aims at the appearance of sculptor's marble, and reproduces its faint wandering lines of delicate blue. On this subject of casting gems in glass, the reader may consult M. Guillaume Homberg's account of the process which he himself employed, in his paper 'Maniere de Copier sur le Verre colore les Pierres Gravees,' in the 'Memoires de I'Academie Royale des Sciences,' Annee MDCCXII, pp 189-197 (Paris, MDCCXIV).... Ill

By Dr Quin's advice and assistance Tassie settled in London in 1766. Soon afterwards his works gained a bounty from the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers, and Commerce of London, which had been founded in 1754 by William Shipley of Northampton....' To Mr James Tassie, for Specimens of Profiles in Pastes, 10 guineas.' It may be noticed that in the same year, 1766, the Society awarded to the artist who afterwards became Tassie's great rival as a modeller of medallion portraits, 'John Flaxman, in New Street, Covent Garden,' a Silver Pallet gilt, for a Model in clay' At first Tassie had a hard struggle to make his way, for he was diffident, retiring, and a little inclined to force himself into public notice. But, gradually, his care and the fine quality of his work came to be known, he obtained access to the richest collections, the London jewellers began to introduce the fashion of wearing his gems set in rings, seals, and other trinkets, and he found a ready sale for his reproductions. Men of taste had come fully to appreciate his transcripts from the antique half a century before we find Shelley writing to his friend Peacock - 'I want you to do something for me; that is, to get me two pounds worth of Tassie's gems, in Leicester Square, the prettiest, according to your taste, among them the head of Alexander;' long before the notorious 'Janus Weathercock' had expressed his warm admiration of 'the most elegant sulphurs from Tassie's Greek gems,' and had, in his familiar way, recommended the amateur 'to convert that chiffonnier into a little store closet for Tassie's cameos and intaglios (or rather a selection from his immense catalogue),' and to 'let Mr Tassie' - it was the younger Tassie, then in possession of his uncle's


A sulphur mould of a Tassie portrait together with a plaster cast from this mould, signed Dugald Stmart 1797, Tassic F. Mr Stewart (1753-1826) was a metaphysician.

m o u l d s , to w h o m h e refers - 'receive y o u r c o m m i s s i o n to cast the f o l l o w i n g beauties,' w h i c h he g o e s on to specify. By 1769 the merit of Tassie's w o r k h a d already b e e n recognised b y W e d g e w o o d , as a p p e a r s f r o m the f o l l o w i n g a c c o u n t of casts s u p p l i e d to the firm, for reproduction in W e d g e w o o d p a s t e : ' M e s s r s . W e d g e w o o d & Bentley Bill Nov. 1 1 1 7 6 9 Sh To 70 i m p r e s s i o n s in Sulfer, at 2d. a piece Two Enamel impressions Box

5 Another example is in the British Museum (OA 10 755).

11 8 2_ 13 8 4 14 -'

T h e majority of the c a m e o s a n d intaglios in W e d g w o o d ' s first c a t a l o g u e , published in 1773, w e r e casts from m o u l d s furnished b y Tassie; but, a f t e r w a r d s , the firm t h e m s e l v e s e m p l o y e d skilful m o d e l l e r s , a n d w o r k e d directly from the finest originals.' W e d g w o o d , as w e learn from Miss M e t e y a r d ' s m e m o i r of the celebrated potter, w a s a c c u s t o m e d to s p e a k of his rival as 'an a d m i r a b l e artist a n d an h o n o u r a b l e m a n , w h o m it is a credit to e m u l a t e , a l t h o u g h his seals are not so gt)od as m i n e . ' It m a y also b e m e n t i o n e d that Tassie e x e c u t e d the first plaster casts that w e r e m a d e form the celebrated 'Portland Vase' - a f t e r w a r d s s o a d m i r a b l y r e p r o d u c e d by W e d g w o o d - b e f o r e it p a s s e d from the collection of the Barberini family. T h e history of the c i r c u m s t a n c e s u n d e r which these casts w e r e taken is given in a printed a d v e r t i s e m e n t sheet, issued by William Tassie on F e b r u a r y 12th, 1845. ' T h e late M. I'ichler, the e m i n e n t e n g r a v e r on g e m s , struck with its beauty, m o u l d e d the v a s e at R o m e , b e f o r e it c a m e into the possession of Sir William H a m i l t o n ; this perfect m o u l d w a s put, by the late J a m e s Byres, Est]., the A n t i q u a r i a n into the h a n d s of the late M r J a m e s Tassie, w h o with his

k n o w n care a n d taste took off the desired n u m b e r of casts in plaster of Paris, prepared with g u m . T h e m o u l d w a s a f t e r w a r d s b r o k e n b y the desire of M r Byres, w h o s e p r o p e r t y it w a s . A l t h o u g h these casts h a v e b e e n m a d e m o r e than fiftv years, s o m e of t h e m still remain u n s o l d , a n d m a y b e had o f M r W I L L I A M T A S S I E , No. 8, U P P E R P H I L L I M O R E P L A C E , K E N S I N G T O N , w h o retains in his o w n p o s s e s s i n g the very large Collection of G e m s m a d e b y his late U n c l e a n d himself.' A c c o r d i n g to M i s s M e t e y a r d these casts are n o w ' e x t r e m e l y rare,' a n d h a v e ' b e c o m e of great v a l u e . ' T h o u g h their price w a s r e d u c e d from ten g u i n e a s to five b y the y o u n g e r Tassie, o n e of t h e m has sold, since his d e a t h , for t w i c e the s u m originally a s k e d ; b u t o n the o t h e r h a n d o n e fetched o n l y t w e n t y shillings at Christie's, a b o u t t w o y e a r s ago. A n e x a m p l e is included in the collection bec]ueathed b y William Tassie to the Board of M a n u f a c t u r e s , E d i n b u r g h . ' IV. In 1775, t w o y e a r s after W e d g w o o d had issued his first c a t a l o g u e , J a m e s Tassie a p p e a l e d to the public in a similar m a n n e r with 'A C a t a l o g u e of I m p r e s s i o n s in S u l p h u r of A n t i q u e and M o d e r n G e m s , from w h i c h Pastes are M a d e and S o l d , by J. Tassie, C o m p t o n Street, S o h o , L o n d o n . Printed for J. Murray, No. 3 2 Fleet Street, 1775. Price l s . 6 d . ' It is a small o c t a v o of n i n e t y - n i n e p a g e s , i n c l u d i n g 3 1 0 6 items. Its title p a g e is a d o r n e d with an engra\'ing - a s o m e w h a t free transcript in reverse - from the f a m o u s 'Strozzi M e d u s a , ' ' S h a r p e sc., K n i g h t fccit.' T h e preface c o n t a i n s a few r e m a r k s u p o n g e m s , and the i m p o r t a n c e of their s t u d y to the artist, the a n t i q u a r i a n , a n d the scholar, a n d also an a p o l o g y for the fact that the little v o l u m e w a s for sale, not for presentation to c u s t o m e r s . ' T h e C a t a l o g u e is of such a length as to b e too costly to b e distributed grntis; but its b e i n g s o m e t h i n g m o r e than a s i m p l e c a t a l o g u e g i v e s r o o m to h o p e that an i n d u l g e n t Public will not scruple to defray the c h a r g e of print.' Previous to 1783 Tassie had been h o n o u r e d bv the

n


JAMES TASSIE

6 And on p4 of this volumo.The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, has such a trade card.

22

c o m m a n d of Catherine, Empress of Russia, to supply her with a complete collection of his 'Pastes in imitation of G e m s and C a m e o s , . . . with an intention to represent the Origin, Progress, and Present State of Engraving,' to cjuote the words of the manuscript letter, dated 14th March of that year, in which he m a k e s application to submit the series to the Royal Family of England for examination, before it was exhibited to the public and transmitted to its imperial purchaser: and 'no care, attention, expense and external ornament was spared that could make it worthy of the patronage of the Great Princess, w h o had been graciously pleased to order it, as a noble entertainment, and hitherto unique and useful study of that kind.' T h e Empress was at this time forming her great collection of original gems, which, enriched by the purchase of the Orleans, Natter, Casanova, Maurice, and Beverley cabinets, came to number no fewer than 10,000 items. She also, it will be remembered, had been a patron of Wedgwood, having ordered from him, in 1773, the famous cream ware service, completed in 1774, as well as, previously, s o m e less important works." The Tassie collection, sent to Russia, was arranged and described by Rudolph Eric Raspe, a G e r m a n savant, who was born at Hanover in 1737; was Professor of Archaeology and Keeper of the M u s e u m of Antiquities at Cassel; wrote various works on geology, and 'A Critical Essay on Oil Painting,' 1781; was the reputed author of the celebrated 'Adventures of Baron Munchausen;' and died at Mucross, in Ireland, in 1794. His refined features were portrayed, in 1784, by Tassie. In his classification Raspe followed generally the arrangement adopted by Winkelman in his description of the Stosch collection; and the completion of his task, a labour which he tells us he had 'gone through coi; amore,' was the occasion of his issuing an interesting octavo volume of thirty-five pages - 'Account of the present State and Arrangement of Mr James Tassie's Collection of Pastes and Impressions from Ancient and Modern Gems, with a few Remarks on the origin of Engraving on Hard Stones, and the Methods of taking Impressions of them in different Substances, by R. E. Raspe./)! novafert nnimus mutatas discere fcinms. Ovid. London, M D C C L X X X V L ' T h e volume opens with a curious dedication 'To Sir John St. Aubyn, Bart., M e m b e r of Parliament for the Borough of Penryn,' w h o had been one of Tassie's earliest patrons:'Sir, - This account of the present state of Mr Tassie's collection has a natural claim to your attention. You was Isic] the first in this kingdom who saw its tendency, approved of the indefatigable spirit of the artist, sympathized with the enlightened magnificence of one t)f the greatest Sovereigns in Europe, and ordered a select part of this collection to be executed for your study and amusement; that from these fac-similes of ancient and modern art vou might judge by yourself of its /s/fy respective merits, and thus, even in this instance, be the more engaged to admire respectable ages and nations that are nt) more, and to honour and cherish those which have at last s p a m g from their ashes, and have nobly attempted tt) surpass them. 1 sincerely congratulate you on this disposition of your mind and heart, for, in publick as well as private life, it will always attend you as a friendly genius; and like the Daemon of Socrates, which the profane could

not form an idea of, suggest to you both agreeable knowledge and the practice of whatever is true, right, just and beautiful. I have the honour to be, with great respect. Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant, R E RASPE. L O N D O N , Oct. 7 , 1 7 8 5 . ' There follows a disquisition on the history and methods of gem-engraving and casting, and s o m e methods of gem-engraving and casting, and s o m e brief particulars of Tassie's career, which I have embodied in the present biographical sketch. Next c o m e certain remarks which s h o w that Tassie's relations with the Wedgwood firm had, by this time, b e c o m e strained. 'The success of Tassie's pastes,' Mr Raspe informs us, 'as might reasonably be expected, excited the emulation of the Birmingham speculators, and even Messrs. Wedgewood [sicj & Bentley, the great manufacturers of Staffordshire ware, became competitors: but so far from checking M r Tassie's success, or impeding his pursuits, served only as foils to his works, and to incite him still more to improve his art, his pastes, and his collection, till he brought them to the present state of perfection. 'The artist, the scholar, or man of taste could not be much improved, pleased or satisfied with the Birmingham glass pastes; for the quality of whatever the materials, and the lowness of their price, whatever they m a y be, cannot obliterate the unavoidable and indelible mark of hurry in which they must have been m a d e by the cheapest and consequently the most illiterate w o r k m e n , in order to render them at a low rate. As the subjects are generally gaudy, it is painful to find them constantly injured in their outlines, with noses, hands, feet, and other extremities unmercifully mangled, or with little concern cut and polished away, as are the inscriptions which should accompany them. 'It would be painful to dwell for a m o m e n t on an assertion in Messrs. Wegewood [sicl & Bentley's Catalogue of their o w n ornamental works, the edition published in 1779; but it has laid us under the necessity of saying what the public, the artists and connoisseurs have always thought on the subject. That noble manufactory has been carried on much to their honour and to the credit of this country; and too much praise cannot be bestowed on their imitations of Etruscan and other elegant vases and basso-relievos in black or variously coloured fine clays; but the writer of the catalogue has unluckily asserted that their impressions of Antique Gems are far above all other imitations; while it is evident that clays and their mixtures shrink, and consequently are far less proper for giving correct impressions; than either wax, sulphur, plaister, metal or glass, and it must be evident that their being opaque and of a dull gloomy colour, cannot place them in competition with coloured glass impressions which equally imitate the brightness and transparency of the originals.' The writer next remarks on the poverty of former collections of reproductions from antique gems. None of them, he inft)rms us, included more than 3000 items; while Tassie's Catalogue of 1775 numbered 3106 examples, and his collection had since been increased to more than 12,000, 'ct)ntaining besides those of Christian Dehn, Mademoiselle Feloix, and Lippert, the


J A M E S T A S S I E BY J O H N GRAY

* James Wyatt, R. A., born 1748, died 1813, the architect of Fontill Abbey. He succeeded Sir William Chambers as SurveyorGeneral in 1796; and so great was his reputation that the Empress Catherine wished him to settle in Russia as her architect. For a brief period he acted as President of the Royal Academy after West's temporary resignation in November 1803.

greater part of those that were collected by the Elder Baron Stosch, besides m a n y noble cabinets in this and other kingdoms to which former artists had n o access, and modern works which other collectors had studiously neglected.' There follow s o m e interesting particulars regarding the reproductions of gems sent to Russia:-'Her Imperial Majesty has ordered that a collection should be formed of perfect and durable impressions of ancient and modern gems, as complete and numerous as possible; secondly, that the gem from which they were taken, whether intaglios or cameos, should be executed in glass pastes, exactly imitating the respective colour of the originals; thirdly, that the collection should be scientifically arranged in suitable cabinets; and fourthly, describeci in a corresponding catalogue, in which notice should be taken of their respective subjects and all the particulars which can authenticate their history and point out their merit, to promote the study of antic]uities and engraving. 'The impressions, being ordered to be m a d e true and durable, were taken, not in wax, sulphur, plaister, metal or clay, but in a beautiful white enamel composition, which is not subject to shrink or form air bladders, but strikes fire with steel and takes a fine polish, which s h o w s every stroke and touch of the art in higher perfection than any other substance; and the pastes were cast and finished in coloured glass, imitating the original stone of the gem, when this could be ascertained.' They were arranged in cabinets 'executed by Mr Roach, one of our best cabinetmakers, after the drawings of Mr Wyat'' [sic], w h o s e taste as an architect is too well established in this kingdom to want any of our more perishable commendations. The elegance and simplicity of their forms, the propriety of their external ornaments, which were basso-relievos in white enamel, with gilt mouldings, set on a ground of green satinwood, and the high finishing of the whole t]ualified them at any rate for ornaments in the noble apartment of Her Imperial Majesty's superb palace of Czarsko Zelo, where they have been placed.' Next conies a general 'Conspectus of the Arrangement and Description of the Collection,' and a 'I'ostcript/ dated 'Cowance, Jan 3 , 1 7 8 6 , ' giving some extracts from Pliny relative to the use of the drill and other tools by the ancient gem engravers. The volume concludes with the following list of 'PRICES. For Intaglio Pastes; the size of seals and rings from Is. 6d. to 2s. 6d. A beautiful imitation of a fine stone is charged more, in proportion to its perfection. For large Intaglios, according to the colour and size, from 5s. to 21s. For Cameos, according to size and perfection, from lOs. 6d. to 42s. Appliques (that is to say heads or figures glued to false grounds) are only deceptions, unsafe to use as rings, bracelets, etc., being liable to fall out and break, therefore only proper as pleasing ornaments or furniture; may be made from 5s. and upwards according to size. For relievo impressions in white enamel, from gems Is. 6d. to 5s.From large g e m s in basso-relief; Portraits, etc., from 5s. to 21s.not exceeding 4 inches in diameter.

Impressions of this size, in high relief, are charged in proportion to the difficulty. Impressions in red or other coloured sulphur with neat gilt borders, select numbers, 4d. each. For the whole collection, 3d. each.' Raspe's final catalogue of Tassie's works appeared in 1 7 9 1 : - ' A Descriptive Catalogue of a General Collection of Ancient and Modern Engraved Gems, C a m e o s as well as Intaglios, taken from the most celebrated Cabinets in Europe; and cast in Coloured Pastes, White Enamel, and Sulphur, by James Tassie, Modeller; arranged and described by R. E. Raspe; and illustrated with C o p p e r - plates. To which is prefixed, an Introduction on the various uses of this Collection, the origin of the Art of Engraving on Hard Stones, and the Progress of Pastes. Undeprius iiudfis velnruut temporn musae. London: Printed for and sold by James Tassie, No. 20, Leicester-Fields; and J. Murray, Bookseller, No.32, Fleet Street.C. Buckton, Printer, Great Pultney Street.MDCCXCI.' The catalogue is in two large quarto volumes, of nearly 800 pages in all; and, with its 'Supplement,' includes 15,800 numbered items of reproduction from the antique. T h e 'Liste des Ciibi)iets et Nonis des Possesseurs' which it contains shows that the collections of considerably over five hundred owners of gems had been laid under contribution by Tassie in forming his great series of reproductions.... It will be readily admitted by all who have studied the subject that J a m e s Tassie's extensive series of reproductions from the antic]ue is a collection of great and permanent value. Since his time, other workers in similar directions to his have enjoyed greater advantages than ever fell to his lot. So far as we know, he never travelled abroaci, or worked directly in the great continental cabinets; and, in reproducing their treasures, he was obliged to depend upon sulphur casts, taken often by workmen less skilful and less careful than himself. Consequently, s o m e of his reproductions want the full sharpness and clearness of the originals, qualities which have been better preserved in more recent casts taken directly in plaster of Paris. It must, however, be remembered that Tassie endeavoured to give, and to a great extent succeeded in giving, the colour, texture, and whole general visible aspect of the engraved gems, by means of his transparent and variously tinted paste; and that this is not so much as attempted in the reproductions of our own day, which, in the matter of accuracy of mere form alone, are undoubtedly often superior to his. But, after all, the crowning merit of Tassie's collection is its extent. No other series has even remotely approached it in this respect; and in the breadth of view, the wide opportunity for comparison, which it renders possible, it is certainly unrivalled.... V. We have, however, less concern here with Tassie's reproductions of gems than with the original medallion portraits which he modelled in wax, in most cases directly from life, and afterwards cast in his hard white enamel. The immense number of his casts from gems and medals amply attests his industry, the fine character of the pastes that he used proves his skill as a

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JAMES TASSIE

chemist, such clearness of impression as he attained was the result of his conscientious care as a workman; but it is in virtue of his portrait medallions that he ranks as a capable original artist, and claims kinship with the gem engravers w h o have preserved the features of the famous personages of classic times with medallists like Pisano and Pasti w h o have portrayed the princes, the scholars, and the beauties of Renaissance Italy, with David d'Angers, whose medallions have secured for all succeeding ages the aspect of his most celebrated contemporaries of the first half of the present century. It was his portrait medallions, and these only, that Tassie exhibited at the Society of British Artists and in the Royal Academy. To the former he contributed in John Tassie, younger 1767 'Two Models in Wax,' followed in 1768 by brother of James, signed 'Portraits modelled in paste.' In 1769 he began to lOHN TASSIE 1791 Tnssic F. exhibit in the Royal Academy; and, with the single exception of 1780, he was represented every year up to, and including, 1791; showing in all thirty-four exhibits, several of them comprising more than one item, and all of them being portraits of unnamed persons, male and female. A m o n g the exhibits of 1778 are 'Two cameos given annually as prize medallions in the University of Glasgow by M r Anderson for the best Phisical Isic] Essay and the best specimen of elocution.' O n e of these, catalogued here as No. 285, was the medallion No. 14,314 of Raspe's Catalogue of 1791 - 'A head of NeiL'hm, marked Tassie Clnsqueiisis, F. It belongs to Mr John Anderson, Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Glasgow, and with a purse of gold, is annually given by him for the encouragement of Natural Philosophy in that Society. T h e paste is fixed in an elegant frame of silver with this inscription upon the margin: ÂŁ.v Decreto M.A. Univers. Glasgueiis. U p o n the margin of the Reverse there is loan Anderson Donnt Proemium Hoc., [sic] and the name of the Victor, with the Year, is engraved in the centre.' This, however, was the prize for Natural Philosophy; that for Elocution was the lead of Demosthenes, described by Raspe, No. 9,996, in exactly similar terms. * Issac Gosset, born 1713, died 1799, the year of James T h e exhibition Catalogues show that Tassie's lassie's own death. He was address was, from 1767 to 1 7 7 1 , ' Great Newport descended from a Street', from 1772 to 1777, C o m p t o n Street, Soho'; and Huguenot family of from 1778 to 1791, 'Leicester Fields' - the same address, refugees, and studied 'No. 20 To the East side of Leicester Fields,' which modelling under Matthew appears on the very artistic business card engraved for Gosset, his uncle. He was a him by Malpas, with its pleasant decorations of member of the 5k)ciety of Artists of Great Britain, and festoons and classical masks and cameos, reproduced he contributed portrait as the final illustration of the present volume." He medallions to their would appear to have been assisted in his business bv exhibitions, and in those of his younger brother John8, portrayed in medallion No. the Free Society of Artists, 381, who, in a disposition by William Muirhead, between the years 1760 and skinner, to Matthew Biggar and others of a house and 1778. An exceedingly piece of ground in Pollokshaws dated 24th June 1793, is interesting account of Issac designated 'modeller in London,' and signs there, as Gosset, with a list of his one of two indictors, on 6th July of the same year. medallions, examples of which may be studied in T h e catalogue of 1791, compiled by Raspe includes, the British Museum and in pages 731 to 761, a series of 882 portrait subjects of the South Kensington small size executed by Tassie in his enamel paste, and Museum, and a pedigree of embracing heads of sovereigns and of private his family, was contributed personages, male and female, as well as imaginary by Miss M. H. Gosset to the heads. T h e majority of these are casts from engraved 'Proceedings of the gems and medals by such artists as Lochee, William Huguenot Society of and Charles Brown, Jeufft)ry, William Berry, the London,' Vol. III., pp 340-68. Pichlers, Burch, Natter, Marchant, and Wrav. T h e few

U

which are k n o w n to have been modelled by Tassie himself are catalogued in the present volume; and, as they are nearly all uninscribed, such particulars have been added as m a y aid in their identification. In addition to the above, a series of 114 of his large portrait medallions is included in the 'Postscript' to this Catalogue of 1791, prefaced by the following n o t e : 'Mr Tassie has long modelled Portraits in Wax, in imitation of those executed by the ingenious Mr Gosset.* But as these are liable to be defaced, and wishing to render them perpetual, he was led to mould and cast them in his beautiful, hard, white Enamel Paste; bv which means thev entirely resemble Cameos. And, by labtnir and perseverance, he is able to cast them as well as other ornaments, to the largest size generally used for such Portraits. As he still pursues this branch of his profession, he had been advised to give the following alphabetical list of his large Portraits thus modelled and cast by him, in addition to those of a smaller dimension, mentioned in this Catalogue and Index.' The references that I have already given to his works exhibited at the Society of British Artists prove that so early as 1768 Tassie was casting medallions in his enamel paste; but the productions of this period had probably only the heads and busts executed in this material, ancJ afterwards affixed to back-grounds of glass, variously toned by coloured paper placed beneath. It was doubtless the large casting necessary when portrait and back-ground were both to be of a single piece of enamel that necessitated the continuous experiments, the 'labour and perseverance,' referred to


J A M E S T A S S I E BY J O H N GRAY

7 111 pp63

above. The medallion of (Sir) John Dolben in the collection bequeathed by l a s s i e ' s nephew to the Board of Manufactures, Edinburgh, is marked - 'A Substitute for the original model of the portrait of John Dolben, Esq., son of Sir William Dolben, Bart., in 1773 or 1774. This was the very first attempt of making large Paste impressions, but cracked by not being long enough annealed. Tassie F.' In form and size Tassie's medallion portraits modelled from the life are usually an 'oval' of about 4 X inches; the head being on a scale of about 1 ! inches in height. The face, with a few exceptions, and these usually in cases when the artist was reproducing a painted portrait or similar original, is shown in pure profile. The 'Professor Francis Hutcheson' copied from a medallion by Cosset, the 'Charles Chauncey, iti d' from a painting by William Cochrane, a pupil, like Tassie himself, of the Foulis Academy, are all front-faces or nearly front; but these by no means rank with the finer medallions of the artist. T h e 'Frederick the Great' modelled 'from a drawing', and the 'Gilbert Hamilton,' Provost of Glasgow, d o n e directly from the life, are vigorous and successful works, though the former is very defective in the drawing of the right shoulder. Tassie adopted the circular form for the backgrounds of his medallions presumably modelled direct from living sitters only in three cases that are known to m e - the portrait of 'Robert Foulis', that of 'Admiral H o w e ' , and that of 'Lord Viscount D u n c a n ' . ' A s 1 have noted ... certain impressions in plaster of a different medallion of Lord Duncan, with a circular background, are to be found, but doubtless these were not cast by Tassie himself. Tassie portrayed his sitters either in contemporary costume, or 'in the antique m a n n e r ' as he styled it, without the wig and dress of the period, and with the bust bare or enveloped in classical drapery. T h e former class of his works is generally the more interesting and artistic, for he treated with great skill the details of eighteenth century costume - t h e elaborate frills and lace of the ladies, the curled periwigs of his male sitters, and the simple folds of their wide-collared coats, or the more voluminous lines and the braided enrichments of their professional and judicial robes.

8 See pp24 for a medallion after Ruspagiari

9 Not, for reasons of space, printed in this volume

Occasionally the faces and other portions of Tassie's medallions are treated - probably by an application of hydrofluoric acid - so as to produce a dead marble-like texture, which contrasts effectively with the polished and glossy surface of the rest. A good example of such treatment will be seen in the medallion of 'Professor Andrew Coventry' in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. As Mrs Somerville, the astronomer, has given us, in her 'Personal Recollections,' a glimpse of David d'Angers at work upon his medallions, so s o m e details of Tassie's wav of treating his sitters have been preserved by T h o m a s Walker of Manchester, who, in 1798, was portrayed by the artist at the request of his political friend Lord Daer, of w h o m a medallion had been executed four years previously.in his Letters and Papers in the possession of Dr Wilkinson, quoted by Miss Metevard in her 'life of Wegwood,' Walker writes of Tassie as follows:- 'He takes three sittings. T h e two first about an hour each, the third not half an hour. If preferred he can take two sittings in one day, if he have s o m e hours betwixt to work at it by himself. It is the

s a m e to him whether he goes out to you, or you to him, only the hours from 12 to 4 he is occupied in attending to his shop. During the sitting you m a y be occupied at almost what you will - eating, writing, etc., as he only needs a few minutes' sitting at finishing a few particular parts.' Tassies's biographer in Gleig's 'Supplement' to the Encyclopaedia Britannica' (Edinburgh, 1801) also records a curious trait of the temper in which the good artist w o r k e d : - ' I n taking likenesses he was, in general, u n c o m m o n l y happy, and it is remarkable that he believed that there was a certain inspiration (like that mentioned by the Poets) necessary to give him full success. The Writer of this Article, in conversing with him repeatedly on the subject, always found him fully persuaded of it. He mentioned m a n y instances in which he had been directed by it: and even s o m e in which after he had laboured in vain to realize his ideas in wax, he had been able b y a sudden flash of imagination to please himself in the likeness several days after he had last seen the original.' T h e medallion portraits of James Tassie at once impress us with a sense of their truth, so full of individuality are they, so thorough and searching in their modelling. They more than hold their own against the medallions that were contemporarily produced by the Messrs. Wedgwood & Bentley, though that firm employed such of the most capable modellers of the time as John Flaxman, Joachim Smith, William Hackwood, John Charles Lochee, and Henry Webber. Unlike the productions of Pisano, Pasti, and other of the most accomplished old Italian medallists, and of certain of our o w n contemporary medallists, like Legros, w h o have founded their artistic method upon the work of these men, the medallions of Tassie are, in aim and spirit, definitely sculptor's work. The Italian medallists, like modern artists w h o have adopted their way cif work, were frequently painters as well as medallists; Pisano, it will be remembered, was accustomed to sign his bronzes 'Opus Pisani Pictoris'; and the technique of their medals, in its shallow relief and in the free handling b y which the outlines and planes are rendered - the portraits very often appearing, as it has been finely said, like 'a mere film, a sort of haze which has risen on the bronze and gathered into human likeness' - recalls unmistakably the methods of workers with the bnish. Tassie seems indeed to have studied the portraits in metal of the early Italians, for the Catalogue of the sale of his collection at Christie's in 1882 included a few of their productions," things that must have been rare indeed in the shop of a London art-worker of the eighteenth century. But, though he modelled his portraits in the same genially pliant wax which they used, he never adopted that technical method of theirs which approximates to the pictorial. In the definite precision of his handling, in the bold relief with which he throws out his heads, he is always typically a sculptor; indeed, his work, in its exactitude and its certainty of clearly expressed detail, has been strongly influenced by the methods of the gem engravers, whose productions he had spent so m a n y years of his life in studying and reproducing. How extensive is the series of his medallions may be gathered from study of the Catalogue included in the present volume; (tlint if Crni/'ff and it may be safely

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JAMES TASSIE

11 Also in this volume

10 This was rather an exaggeration

affirmed that, with the single exception of David d'Angers, no medallist has m a d e so extensive and important a contribution to national portraiture as James Tassie. He was largely patronised b y his countrymen, and m a n y of the personages that he depicts are Scottish. A collection of over a hundred and fifty of his medallions, founded upon the bequest of his nephew to the Board of Manufactures, Edinburgh, and largely supplemented by the acquisition of other original enamels and of plaster casts, has been brought together in the Scottish National Gallery, and includes nearly all his renderings of such of his contemporaries as were eminent and of public importance.'" Many of James l a s s i e ' s medallions have been engraved, several of them repeatedly, as the best attainable portraits of the personages w h o m they represent; and, but for his medallions of A d a m Smith, we should have possessed no authentic contemporary portrayal of the author of 'The Wealth of Nations,' with the exception of the two indifferent etchings by Kay.... We found that Tassie, shortly after his arrival in London, had furnished Wedgwood with moulds of his gems; and he appears to have supplied the great potter with some of his portrait medallions also. T h e busts of 'Professor Joseph Black,' 'Viscount Meh-ille,' the 'Earl of Mansfield,' and m a n y others, exist both in Tassie enamel and in Wedgwood paste; and it m a y be noted that the medallion of 'James Byres', the architect, which Miss Meteyard rashly states to be 'undoubtedly modelled by Flaxman,' is signed by Tassie on impressions in both materials. VII. The brief and imperfect memoirs of James Tassie that already exist, agree - with a unanimity and an emphasis that seem to indicate something more than the customarv kindliness of obituary notices and similar records of the recently deceased - in bearing testimony to his exceptionally estimable personal character A writer in the 'Glasgow Courier' of 13th June 1799, after dwelling on his skill as an artist, goes on to state that 'notwithstanding such elegant attainments, he seemed unconscious of merit, and, amidst the possession of foreign and domestic fame, he was modest, unassuming, and diffident. His private character was marked by the most amiable simplicity and inviolable integrity; by every quality which can recommend a man, and every virtue which can distinguish a Christian.' T h e writer of the article in the 'Supplement' to the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica,' to which 1 have previously referred, whose account is quoted by John Nichols, in his 'Literary Anecdotes,' with full testimony to the general fidelity of the character' it gives of 'an artist w h o m 1 well knew and esteemed,' tells us that 'in private M r Tassie was universallv esteemed for his uniform piety, and for the simplicity, modesty, and benevolence that shone in his whole character'; and, it is added, that he 'possessed also an uncommonly fine taste in Architecture, and would have been eminent in that branch if he had followed it'; a fact which Raspe also attests when he informs us, rather quaintly, in his 'Account' of 1786, that Tassie was 'born with a taste for architecture and its various ornamental branches, but chiefly for modelling in wax.'

16

An excellent idea of the personal appearance of t elder Tassie m a y be gathered from the two oil portra which represent him, both of them painted by artist w h o had been old fellow-pupils of his in the Foulis A c a d e m y of Glasgow, and from the two medallions executed by his nephew. The finer of the two picture reproduction of which forms the frontispiece of the present volume," is by David Allan, and shows its subject clad in sober, low-toned red, holding a magnifying-glass, and a cast of the'famous 'Strozzi Medusa' which he has been examining with it, - a g that appears to have been an especial favourite of th artist's, for, as 1 have already noticed, he chose it for decoration of the title-page of the first Catalogue of works. T h e portrait by John Paxton, n o w in the Scot National Portrait Gallery, shows him as a much younger man, dressed in the seventeenth-century fa costume of a black doublet, slashed with white, and lace-edged collar, his yellow hair worn long and hanging d o w n the neck, and his pale grey eyes look intently to the right. O f the medallions executed by William Tassie in 1799, one shows his uncle in wig a modern costume, in the other he appears with the h worn tied behind, and with loose tirapery over the shoulders. Both paintings and medallions agree in presenting an earnest and reliable face, very typicall Scottish in the contours and general character of its prominent mouth and long upper lip.

James Tassie died on the 1st of June 1799, and w laid to rest in the graveyard attached to the meeting house k n o w n a 'Colliers' Rents' in Southwark, bene a head-stone recording his virtues and his artistic sk and sculptured with a medallion portraying his countenance. VIII.

After the death of James Tassie his business was car on at 20 Leicester Square, now the Hotel Cavour, by n e p h e w and heir William Tassie, born in London in 1777, the son of James Tassie's younger brother Dav w h o was born on the 19th of September 1750. Willia Tassie added largely to his uncle's collection of reproductions of gems and medals, and he complete the Imperial Collection of Russia by furnishing casts the more recently moulded examples. His antique gems, and seals inscribed with original mottoes, devices and emblems, were especially popular; and drew u p a list, adding 2889 items to those enumerat by Raspe.... T h e list of seals is prefaced by the following 'Advertisement' 'The munificent patronage with which the Paste Impressions from ancient G e m s formed by Mr Tassi has been honoured by the admirers of pure and genuine art, unequivocally determines the value of Collection. Forty years of unremitting industry has augmen the articles of which it consists to upwards of Twent Thousand. O f these. Intaglio, or C a m e o Impressions Enamel, Sulphur, or Paste, may be obtained at an expense comparatively trifling. They are also execut in a variety of Coloured Pastes, emulating in lustre a beauty the original Gems; these may be used as Seal either plain, or fitted up according to the fancy of th purchaser. From the numerous enquiries for Ancient and


J A M E S T A S S I E BY |OHN GRAY

Modern Devices and Mottos in Paste, to be used as Seals, M r Tassie has been induced to print a separate Catalogue of that part of the Collection adapted for these purposes. Family seals m a y thus be multiplied with facility, and the Seals or E m b l e m s of Associate or Corporate Bodies repeated at a small expense. From Intaglio Pastes in the Collection, Ancient or Modern, Ladies m a y derive a pleasing source of amusement. The art of impressing Seals in Plaster, or wax, with a beautiful softness, is readily acquired. Collections thus formed form originals of classic elegance, cannot fail to improve the taste for the real beauties of ancient art. G e m engraving has for s o m e years been practised by W. Vernon, N e p h e w of M r Tassie trusts that those persons w h o wish to have Arms, Seals, or Devices engraved, will not be disappointed by the manner in which they are executed. N.B.A few copies of the Catalogue of the entire Collection, by the late Mr Raspe, in Two Vols. 4to. still remain, and m a y be had price ÂŁ3, 3s. 20, Leicester-Square, luly, 1816.' ...

12 111. on this page

William Tassie modelled portrait medallions in wax from the life in the m a n n e r of his uncle, and cast them in the same white enamel paste. His work of this kind, however, it must be confessed, displays far inferior artistic skill to that possessed b y his great relative. His medallions have a hardness and timidity of execution which contrasts with the precision and easy handling of the elder Tassie.... O n e of the most popular portraits that he issued was a head of Pitt, a reduced version of Miss C. Andras' medallion.lt was adopted as a badge by members of the Pitt Club, and sold in large numbers. T h e head ( 1 0 / 1 6 in.) is turned to the right, and appears as a c a m e o in white enamel paste on a back-ground of coloured glass, which is surrounded by a metal oval inscribed 'NON.SIBI.SED.PATRIAE.VIXIT Round the metal reverse is inscribed 'In m e m o r y of the Rt Honble W m Pitt Died 23 Jany 1806 aged 47,' with, in the centre, the words 'Pitt Club' and a space for the m e m b e r ' s name. T h e whole is surmounted by a metal festoon of laurel, a ring for suspension being inserted in the loop fastening this festoon. A m o n g the medallions executed by William Tassie is a curious series of twelve, illustrative of 'The Passions.' They are ovals of about 3 ! inches in height, the heads and back-grounds being, in each case, of one piece of white enamel paste, the positions of the heads varying from pure profile to almost a full face. On the truncation of each is inscribed the initials of the artist of each is inscribed the initials of the artist - 'W.T.,' with, also in impressed capitals, the title of the subject, - 'Joy with Tranquillity,' 'Hatred or Jealousy,' 'Admiration,' 'Admiration with Astonishment,' 'Sadness,' 'Acute Pain,' 'Compassion,' 'Weeping,' 'Despair,' 'Desire,' 'Horrour' Isicl, 'Laughter.' The only set of these that I have seen is in the possession of Dr Ernest Hart, of London, who informs m e that they are copied from engravings that illustrate one of the editions of Lavater.

A medal of the Pitt Club in gilt brass. The likeness being attached to blue glass. The reverse engraved John Miuid. Esqr PITT CLUB In Memory of the Rt Hon Wm Pitt Did 23 Innv. 1806 iigcd 47. Height of modal 4.6cnis.

17


JAMES TASSIE

13 Seupp25

14 In tact, glass

He exhibited four times in the Royal Academy: showing in 1798 his medallion of Lord Duncan, along with a 'Head of Mars'; in 1799, 'Six Kings of Scotland, cast in paste from models'; in 1800, one of his two medallions of 'James Tassie'; and in 1804, the medallion of 'Dr Hare,' No. 180 of our Catalogue.... William Tassie's grandnephew, the Rev. J. R. Vernon, informs us that William Tassie 'used to have a sort of lei'ce at his studio in Leicester Square, of artists, poets, and other lovers of the beautiful. The writer's father has often told him h o w Byron and Moore used to c o m e there, as a lounge; and how, indeed, he himself cut a beautiful intaglio of the heads of Milton and of Byron, for each of which Murray gave the artist £10.' In 1840 William Tassie, after a most successful and remunerative career of over forty years, retired from business, and went to reside at 8 Upper Phillimore Place, Kensington. Here he died on the 26th of October 1860; and he was buried in the Brompton Cemeterv. He was succeeded by John Wilson, an artist w h o exhibited m a n y works of medallic art, and al.so landscapes and portraits in oils, in the Royal Academy, between 1824 and 1856; including, in 1834, a medallion of King William IV.; in 1839 and 1836, gems engraved with portraits of Queen Victoria; and in 1855, an oil portrait of Lord Brougham. He entered William Tassie's employment about 1827, and had latterly been his partner.... William Tassie was an especially cultivated and well-informed man, w h o had seen much, for he had travelled a great deal abroad, examining the Continental collections of Gems, and had profited by what he had seen; and his conversation was full of interest and instruction. A double portion of the 'benevolence' that had characterised the elder Tassie seems to have distinguished his nephew, a benevolence which shed itself freely, like the genial sunshine, upon all living things. In the article by the Rev. J. R. Vernon, from which 1 have quoted, we have pleasant glimpses of the aged bachelor feeding the birds daily in his garden behind his house at Kensington, which then looked out upon the open fields, and ministering to the wants of needy human beings, and especially of needy artists.... By his will the younger Tassie left a very large collection of the moulds and impressions of gems, medals, and coins executed by his uncle and himself to the Board of Manufactures, Edinburgh, along with a few fine examples of their portrait medallions in white enamel. T h e bequest also included the portrait of Mrs James Tassie by David Allan, a companion portrait of Mrs James Tassie by the same painter; and a portrait of a lady and twentv-six studies in water-colours, chiefly from paintings by masters of the Dutch and Flemish schools, by George Sanders, an artist w h o m , in his age, when blindness had overtaken him, William Tassie befriended with unwearied kindness. The paintings, along with a selection of the Tassies' own work, are exhibited in the National Gallery of Scotland, the rest of the collection being preser\'ed in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. ••. Gradually, but surely, the portrait medallions of the Tassies are rising in the estimation of connoisseurs and in monetary value; and examples which living collectors well remember to have purchased for five shillings each, are now worth as many guineas.

18

IX

A m o n g the pupils and assistants of William Tassie, 1 have already referred to the Rev. William Hardy Vernon and John Wilson; but the late Henry Laing, of Edinburgh, deserves a word of reference and praise. His father, Henry Laing, the elder, was born at Strathmiglo, Fifeshire, a son of the postmaster there. C o m i n g to the south to push his fortunes, he was offered a situation as assistant manager of a sugar plantation in the West Indies; and, while in London making preparations for the projected voyage, he met James Tassie, then not long settled in the metropolis. T h e two young men were drawn to each other by community of tastes and disposition; finally, Laing abandoned his colonial appointment and became an assistant to the modeller; and for over fifty years he remained in the employment of the Tassies. His relations with his masters were eminently genial and friendly. In 1793 William Tassie modelled the portrait o his own and his uncle's faithful servant, in the medallion No. 218 of our Catalogue; and a pencil drawing by the same hand, sht)wing him as a somewhat younger man, is now in the possession of one of his granddaughters, Mrs Eraser, of Preston. His son, the better-known Henry Laing of Edinburgh, was born in London in 1803. At the age of about fourteen he was apprenticed to William Tassie, under w h o m he acquired a knowledge of drawing and modelling, and imbibed that love for art and archaeology for which became the master passion of his life. He remained s o m e eight years with Tassie; and then entered into partnership with Daniel Newton Crouch, a seal engraver in London, whose sister he afterwards married. About 1829 he settled in Edinburgh as a gem engraver and maker of glass seals which were then in great demand; and, according to a writer in 'Notes and Queries' for 25th May 1861, he wa accustomed to supply 'block seals, as well as the enamel casts, and, indeed, everything of the kind which Tassie either made or sold.' He executed a few medallion portraits in wax from the life, among the res one of his wife, modelled about 1826; but his main work lay in antiquarian directions. He was much employed in taking casts of objects of archaeological interest. But the great work of his life was the two magnificent illustrated volumes, - the 'Descriptive Catalogue of Impressions from Ancient Scottish Seals,

1850, and the 'Supplemental Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Scottish Seals;' 1866; a learned and accurate compilation such as probably no other country than Scotland can boast of possessing. T h e moulds of the seals catalogued in the previous volume were acquired by the British Museum after Laing's death in 1883, and impressions from them can still be obtained. But it was perhaps by John Henning,'' the sculptor, who was born in Paisley in 1771, and died in London i 1851, that the modelling of wax portrait medallions from the life, in the manner of the Tassies, but usually cast in white biscuit porcelain," was most extensively and successfully continued till almost our own time. A manuscript Catalogue of his works of this kind that 1 have compiled contains nearly ninety items; and it might probably be extended by further research. Ranging from 1802 to 1813, his medallions include portraits of Lord Brougham, 1802; the Rev. Dr


[ A M E S T A S S I E BY |OHN GRAY

Archibald Alison, 1808; the Rev, Dr Alexander Carlyle, of Inveresk, 1808; Sir William Forbes, 1808; Mrs Siddons, 1808; Francis Horner, 1808; Sir Walter Scott, 1809; David, Earl of Buchan, 1810; James Watt, 1810; Lord Jeffrey, 1813; Professor Dugald Stewart, 1813; of the artist himself; and of various other persons of distinction: and his works form an interesting addition to our national portraiture. Another accomplished and prolific modeller of wax portraits, of the time, was Miss Catherine Andras. Born in Bristol about the year 1775, she began to exhibit her works in the Royal A c a d e m y in 1799 (where her name is incorrectly given as 'Andrews' in the Catalogue) by sending a portrait of Mr Bowyer, and she continued to be an occasional exhibitor till 1824, showing in all twenty-two exhibits. Residing in Pall Mall, London, afterwards in Great Titchfield Street, and finally again in Pall Mall, she soon acquired a most aristocratic practice. By 1801 she had been appointed 'Modeller in Wax' to Queen Charlotte; and in the s a m e year she received the 'larger silver Pallet' of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers, and Commerce, for her 'merit in completing with so much Taste and Judgement two models in Wax, viz., one of H.R. Highness the Princess Charlotte, the other of Lord Nelson.' T h e close similarity of technique to the medallions of the elder Tassie which appears in some of her productions, leads me to believe that she m a y have studied under him, or that she, at least, formed her style upon his works; and the surmise is favoured by the fact that, as appears from the following Catalogue, s o m e of the portraits which she modelled in wax were cast bv the Tassies in their white enamel paste. Her exhibited works included portraits of the Princess Charlotte and the Duke of Bedford, 1803; the Marquis of Stafford, Lord Thurlow, and C. J. Fox, 1805; William Pitt, 1807; the Marquis of Wellesley and Lord Wellington, 1810; and Marshal Blucher, 1815.1n an interesting collection of about fifty of Miss Andras' works, in the possession of one of her descendants, which 1 have recently had an opportunity of examining, there are medallions dated so late as 1855 when the artist must have been aged about eighty which show no trace of failing powers.In addition to most of the medallions mentioned above, this collection includes her portraits of George III., George IV., James Watt, Wilberforce, Clarkson, Boulton of Birmingham, and Lord Nelson. For the last-named medallion she recei\'ed sittings at the same time that Bowyer was

painting the great naval c o m m a n d e r from the other side; and Nelson remarked, good-naturedly, that 'he was not used to be taken in that manner, starboard and larboard at the same time.' Miss Andras seems also to have practised miniature painting, for an unfinished portrait on china, and a series of test colours fired on another slab of porcelain, are preserved in the collection above referred to. More recently, in our own days, the art of modelling wax medallions to be cast in metal, in the manner of the old Italian medallists, has been revived in England by such artists as Professor Legros, Mr E. J. Poynter, R.A., and Mr W. B. Richmond, A.R.A.; while in France much excellent work has been produced, a m o n g which I m a y particularise the portrait medallions of M. Oscar Roty, anci the two series of large and singularly boldly modelled medallions of his most eminent countrymen by M. Ringel d'lllzach. It is much to be desired, in the interests both of art and of national portraiture, that greater public encouragement should be given to the efforts of the portrait-medallist, whose works are fitted to preserve, in so imperishable a form, the features of his most celebrated contemporaries, that so the attention of our living sculptors might be directed to this fascinating and valuable department of their art. In this connection 1 m a y conclude bv quoting the remarks of Wedgwood, in his Catalogue of 1774, - 'We beg leave in this place to observe, that if gentlemen or laclies choose to have medals of themselves, families, or friends m a d e in wax or engraven in stones of proper size for seals, rings, lockets, or bracelets, they m a y have as many durable copies of these medals as they please, either in c a m e o or intaglio, for any of the above purposes, at moderate expense; and this nation is at present happy in the possession of several artists of distinguished merit as engravers and modellers, w h o are capable of executing these fine works with great delicacy and precision. If the nobility and gentry of Great Britain should please to encourage this design, they will not only procure to themselves everlasting portraits, but have the pleasure of giving life and vigour to the arts of modelling and engraving. The art of making durable copies at a moderate expense will thus promote the art of making originals, and future ages may view the productions of the age of George III. with the same veneration that we now gaze upon those of Alexander and Augustus.


One of the rare surviving wax portraits by Tassie on the original velvet.

W A U G H , A L E X A N D E R (1754-1827), Scottish divine, youngest son of T h o m a s Waugh, farmer, of East Gordon, Berwickshire (d 1783), and Margaret, was born at East Gordon on 16 August 1754. Waugh was as a child devoted by his parents to the ministry. In 1770 he entered the university of Edinburgh, and manifested great aptitude for moral philosophy. In August 1774 he passed to the burgher secession academy. In 1777 he removed to the university of Aberdeen. He proceeded M A on 1 April 1778, and was licensed by the presbytery of Edinburgh at Dunse on 28 June 1779. Two months later he was appointed temporarily for ten weeks to the secession congregational church of Wells Street, London. This church subsequently became the centre of his ministrations; but at the conclusion of his first term of office there he received a call to the ministry of Newtown in the parish of Melrose, Roxburghshire, to which he was ordained on 30 August 1780. The village was very small and poor, there was no manse, and Waugh continued to reside with his parents, fourteen miles off, at East Gordon. Twice in May 1781 he declined a call to Wells Street; but when the call was repeated next year the presbytery of Edinburgh admitted him to the London'charge (9 May 1782). His success at Wells Street was immediate and lasting.

20

Apart from his ministerial duties, his chief activitie were absorbed by the London Missionary Society, of which he was one of the original committee, formed o 22 September 1795. In September 1802 he undertook a tour in France on behalf of the mission to 'promote the revival of pure religion in that country;' but the renew of war interrupted his efforts. Thenceforth he m a d e almost annually missionary tours through various parts of England and, after 1815, through Scotland. In 1812 he joined Dr Jack of Manchester in a missionary tour in Ireland. He died on 14 December 1827, and was buried in Bunhill Fields on 22 December, the funeral procession which included ministers of all denominations, being Inalf a mile long. A marble tablet to his memory was placed in Wells Street Chapel by his congregation. Tassie executed two gem portraits, one of which was distributed in a c a m e o reprt)duction a m o n g all branches of his family.


The True Methods of James Tassie John Gray was writing in 1894 and since then our perception of what is important and the emphasis we place on technical matters has changed. As a paraphrase of other people's work is rarely an improvement, it was decided in this book to quote the major parts of John Gray's work verbatim, leaving out only the details and philosophical areas which were of more interest 100 years ago than they are today. This approach, however, means that m a n y areas were not fully covered and this present chapter is aimed at bringing the Tassie story u p to date. Tassie, as Gray points out, learned his skill of modelling at the Foulis Academy and, although this is not a skill much taught today, it was looked upon in the eighteenth century as a technique that was both artistic and useful. In the days before photography there was a ready demand for portable portraiture. The art of the miniaturist dates back to Elizabethan times, but medallions give a three dimensional approach inspired by the reliefs of antiquity which was much prized. Gray lists of a number of eighteenth century wax modellers. The Victoria and Albert M u s e u m , London, has an extensive collection of wax portraits. Samuel Percy (1756-1806) modelled in coloured wax and Isaac Gosset (1713-1799) did fine portraits in natural wax. John Charles Lochee ( 1 7 5 1 - c l 7 9 1 ) m a d e fine portraits and also worked for W e d g w o o d and Tassie. Catherine Andras (1775-1860) exhibited at the Royal A c a d e m y between 1799 and 1824 and was appointed 'Modeller in Wax' to Queen Charlotte. Probably the most talented was Peter Rouw the younger (1771-1852) w h o was appointed 'Sculptor Modeller of g e m s to HRH The Prince of Wales' in 1807. T h e wax used was a form of purified beeswax which fortuitously has a colour approximating to that of marble (impure beeswax has a tendency to darken with age, which is w h y many wax models which are part of the folk art tradition are now a disagreeable m u d d y brown). S o m e filler was often added, which stiffened the wax and was sometimes used as a colourant, also a plasticiser, usually turpentine, making the wax more workable. T h e face could be m a d e flesh-coloured and the hair and clothing coloured to match the sitter. James Tassie did not add colour to his wax, which to modern eyes today can look rather crude. Modelling in wax modelling is similar to modelling in clay, with the advantage that no shrinking occurs and no firing is required. Wax models are difficult to restore and clean, which is why examples now existing in good condition are comparatively rare. Mr Gray has explained in detail how Mr Tassie executed a wax model and (opposite) is illustrated a fine model executed by Tassie in 1794 of Alexander Waugh the Scottish Divine. Mr Waugh was apparently so pleased with this portrait (of which Tassie m a d e two) that one of them Tassie also m a d e in glass medallion form, for Alexander Waugh to distribute amongst members of his family. Gray is neither clear nor accurate on the next stages in the production of glass medallions, so at the risk of a certain degree of repetition, there now follows a description of the method of manufacture as we now understand it. Tassie had two distinct types of manufacture. O n e based on the reproduction of classical gems and the other ct)ncerned with the production of medallions, usually portraits. In both cases the key is the

production of a sulphur master. The essential properties of sulphur are given on page 36. T h e use of sulphur has always been known to medallists, however, it appears that few outside this rather limited circle have any knowledge of this technique today. Sulphur is an ideal material for taking impressions even by a relatively unskilled person. It is cheap and readily available in a pure form. It melts at a temperature only a very little above the boiling point of water and hence it is quite easy to use. T h e craftsman is not exposed to great heat nor is the gemstone, if an impression is being taken from it. Sulphur solidifies instantaneously when its temperature drops below the melting point and no further 'drying out' or firing is required and it is considerably harder than any form of plaster of Paris and quite scratch resistant. First let us consider the production of a Tassie gemstone. It should be pointed out that Tassie was not alone in producing such items and, although 'Tassie' has b e c o m e the generic term in England for such items, they were widely produced in Italy and elsewhere to sell to tourists. Indeed they were unfortunately m a d e to deceive as has been pointed out by Judy Rudoe in her recent essay in ' W h y fakes matter'. They were also m a d e rather crudely by the Birmingham 'Toy Makers'. The item to be copied was surrounded by a band, probably of paper, and molten sulphur was then poured onto the surface of the object being copied. The sulphur would immediately set. T h e sulphur impression was then released from the object. This was usually done at the h o m e of the collector whose cabinet was being copied, hence owners were happy to allow their gems to be copied as they did not have to be removed from the premises. Tassie would now have a durable negative image which he or his agent had taken from the original gemstone or medallion and this image in sulphur would be the key to all further reproductions. From this sulphur could be m a d e a plaster to join a study collection of casts known at the time as dacti/liothcciie, but a plaster cast is soft and liable to d a m a g e by abrasion and if it becomes dirty, which it readily does, as the porous nature of plaster encourages dirt to adhere to it, it is then uncleanable in a satisfactory manner In the next stage, Tassie m a d e a plaster positive from the original sulphur negative, and then a plaster negative from which a sulphur positive was made. This was used as a master, unless he went straight from a sulphur negative to a sulphur positive. If Tassie was using a wax original, obviously sulphur could not have been poured onto this, as the wax would melt. A plaster negative would have been cast from which a positive master would have been made in s u l p h u r From then, he wiiuld have proceeded as before. The method of copying gemstones was well known throughout Europe. Homberg writing in 1712, published a long and extremely detailed description mentioned by Gray concerning the reproduction of ancient gemstones, Rinning to several thousand words and in particular, he discussed the use of Tript)li (Diotomaceus Earth) which was available in different varieties. 1 le described two types: one which appears in reddish flakes that is found in England and France; the other which is a yellowish powder that comes from

21


Examples from the Tassie cabinets in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edingburgh. The left illustration is of a glass positive and a sulphur master negative, the right illustration is of red sulphurs mounted with gilt edged paper. These sulphurs have the Raspe number written on the side in ink. These sulphurs are often mistaken for wax impressions.

the Levant, ie Tripoli, but rather confusingly was k n o w n at the time as Venetian Tripoli. Tripoli was, at that time, used as a polishing medium in the production of gemstones and wheel cut glass. It is a possibility that its reddish colour confused Gray, w h o remarked that jewellers rouge, a material sometimes reddish m a d e from a form of iron oxide, was used as a release agent during the last stage of production. Homberg's method was to prepare under controlled conditions, a mixture of red and yellow Tripoli and then moisten it until, as he put it, 'the consistency is that of a breadcrumb.' This preparation was pressed lightly into a crucible of suitable size and surface dusted with a little dry Venetian Tripoli. T h e positive master was then pressed firmly into this preparation, allowed to dwell briefly and then removed. T h e mould was then allowed to dry. Although Tassie and Dr Quinn were well aware of this proceclure, it would seem that Tassie used a mixture of Tripoli and plaster of Paris to give an easier and more constant method of making a mould. Unfinished pieces with parts of the mould still adhering do still exist. Two portions from a mould have been analyzed at the National History Museum, using an X-ray diffraction technit]ue. The mould chosen had a white material adhering to the edge and a small amount of dirty pink material still lodged within the moulding. The white material was analysed or found to be anhydrite, this is consistent with plaster of Paris (CaSO,.2H,0) being heated to a high temperature, the 'dull red heat' of the furnace driving the hydrate out to give anhydrite. T h e pink material showed the presence of both nnln/drite and quartzite with this technique being unable to quantify the proportions. Quartzite is consistant with the presence of calcined Tripoli. It would seem that Tassie used a plaster bed and surround to hold the matrix, which consisted of Tripoli, with probably a little plaster of Paris added to make it less friable and easier to handle. When the tript)li had dried out, the crucible was put in the small furnace with a slab of glass paste, slightly larger than the crucible, resting upon it. W h e n the paste had reached an appropriate temperature (approximately dull red heat) the crucible was removed from the furnace and the paste firmly pressed into the mould with an iron spatula. The paste was then allowed to anneal. Following this the paste was removed from the mould and any mould material adhering to the paste was brushed off. The edges of the glass were then trimmed on a cutting wheel. In 1986, two German academics, Welzel and Zvvierlein-Diehl, published their work following their research into the production of gemstones in antiquitv. Thev achieved perfectly good results by the above method, but then they tried pouring molten glass into the mould the results were unsatisfactory, although apparently John Henning used this method.

C h a m b e r s Cyclopaedia gave good instructions on to h o w to m a k e paste using ground glass frit or cullet, fused with a large addition of calcined lead (yellow lead oxide). This mixture was melted together, then purified by pouring into water, removing anv free lead and remelting and pouring into water again, for further purification. At the third melting, the resultant material was clear and sparkling with a very high refractive index that was described by C h a m b e r s as 'tender and very brittle to work.' C h a m b e r s quotes Neri as his source. C h a m b e r s also lists how to proceed and what chemicals (metallic salts) to add to this paste to m a k e all colours known to gemologists. Tassie being a careful technician, was able to reproduce any colour he wished and by incomplete mixing of materials was able to reproduce the striations which occur naturally in some gemstones and, of course, in marble. Raspe's catalogue lists the original type of gemstone from which the intaglios were made. Tassie was able to faithfully follow the appearance of the original gemstones. Dactyliothecae Although plaster casts are n o w viewed with less than universal enthusiasm, in the eighteenth century they were considered as useful tools for instruction in the arts for those w h o were unable to see or own the real thing. They were also a great aid to the learning of classical history. James Tassie, in his letters, gives instructions on how to take a good cast, which this author has tried successfully and, instructions were available in books such as 'The laboratory; or. School of Arts:'(fifth edition), published in 1803. In the eighteenth century, Philipp Daniel Lippert (1702-1785) of Dresden produced large collections of plasters, with the uncomfortable name of Dactyliothccae. Both the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and the Fitzwilliam M u s e u m , C a m b r i d g e have sets of 3,000 casts. T h e Victoria and Albert Museum, London have a set by Bartolommeo Paoletti, an Italian working in London and William Tassie sold boxed sets of plasters in Leicester Square. These collections usually came with a manuscript catalogue as each ct)llection was bespoke, depentiing on the interests of the purchaser. John Henning senior devoted what we would now consider a disproportionate amount of his time to the production of classical representations in plaster. How to m a k e portraits Tassie found these classical gem copies extremely profitable, but by training he was a sculptor and he kept returning to his first love, sculpting his contemporaries, although he regularly complained how unprofitable this was. T h e three inch plaques were notoriously difficult to cast with sometimes onlv one in six being successful.


II'

f)

An ivory carving of George I by David le Marchand.

Tassie had difficulty obtaining a consistant enamel. Between 1782 and 1789 and he is recorded as buying from the Whitefriars Glasshouse, London, with nine entries in 1786, although only the s u m spent is recorded and not what was purchased. S o m e recipe books of the Sowerby Glassworks, Gateshead, survive. T h e recipe book for March 1809, lists, a 'dark brown for Mr Tassie', however 'this was took dark a colour'. The revised colour was probably used for making medallions such as those illustrated on page 49. There is a recipe on 21 July for Opal glass containing bone ash and arsenic which, 'on working was flinty (that is, clear) but on heating u p again became a beautiful opal ...'A variation of tine same recipe was produced a week later 'which was much approved by Mr Tassie'. G r a y has described how Tassie would m a k e a wax model, taking care not to produce any overhang, enabling a plaster cast to be m a d e in one piece. From this plaster a sulphur master would be produced. If Tassie was using another artists work, such as the Ruspagiari illustrated on page 24, a similar sulphur master wt)uld be made. If Tassie had a large enough furnace fired up, he would then cast as for gems, using a sheet of white glass which he termed cimmcl, to produce either just the portrait bust, to be later cold glued to a sheet of glass, or a complete plaque. Sulphurs As well as glass items, Tassie also sold 'sulphurs'. These are casts in sulphur surrounded by coils of thick paper with gilt and crinkled edges, the traditional method of presentation at the time. T h e sulphur was usuallv coloured, either to appear near black, or a rich brown-red as pictured opposite. These illustrated

sulphurs are from the collection in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Similar collections are in the Victoria and Albert M u s e u m , London, and of course. T h e Hermitage, St Petersburg. T h e use of sulphur is further discussed on page 36, and was described in " T h e Laboratory: or School of Arts,' mentioned above. Ivory, tortoiseshell and horn During the late 17th and early eighteenth centuries, portrait medallions were worked in other m e d i u m s than the paste, ceramic or wax in which Tassie modelleci A number of continental craftsmen introduced their skills in the carving and modelling of ivory and tortoiseshell to England at this time. It is probable that wax modelling was looked on as a more accessible and less expensive substitute for modelling in ivory. The Dieppe School of lvt)ry Carvers was famous throughout Europe, David le Marchand (1674-1726) was a leading m e m b e r of the SCIUKII w h o mt)ved to Scotland and whose wt)rk was knov\'n to Tassie. An exhibition devt)ted to Le Marchand's work will be touring Edinburgh, London and Liverpool during 1996. In the Victoria and Albert Museum is a medallion by Tassie of Matthew Rapier II, taken directly from an ivory car\ ing by Le Marchand. Dr Rakow was sufficiently interested by this parallel to purchase the pair of ivory heads of Queen Victoria and an unknown man, executed around 1840 and illustrated page 25. David le Marchand came tt) Edinburgh in February 1696 and then moved to London where he is recorded in 1703-1709. A b o v e is a portrait of George 1, who came to the throne in 1714. This high relief ivory portrait shows the work of a supremely accomplished carver. Yet, M le Marchand died, apparently a pauper, in 1726.

2.3


Two medallions in gilded pressed tortoiseshell. The eft, Henrv IV, the right, his minister of Finance and Agriculture, Maximilien de Bethume.

James Tassie was unable to model in horn or tortoiseshell despite his desire to do so and states in his letters that he might consider moulding his portraits in horn but he was not familiar with the technique retjuired. The leading exponent of this, whose works would also have been known to Tassie was John Obrisset. Obrisset was the son of an ivory carver from Dieppe who came to London in 1693. He was a profile craftsmen who used hornshell, boiled in water for a long time and moulded using a steel press or die. Snuff boxes were his speciality, signed OB. He died in 1731. Tassie's enthusiasm for this type of work can be understood as at its finest, it can produce a high quality impression with particularly minute detail. This can be seen from an examination of the two roundels illustrated above which were produced in France in the early eighteenth century. Here, the tortoiseshell having been soaked and pressed into its mould has then been

Left, as well as his own models of both contemporaries and the ancients, Tassie would enthusiastically copy any medal he felt appropriate. This is illustrated bv an extremely subtle medal taken from a work signed Alfonso Ruspagiari (1512-1576) on the truncated riglit arm. This is known in a medal cast in lead alloy and it is probable that Tassie took his cast directly from such a medal. Right, a plaque of an unknown gentleman, signed Koegler 1778. This artist is unrecorded.

24

gilded which enhances the quality of the impression by intensifying the relief. The left hand roundel depicts Henry IV by Guillaume Dupre and the right hand depicts his Minister of Finance and Agriculture, Maximilien de Bethune. These images are also known in gilt bronze on a pair of boulle cabinets (F391 and F392) in the Wallace Collection, London. The quality of the bronze castings there is much inferior to the tortoiseshell impressions. John H e n n i n g It has already been noted that Tassie was not the only manufacturer of gemstones neither was he the only producer of portrait medallions despite his use of a supposedly secret formula. Illustrated on page 24 is a portrait of an eighteenth century gentleman which is signed Koegler 1778. This skilfully produced medallion is made of a paste which simulates marble most


Two ivory plaques, the second quarter of the 19th century. The left, of an unknown gentleman, the right, of the young Queen Victoria.

effectively but is cjuite unlike any glass used by Tassie. Extensive research so far has not shed any light on w h o Koegler was, nor has the gentleman been recognised. Although Tassie had m a n y competitors who were wax mcidellers, only one, John Henning the elder, appears also to have cast regularly in glass. John Henning's life in m a n y ways mirrored John Tassie's, as can be seen below from the s u m m a r y of the entry from the Dictionary of British Sculptors. H E N N I N G , J O H N , the Elder (1771-1851) He was born at Paisley on 2 May, 1771, the son of S a m u e l Henning, a carpenter and builder, and, by assisting his father, learnt to draw plans and elevations. In 1799 he went to an exhibition of waxworks in his native town and became fired with the idea of making wax busts himself. In 1800 he went to Glasgow and set u p as a modeller of wax portraits. Here he was fortunate enough to attract the attention of the D u k e of Hamilton. T h e fact that the Duke not onlv was goodnatured enough to sit for his own portrait, but also commissioned others of his wife and daughters, established Henning's reputation as an artist. He then moved on to Edinbvirgh and in 1803 he finally decided to settle in the city and to study at the Trustees' Academy. He also m a d e a n u m b e r of drawings, busts, and portraits in enamel and wax of various distinguished Scotsmen. In 1811 Henning went to London, but was at first disappointed with the city and its inhabitants. Chance, however, led him to Burlington House where the sight of the Elgin Marbles greatly influenced his future career. On 19 October, two years later, he described the impression they made on him in a letter to Josiah Wedgwood, for wliom he was working at tlie time. 'Arriving in London,' he said, 'about the beginning of July, 1811,1 had the good fortune to see the Athenian marbles and felt mv mind transfixed with admiration of them. In hope of improving myself in art 1 began to draw from them.' During his early years in London, Henning made portraits and busts in wax or enamel of various notabilities, including the Duke of Wellington and the I'rincess of Wales. In some cases these were executed for Wedgwood, to w h o m he wrote on 13 September, 1813, about a medallion he had just made of the Princess Charlotte, 'which 1 have cast as 1 d o my other works in Enamel-paste.' 'Having,' he continued, 'shown H.R.H. a small bust in bronze metal she

signified a wish to have one of her own head in the same stile which 1 have nearly completed and intend making s o m e casts of it in bronze, however I find of those who speak of taking casts of it that it will please more generally in bisque than in bronze'. Henning also sent Wedgwood a list of his 'medallion portraits done from life.' He also added that he charged from seven to ten guineas for a wax portrait. Henning, w h o in most of his later works was assisted by his elder son, John Henning the Younger, was one of the founders of the Society of British Artists. He died in London on 8 April, 1851, and was buried in the St. Pancras cemetery at Finchley.

Henning did not have the charm of Tassie and that, together with his obsession with the Elgin Marbles, denied him the success that attended Tassie. His reproductions, in miniature, of Greek marble friezes in plaster, still sometimes appear in the salesrooms. On the 9th January 1844 John Henning wrote a long letter to his friend William Mure. Part of the letter describes how he took u p modelling in wax and his subsequent development of a method of casting in glass. His first subject was a work mate, one Woodrow. The resultant medallion, when moulded in plaster and recast in wax, was much admired, as was his second medallion of his wife Kate. A little later he visited Glasgow 'on s o m e business for my Pa and having stopped the night at the h o m e of a friend 1 m a d e Models of him and his Rib which 1 sent him.' These likenesses were so much admired that Henning was encouraged to set up in Glasgow. Later in the letter Henning discusses his first effort at making glass medallions:'... hitherto I had cast my works in Wax (but) 1 began to think that it would increase tine value of mv Medallions if I could do them in enamel after the manner of Mr Tassie. 1 set to work and made s o m e Enamel pastes but 1 disliked the colour; returning one afternoon from Glasgow in the even and passing a window 1 noticed a jug of the beautifull white enamel 1 struck my breast with fervor and with audible voice said this is what I want. I entered the shop and enquired the price and carried off what I considered a great prize. Kate thought it a pretty thing for the cupboard but she was horror struck when she saw me scratch it with a file and when she saw me apply a hot

25


JAMES TASSIE

p o k e r to it s h e w a s a m a z e d to see it d r o p in pieces from m y h a n d . I s o o n p r e p a r e d m o l d s a n d m a d e an E x p e r i m e n t in a clay m o l d from T h o r n l y Quarry, b y Paisley m y first tryal w a s a failure the s e c o n d w a s little better as the e n a m e l b u b b l e d out of the m o l d s . 1 reported m y e x p e r i m e n t s to m y v e r y kind Dr Robert Watt that 1 had just learned from the French E n c y c l o p e d i a that the late D u k e of O r l e a n s h a d been in the habit of casting G e m s in E n a m e l p a s t e s a n d that h e used Venetian tripoly in the m a k i n g o f his m o l d s ; T h e D r volunteered to write i m m e d i a t e l y for 7 lbs of Venetian tripoly, 1 returned to the Dr about t w o hours telling h i m that 1 had f o u n d at m y feet w h a t 1 thought w o u l d a n s w e r m y p u r p o s e b u t the o r d e r w a s off; I i m m e d i a t e l y prepared m o l d s a n d to the furnace with the f r a g m e n t s of m y jug w h i c h m e l t e d in the m o s t satisfactory m a n n e r . 1 turned m y successfull C a s t t o w a r d s the D o o r of the muffle a n d after a little 1 laid the C a s t u p o n m y h a n d it w a s perfect, but s o hot that 1 felt obliged to put m y h a n d into a basin of cold w a t e r w h e n m y beautifull cast w a s shivered to rubbish this w a s a lesson not to b e forgotten. From this time N o v r 1800 1 f o u n d no difficulty in C a s t i n g m y M e d a l i o n s in E n a m e l but I w a s horrified to find that the E n a m e l w a s m o r e trying for i n e x p e r i e n c e as it e x p o s e d the r u d i n e s s of w o r k w h e r e m y likeness g a v e satisfaction.' J o h n H e n n i n g a p p e a r s in the c o r r e s p o n d e n c e b e t w e e n Josiah Byerley to Josiah W e d g w o o d . O n 13th S e p t e m b e r 1 8 1 3 B a y e r l e y w r o t e in part : 'I e n c l o s e a letter from M r J o h n H e n n i n g a very i n g e n i o u s M o d e l l e r h e b r o u g h t a letter here from M r Watt of S o h o , w h e n h e first c a m e to town in 1811 - H e will take a g o o d m a n y casts of the Princess C h a r l o t t e from you, and will s e n d y o u a cast in plaister from his m o d e l , to m a k e the m o u l d b y - and will e v e n not object to y o u r selling t h e m here y o u r s e l f - H i s b u s t is a b o u t 10 Ins high, a n d s e e m s to m e to b e well m o d e l l e d - Please to say at w h a t price y o u can m a k e them for h i m in bisque, or black, or M o r t a r Material. T h i s latter will, 1 p r e s u m e , b e the best a n d m o s t beautiful - H e has a flat m e d a l l i o n of Lord Wellington - as w e are often a s k e d for a m e d a l of this head, 1 think M r H e n n i n g w o u l d not object to sell y o u a cast from his m o d e l , b y w h i c h y o u m i g h t m a k e m o u l d s at a c o m p a r a t i v e l y trifling e x p e n s e

A likeness of a fashioiiiible lady, signed on the trvmcation Hcniiing 1802 and inscribed on the headband, Mrs K StnitJicrf, Clnff;ira\

- T h i s M r H e n n i n g is a S c o t c h m a n a n d h e m o d e l s in w a x a n d t a k e s m o u l d s from that in W h i t e E n a m e l paste from w h i c h h e d i s s o l v e s the glass b y fluoric acid, w h i c h leaves his m o d e l equal in a p p e a r a n c e to the finest alabaster - 1 s u p p o s e the b u s t w h i c h he is n o w m a k i n g of Princess C h a r l o t t e is too large to b e d o n e in Paste H e is principally e n g a g e d in taking portraits in this • way H e has the portraits of m a n y e m i n e n t m e n of the present day, if y o u w o u l d like to h a v e m o u l d s from h i m - such as B r o u g h a m , and o t h e r s a n d on the 6th O c t o b e r in the s a m e y e a r s he w r o t e : 'You will receive a Plaister M o u l d o f the Princess C h a r l o t t e from M r H e n n i n g - he w i s h e s for o n e in W h i t e B i s q u e (cream c o l o u r body, not w h i t e s a n d w a r e ) a n d w h i t e J a s p e r on very light b l u e g r o u n d H e will b e obliged to y o u to send him s o m e fine sifted boiled plaister such as y o u u s e for taking m o u l d s for o r n a m e n t a l things - ready for u s e - b e i n g a s t r a n g e r in Lt)ndon, he h a s not yet b e e n able to procure a n y of a p r o p e r sort - a f e w p o u n d s b y first b o x w o u l d b e d e s i r a b l e - he will then send you the m o u l d s of Lord Wellington, Sir Saml R o m i l l y and several o t h e r s to look at - as well as the m o u l d of the bust of the Princess C h a r l o t t e - w h i c h 1 s u p p o s e will a n s w e r as well as the m o d e l - T h e m o u l d 1 n o w s e n d y o u is different from the bust he first enquired a b o u t - a n d w h i c h h e w i s h e s you to try first to see the effect - H e w o u l d prefer a w h i t e figure on a d a r k slate coloured g r o u n d - but this y o u will p l e a s e to d o as n e a r a s y o u can - It is so c o n t r i v e d that if a gloss a n d f r a m e are put o v e r it, the gloss will not touch the w o r k 1 h a v e h a d a f e w of these in our r o o m s for sale - w e s h o u l d sell t h e m v e r y fast T h e m o u l d n o w sent you is i m p e r f e c t o w i n g to the b a d n e s s of his plaister - M r H e n n i n g b e g s his best respects to y o u , w i t h m a n y t h a n k s for y o u r kind attention.' A l t h o u g h the a b o v e s u m m a r i s e s J o h n H e n n i n g ' s w o r k in the preparation of portrait m e d a l l i o n s , the greater part of his artistic energies w e n t into his plaster representations. H e spent m u c h t i m e c o p y i n g the Elgin Marbles, the R a p h a e l C a r t o o n s , and o t h e r items of the p u b l i c interest, b u t he did not h a v e Tassie's c h a r m or c o m m e r c i a l a c u m e n a n d died in relative poverty. H e n n i n g ' s w o r k in glass has s u r v i v e d in m u c h smaller n u m b e r s than Tassie's b u t it is not entirelv u n k n o w n . T h e largest s u r v i v i n g collection is in the Paisley M u s e u m and Art Gallery, S c o t l a n d . W h e n H e n n i n g arrived in E d i n b u r g h , G e n e r a l Vyse, C o m m a n d e r of the Forces in Scotland, introduced h i m tc) Colonel J o h n a n d Lady C h a r l o t t e C a m p b e l l , with w h o m h e b e c a m e m o s t friendly. L a d y C h a r l o t t e w a s a noted b e a u t y in E d i n b u r g h and as well as m o d e l l i n g C o l o n e l C a m p b e l l in 1806. H e n n i n g m o d e l l e d L a d y C h a r l o t t e in 1808, a y e a r before her first w i d o w h o o d . T h i s portrait illustrated on p a g e 27 in its original frame, s h o w s the characteristic matt effect that H e n n i n g a c h i e v e d with hydrofluoric acid. T h i s is an e x a m p l e of H e n n i n g ' s w o r k at its technical best. Six y e a r s earlier, in G l a s g o w , H e n n i n g m o d e l l e d M r s K Struthers, a l t h o u g h the m o u l d i n g is not so technically perfect as with Lady Charlotte. T h i s is a c h a r m i n g portrait of a Lady, hair a r r a n g e d with the then fashionable G r e e k style a n d signed in the usual place but with her n a m e inscribed in her hair b a n d .

26


Lady Charlotte Campbell byJHWTischbeiii (1751-1829).

Portrait of Lady Charlotte Campbell, signed on the truncation I S O S M D Y C CAMPBELL HENNING F.

BURY, L A D Y C H A R L O T T E S U S A N M A R I A (1775-1861), novelist, youngest child of John Campbell, fifth Duke of Argyll, was born at Argyll House, Oxford Street, London, 28 January 1775. In her youth she was remarkable for her personal beauty, and the charm of her manners rendered her one of the most popular persons in society. She was always distinguished by her passion ft)r the belles-lettres. It was at one of her parties that Sir Walter Scott became personally acquainted with Monk Lewis. She married, 14 June 1796, Colonel John Campbell of Scha wfield, who, at the time of his decease in Edinburgh, 15 March 1809, was m e m b e r of parliament for the Ayr burghs. By this marriage she had nine children, of whom, however, only two survived her. Ladv Charlotte Campbell married secondly, 17 March 1818, the Rev Edward Bury of University College, Oxford, BA 1811, MA 1817, became rector of Lichfield, Hampshire, in 1814, and died at Ardenample Castle, Dumbartonshire, May 1832, aged 42, having had issue two daughters. On Lady Charlotte becoming a w i d o w in 1809, she was appointed ladv-in-

waiting in the household of T h e Princess of Wales, afterward Queen Caroline, when it is believed that she kept a diary, in which she recorded the foibles and failings of the unfortunate princess and other members of the court. After her marriage with Mr Bury she was the author of various contributions to light literature and s o m e of her no\'els were once very popular. When the 'Diary illustrative of the Tmies of George IV' appeared in two volumes in 1838, it was thought to bear evidence of familiarity with the scenes depicted which could only be attributed to Lady Charlotte. It was reviewed with much severity, and attributed to her ladyship by both the 'Edinburgh' and 'Quarterly' Reviews. She died at 91 Sloane Street, Chelsea, 31 March 1861. T h e once celebrated beauty, the delight of the highest circles of London society, died quite forgotten a m o n g strangers in a lodging-house, and her death certificate at Somerset House curiously says, 'daughter of a duke and wife of the Rev E J Bury, holding no benefice.'


Excerpts from letters written by James Tassie This is CI partial transcription of a bundle of correspondence held in the Strathch/de Regional Archive (TD68) and reproduced with their permission. These letters tcere, in the 19705, transcribed in their entireti/ by Dr Duncan Thomson and the excerpts belou' have been quoted using Dr Thomson's transcription of the spelling. Letters from ]nmes Tassie, sculptor to the late Ale.x Wilson Esq, Glasgmc, presented by James Smith of jordanhill to the Dilettanti Society of Glasgow in 1832. These letters were in sequence by Dr

numbered Thomson.

Letter 0 London June 23th 1778 I received your obliging favour of this month as well as all your former letters, which I a m very sorry has not been in m y power to accomplish your orders sooner, I mentioned one time before that the large furnace has been out of order. I never did put it in repair because I was designed to m o v e to another place. I have been now moved three months ago to no. 4 Leicesterfields.the new furnace is n o w seasoned for imploy and will not lose any farder time but have all your orders finished as farr as in my power which you may depend on being sent in three or four weeks time.there was sent with the Kings of England 500 strips of gilt paper that you have not mentioned the receiving of them.l should be glad to know.iff I . understand right those of Daciers Kings & Queen you have m a d e choice of are to be raised in white paste in imitation of marble. Letter 2 of July 29th 1777 You have a query if pastes can be m a d e from plasters? Ans: plaster casts must be imbibed with oile or wax & tho great care is used yet frequently the fine lines is cloged and in that case does not succed so well as from sulpher, but when the plaster is perfectly inbibed it answers the purpose for making pastes from as any other materials whatsoever the reason that s o m e plaster casts suceeds better than others I think to proceed from a more or less water in the mixing.

London Jaunry 4th 1779 In answer to y o u r ' s of 15th Octr the large Alexander the Great you requested m e to buy of Wedgewood & Bently, I had the s a m e original to mould from (a beautiful ivory carving in the possession of the Earl of Besborough).the cast I have is as sharp as possible, and is the s a m e size of the original Wedgwoods composition contracts to a smaller size and dress you mean (modeled by Gosset) it is reather learge to m a k e in paste especially the Border, as I have in hand s o m e portraits of m y o w n modeling near that size I will at the same try Dr Franklen another impression of the Duke of Marlborough in place of that is faulty which has been an omission. 5 London Aprile 13th 1779 I am now at present modeling some of the first people in the Kingdom which leads my attention in some measure from the smaller work 1 have not added any thing in the medal way lately.

London August 4th 1779 I wrote to you a few lines by poste a week ago.you have here 500 strips of sulphur paper.

London August 28th 1779 I Received your letter of the lOth instant 1 am sorrv your obliging orders has been again so long in hand. I had no paper ready to make gilt strips, and has been out of Town frequently this s u m m e r modeling of portraits.

28

11

L o n d o n j u n e 18th 1781 1 have never seen the medal of Capt. Cook ... 1 m a d e a model from a picture by Dance in possession of Mr Banks it is about the size of Dr Franklen. I also make it the halfe size, s a m e Head with less of the Body just the same as Lord Geo. Gordon ... 1 have by m e a set in plaster of paris which were m a d e at Dresden imbibed with size or white of Eggs or s o m e such thing they are very perfect, but to make pastes from them would not be near so perfect as from the Coppars I give two Guineas for them purely for my o w n study. 13 London Octr 11th 1781 I have lately purchased the Roman History in Coppars. 5 or 6 is a little damaged about the Borders, am making from them a set of hollow pastes, to cast sulphurs &c from. I also intend to place a set transpairent to hang at a window. 14 F e b r y 2 3 t h 1782 T h e worke of those Russian medals are finely executed.1 think the wax moulds taken from medals to answer as well as sulphur, because we only cantake plaster casts from either. If hollow pastes were to be m a d e then sulphur casts would be by far the best. O n e thing to be observed, its not very proper to cast sulphur on Coppar, or silver, medals the sulphur discolours the medal. Theres no hazard on gold medals. The sole sulphur of it selfe is suffecient to to Isic] m a k e a Temporary mould. But to make it more strong and dureable. we put a considerable quaiantity of c o m m o n red lead to mix and makes it so hot so as it will turn thick and no matter if it should flame, by this means disolves the lead and incorporates better with the sulphur & becomes a beautiful black, when it c o m e s to a slow heat is again sufficiently liquid for taking impressions. Sulphur always takes the smoothest impression when its so cool as almost begins to freeze. I dont recollect whither 1 have any thing of Rouseau but will endeavour to procure you one. 3 Baggs of plaster shall be sent by sea the first opportunity. 16 London August 24th 1782 A Cabinet of pastes we have now had in hand these twelve months for the Empress of Russia, which is to contain above 12000 pastes and if possible to go off this season, which I have been in a kind of neccessity of neglecting almost every thing els for this s u m m e r . . . I had perfectly forgot the plaster you ordered in a former letter 1 have sent a Cask containing 4 Baggs of the finest shiped on Board of the Lady Charlotte ... PS perhaps you may be surprrised at the number of pastes in the Empress's Cabinet, the reason is there is an Intaglio of each and an impression of each in the reased white. Enamel the Cabinet consists of 200 Drawers and tlie whole number of subjects are 6076. the exterior part of the Cabinet adorned with near an 100 heads & figures. I purchased a learge Collection t)f figures from Mr Wedgwoods for the purpose.


EXCERPTS FROM LETTERS

17 London May 9th 1783 I a m getting a pot of new white paste at the GlassHouse if it succeeds will make another trial of your learge Russian medals ... I do not k n o w exactly in what time, or manner the new catalogue will be published. But that which was done for the Empress Collection was in two thick QuantoVolis manuscript in French, by a M r Raspe a German Gentleman one of the greatest ability 1 have a copy of it by me. 18 London Sepr 20th 1783 They perhaps m a y be reather too transparent for your taste but they are the freest of stripeness of any set, I ever m a d e if they had not been all m a d e them of a n e w w white such as the rest of the impressions that accompanvs. them but the new metal is so liable to cloudiness 1 was affraid we should not have been able to accomplish them this s u m m e r the four Russian medals is m a d e as perfect as possible to be from a plaster cast. I believe 1 mentioned formerly that a plaster mould given us from the medal will enalbe us at least o n e stage more perfect. 19 London July 1th 1784 1 have had thoughs Isicl these many vears, of making sets of medals in transparent glass to hang in W i n d o w s ! . But the most of our colours are less of more stringy which much disturbls the view of the w o k e especially the delicate reverses Indeed the red is generaly free from that fault but is to expensive - since I received yourr letter has been tryign s o m e experments of taking impressions in flint Glass, and afterward staining the surface a beautiful orange or yellowish red, I at present flatter myself to produce very pretty ornaments for Windows. And has it in my power to procure several series of medals for that purpose. The first set we are adoing for a specimen is 24 Heads of reformers by Dacier, that 1 lately purchased in C o p p a r I shall send you one set as soon as finished for your inspection. 1 propose to mount them in brass or C o p p a r Frames and soder them together in Various forms, to look firy. 20 London March 29th 1785 My going to Paris and the bustle I have been in ever since, m a d e m e for a time give u p the transparent medals 1 mentioned in mv last letter to you. And not long after my return, 1 purchased a learge Collection of sulphur impressions above 17000 in number. Collected by the late Baron Stosch...l am not much inclined to make any more medals in white paste. 1 believe the properest method would be to mould them in Horn. 3 but am not experenced in that way. 21 London July 9th 1783 That lately fell into my hands a Collection of above 17000 sulphur impressions of Gems. Collected bv Baron Stosch. which enables m e to make \ erv learge additions to my former Collection. Having reported this acquisition to St Petersburgh Her Imperial Majesty has ordered two supplements one to stand on each side

of the great Cabinet, to corespond in Ornaments &c We are exceedingly busie with the first that must be ship'd this season. The learned Gentleman (Mr Raspe) w h o described the former is at present engaged with this, and 1 hope with what follows Then after these two supplements is finished, we are ordered to m a k e a complete set of the whole over again in raised white Enamel It is designed to bring in the several supplements in their proper place, and a catalogue wrote according to this incorporated arrangment. which will a m o u n t to about 12000 in number of different impressions. That is meant to be the standard of the collection and according to this description is meant to be published. It is wrote in French, English and to have it printed in boath languages. 1 am much of your mind that it would add to its utility to have plates. But this would require the encouragement of an Empress. However perhaps 1 may get a few plates to express what is most curious. 23 London Novr 11th 1785 Your other orders will be executed a m o n g hands as soon as we can. T h e impressions from the French medals failled 5 or 6 times each, owing to our Enamel at present being rather hard. In order to give you them the sharpest possible.

28

London 29th Deer 1786 We have but just finished our whole Collection in white Enamel, that should have been shiped last Septr. amounting to 12725 nos will remaine with us all the w i n t e r The second supplement was completed and sent with the last ships for that quarter, is safe arrived & gives the usual satisfaction T h e Empress's Orders are n o w finished. The Cabinet of the whole in Enamel it seems is for s o m e person at that Court. 36 London 31th January 1789 These Enamels & plasters now sent are numbered according to their description now printing. No 7880 is too large for our Furnace at present in use that and the other two flat relief are in the Originals Engraved on Rock-Cristal in Possession of the King of Naples. T h e large Head4 is on a Sardonyx in the Florentain Museum, c o m m o n g l y hici called Constanten son of Coonstanten the Great. But from its stile of work & other circumstances we rather think it to be the Portrait of Augustus - It was with great struggle we m a d e these in Enamel for The Empress's Cabinet, we have not attempted them since. 37 1 IPresumablv enclosed with next letter] 20th May 1789 This will be delivered to you by Mr Rasp a Cientleman versant in vtHir favourite stud v of antiques - He is now on a tour to the I lighlands of Scotland5; your friendly offices in procuring any introductions that may facilitate the object, of his journev will perhaaps be useful. I lis intention is to search our the national productions of the Country - perhaps Mr Gilbert 1 lamilton could point out somethings in the natural History of Scotland worthy of Mr Raspes particular

29


JAMES TASSIE

notice. He undertakes this journey at the particular desire of several gentlemen versant in natural History w h o think it m a y be of great utility. 37 2 London 20th M a y 1789 In regard to your Query concerning the late Dr Hunters medals. From the unsuccessful applications to be favoured even for a single impression. 1 am affraid you will not obtain your request. However if by your superior influence be favoured, 1 will be very happy to perform it providing Dr C o m b e s condesends to permit any time not on a S u n d a y You may be certain that sulphur will d a m a g e every metal except Gold. T h e safest way is to take them in plaster or wax, also making moulds for the furnace to take off in paste does not in the least injure the colour. 39 London 19 th August 1789 I received your favour of the 10th Inst, s o m e time ago through Dr Baillies influence 1 went to the Hunterian Museum, along with Dr Combe, and moulded 8 or 9 of the Greek medals which the course of seting took up so much of the Doctors time, I could not repeat again s o m e of them that c a m e badly off. Being small 1 was sorry I had not with m e s o m e sealing or modeling wax to have pressed them in those materials instead of Plaster, 1 believe would have succeeded better. 1 have oiled the mould in the usual manner & are n o w fit to cast sulphur from. 41 London 24th Octr 1789 Being full in the expectation of access to private Gentlemans Cabinets I hope to be able to suply you in those articles you have mentioned without giving Dr C o m b e the Trouble. W h e n 1 have little more in N u m b e r shall show them to Dr Combe, and could they w h o has the care of the Hunter M u s e u m be prevailed on to gratify the curious to permit boath sides of the scarcest. I would with pleasure carry our opperatus for moulding into the M u s e u m . O n e fortunate circumstance that moulding in Tripilo earth for the Furnace does not the least injury To the pattina or nist of old medals. 55 London 14th Febry 1792 Hurry prevented m e from writing you a few lines from Edinburgh, I modeled there in addition to those in Glasgow 20 Portraits. The whole will take m e a long time to finish.As I received payment for 10 or 12 of Edinburgh ones lavs m e under the necessity of finishing them first. 60 London 30th Januy 1794 I am much ashamed in so long a delay in answering your Obliging letters of Sept & O c t r About middle of last s u m m e r I had only just finished the models I took in Edinburgh and ever since has been engaged in a laborious job in making plaster casts from a most beautiful antique Vase which are to be desposed of by subscription this spring.

3f)

61 London March 1794 The Vase I mentioned is from the much celebretaded Isic] Barberina Vase, now in the Possession of the Duke of Portland...

66 London 20th June 1796 In regard to the Glass you mention for your Drawers. It would be difficult to procure London crown to answer your purpose. In m y opinion German or Dutch plate which is generally used for fine prints is perfectly flat, and this it would a little more expencive then crown hut not so dear as plate for mirrors 67 London 7th Septr 1797 I duly received your Letter of 31th Ult and have consulted with Mr Milton about the expences of the Medal Ticket. Not having been in the practice of an Ocal shape he thinks it will be more difficult to execute than a circle on account of an Oval collet. However he is willing to execute your design if you presist in it. He mentions 25 Guineas the lowest he would undertake the work. If you can afford more he would bestow more pains in proportion T h e impressions in copper will be 3 / - each, if Bronzed would cost 6d or 9d more. Mr M. agrees with me, it would be best not to alter the face from the Print. Mr Milton says he had 40 G s for Mr G r a h a m s medal of the Glasgow College My own opinion, that some of his later performance are superior to that 1 think he is the most proper hand for your purpose of any I k n o w in London. 1 shall be very happy to contribute any assistance in my p o w e r I perfectly agree in your taste in having your Ticket Metial Oval as more agreeable for the purpose of a Ticket then the c o m m o n form of medals 69 London Novr 1797 I have just finished Lord Duncans Portrait who did m e the6 honour to sit so T h e likeness is much approofed of 70 London 28th Deer 1797 The price of Lord Duncan is one Guinea each 1 have charged to your Acct 18/- each. 71 London 24th February 1798 1 dulv received your letter of the 11th Instant my N e p h h e w has copyed Lord Duncan a smaller size to match the c o m m o n run of our Portraits at 15/- which is more easv to our Furnace Mr Brown has preser\ ed the likenesss on a Cornelian seal size rather too large for rings, from which we make them in raised Enamel fixed in neat black Frames at 2/6 or Appliquees on a Darten Ground in a double frame at 5/- a considerable number of boath sorts with the large has been forwarded to Edinburgh.


EXCERPTS FROM LETTERS

Letters from William Tassie 19W London Deer 18th 1805 I received your letter respecting Lord Nelson's Portrait - We have been so busy making small ones for the Jewellers (the size of rings and broaches) that 1 had no time to finish a large Portrait before this time - But I have now got o n e finished nearly the size of Lord Duncan - It is mostly done from De Roster's Print and is thought like - Ladv Nelson has had 3 of the small head on Cornelian for broaches which she thinks very like - you wish to have o n e of each they shall be sent We have also m a d e s o m e suitable figures onthe occasion - small one with a figure of Britnnnica holding a medallion of Nelson - and two others 24W London Septr 19th 1812 1 a m aware that the prices of the enamels are high. - but 1 have told you the lowest terms that you can have the largest sizes for. - There is now a very considerable addition laid on the duties of glass - and we have so much waste in failures that 1 have been obliged to leave off making large Portrait enamels entirelv. 25W London Deer 31st 1812 I had no private hand to convey the articles you ordered - a n d I have now only sent vou part of the enamels you expect - the reasons are, our Enamel is by no means good, those that are finished have been m a d e with considerable difficulty, and I fear m a y not all give you satisfaction.and another reaon is that many of the sulphurs you sent are chiped, and much rubb'd and have lost considerably the sharpness - p e r h a p s you are not aware of the difficulties and trouble it takes before we can get Enamels.We have first to take hollow plasters from the Sulphurs or medals, wax them, sink them in plaster, then mould them, and then it requires the greatest niceity to smooth & finish the ground in the mould - on which account they are all done by my own hand - B e f o r e we can get Enamels, / after we have good pastes / w e have to cast sulphurs, and from then they are m a d e - you see the operations from the Sulphurs you send are so many, that in addition to the sharpness already lost the Enamels cannot appear to advantage-... 1 shall with pleasure give you every instruction in my power for taking the plaster moulds - the process is very simple - you must take the finest plaster you can get - with water mix it double the thickness of the best cream, the thicker the stronger the impression Take a small strong hair pencil, and dab the plaster after you have put a small quantity on the medal (which you will surround with good card paper for it is of great consequence to have the edges good / for my dabbing you take a w a y the air bubbles - after this fill it up with the plaster, it should stand about half an hour before you draw it off - to make the plaster deliver from tine coin easily take a hair pencil with salt and oil, after b m s h i n g a little fine cotton - so that scarcelv anv of it remains, if you attend to these directions you must succeed - T o prevent mistakes, you can scratch nimibers on the backs ...

of the high duties. & vexations attendance of the Custom House Officers - 1 intend going shortly myself to Birmingham when I hope to see after s o m e 27W London Jan 24th 1814 1 have received safe the plaster Impressions and will lose no time in making the proper moulds. It was great neglect in Mr C o o m b e not to give m e these Impressions - In mixing the plaster - it would have been better had you put more plaster in the water as the Impressions n o w sent are rather soft and weak. 28 1 reed, y o u r ' s of the 31st 1 now send as above the list of the mixed plasters, perhaps you will have an opportunity of sending me the original hollow moulds - Before proceeding with making the pastes from the other plasters, 1 wish you would inform m e if thev are the first hollow moulds, taken immediately from the medals? There is a want of sharpness in several which makes m e suspect they may be taken from raised plasters - In which case I would decline making them altogether - as I know by experience they must be very inferior I must request you always to send m e the original Casts without being touched on the edges I mean pared - as preserving the exact form of the medal is of very considerable consequence - In case you should not know our way of easting plasters I will now tell you - We always oil the medal and wipe it dry with clean cotton - then put the card paper - make the a good cream thickness, put a small quantity on the medal, then with a small pencil brush dab the air bubbles out. afterwards fill it up with plaster - should the casts be not quite perfect they are cast over again. 35W We have little demand for works of Taste and Art. Therefor what little I do in antiquity - must be to gratify my o w n feeling - and not with any view of worldly gain - But we have Business enough in making French & English Devices & Mottoes for Seals - of these we have published a Small C a t a l . 38W London 15 Novr 1825 1 found on my arrival that the Enamels from the coins of George III had been maade single & taken from the plasters you sent. I therefore had to m a k e them over again and 1 got from Mr Wyon the loan of two of the original coins - tliey are of course much sharper he also lent m e one t)f the Arts & Sciences - He is a very intelligent, clever young man - T h e new gold soverigns's [sicl die is by him - He has finished a die of the double soverign - also he is preparing a Five Pound Piece - and a new silver Coinage - which is intended in the first instance for Ireland.

We have of late years been very unfortimate in getting good white Enamel - in consequence perhaps

33


Tassie medallions and other manufacturers

Reverse of ceramic plaque illustrated opposite.

Tassie of course, was not alone. Many other manufacturers were aware of the two markets which Tassie exploited: the market for neo-classical ornamentation and the market for representations for important personages. Wedgwood was Tassie's most obvious counterpart and competitor. Indeed Wedgwood and Tassie in their early days worked together with Wedgwood purchasing m a n y medallions from Tassie for his o w n production in Jasper Ware. Quite quickly W e d g w o o d discovered that Tassie's o w n productions in glass were taking away from his own trade and so Wedgwood dropped Tassie from the list of modellers w h o m he continued to use. Manufacturers were fairly incestuous in their use of source material and even after the Engravers' Copyright Act of 1735, sometimes k n o w n as the Hogarth Act, which gave limited copyright protection, manufactures appeared to purchase medallions on the open market and then copy them without giving further recompense to the original modeller. Indeed the recent Wedgwood exhibition showed a medallion of Catherine the Great who was modelled, possibly in ivorv by Maria Feodorowna. In 1782 Tassie m a d e a copy in white paste and Wedgwood's medallion in Jasper Ware, white on a sage green ground, appears to be a straight replica of Tassie's. Tassie experimented with colouring his medallions to give a naturalistic effect. Illustrated on page 35 is a coloured version of Catherine the Great. Matthew Boulton used several of Tassies' medallions from antiquity which were cast in bronze as ornaments for his vases and candlesticks and even Derby are thought to have copied s o m e Tassie medallions in their biscuitware vases. During the preparation of this book, one of the most unexpected finds was a superb plaque of Count Rumford m a d e by the Sevres factory around 1800 with a portrait of Rumford signed by Tassie in white on a pale blue ground. This was probably an uncommissioned copy which the Sevres factory used as being the best likeness available to them. Sevres, at this time (the medallion is dated 1796), had joined Wedgwood in the manufacture of medallions, several of which are in the British M u s e u m , and their hard-paste, in biscuit form, was a particularly suitable medium. T h e medallion is inscribed in the reverse 'comte Rumford'. There is no sign of either a Sevres mark of the mark of a Sevres repairer (finisher), but this is not unusual in this type of ware. T H O M r e O N , SIR B E N J A M I N , C O U N T V O N R U M F O R D (1753-1814), b o m at North Woburn, Massachusetts, on 26 March 1753. T h o m p s o n lost his father at the age of twenty months. His mother married again when he was three vears old. He was educated first at the school of his native village; secondly, at that of Byfield; and thirdly, at that of Medford. It is said 'that he showed a particular ardour for arithmetic and mathematics, and it was remembered of him, afterwards, that his playtime, and s o m e of his proper worktime, had been given to ingenious mechanical contrivances, soon leading to a curious interest in the principles of mechanics and natural philosophy' When fourteen he was apprenticed to John

32

Appleton of Salem, w h o kept a large 'store,' remaining there 'till about October 1769. ' He busied himself with experiments for the discovery of perpetual motion and the preparation of fireworks. An unforseen explosion jeopardised his life. In 1769 he entered the employment of Hopestill Capen of Boston. His spare time was devoted to learning French and to fencing. He attended lectures at Harvard University, and acquired-some knowledge of surgery and medicine. He became a schoolmaster, first at Wilmington in Massachusetts, and afterwards at Rumford (subsequently renamed Concord) in N e w Hampshire. Rumford married Sarah Walker in January 1773; he was under twenty and she was thirty-three. Their only child, Sarah, was born on 18 October 1774. Wentworth, the governor of N e w Hampshire, gave him a commission as major in the second provincial regiment, greatly to the dissatisfaction of the junior officers. He n o w devoted his leisure hours to experiments in g u n p o w d e r and to farming the land aci]uirec1 by marriage. In 1775 he was cast into prison for lukewarmness in the cause of liberty, and was released, without being acquitted. He then converted his property into cash, embarked on the frigate Scarborough at Newport, and was landed at Boston, where he remained until the capitulation, sailing for England in the frigate bearing despatches from General G a g e to Lord George Germain, secretary of state. Lord George appointed T h o m p s o n secretary for Georgia, a barren honour, and to a place of profit in the colonial office. He again occupied himself with experiments in gunpowder; he determined the velocity of projectiles while advantageously altering their form. In September 1780 he was appointed under secretary for the colonies, an office which he held for thirteen months. Lord George appointed T h o m p s o n lieutenant-colonel of the King's American dragoons after Cornwallis had surrendered to Washington and Rochambeau at Yorktown, and, though he did some skirmishing at Charleston before its evacuation, his career in America as a soldier was uneventful. He went with his regiment from Charleston to Long Island, where he remained at Huntingdon till peace was concluded. Returning to England he went abroad on 17 September 1783. T h o m p s o n journeyed to Strassburg and formed the acquaintance of Duke Maximilian, the general in c o m m a n d , and was introduced by him to his uncle, the elector of Bavaria, into whose service he afterwards entered. George III not only gave Thompson the requisite permission, but knighted him on 23 February 1784, shortly before his departure for Bavaria. He returned to England in October 1795 with the title of Count von Rumford. During the eleven years he passed in Munich he had m a d e important reforms in the public service and in social economy. As minister of war he increased the pay and comfort of the private soldier; as head of the police he freed the city from the plague of beggars. A large piece of waste ground belonging to the elector he converted, with the elector's sanction, into a public park having a circumference of six miles. This is now known as the English Garden. When he left in 1795 the citizens of Munich erected a m o n u m e n t in it as a token of their gratitude. In the spring of 1796 he went to Ireland as the guest


Count Rumford,signed 'Tassie F 1796 Sevres porcelaine.

of Lord Pelham, and while in Dublin he introduced improvements into the hospitals and workhouses. In London he effected great improvements in the Foundling Hospital. The cooking of food, and the warming of houses economically, occupied his thoughts, as well as s m o k y chimneys, five hundred of which he claimed to have cured. He m a d e the first experiment at Lord Palmerston's house in Hanover Square, and the houses of other noblemen were afterwards freed from smoke. Like his countryman Franklin, the aim of Rumford as an inventor was to promote comfort at the fireside, the main object of his life being, in Tyndall's words, 'the practical management of fire and the e c o n o m y of fuel'. Yet he m a d e contributions to pure science as valuable as Franklin's in the domain of electricity. W h e n a cannon was bored at Munich he noticed the amount of heat developed, and he succeeded in boiling water by the process. He answered the question 'What is heat?' by the statement that it cannot be other than 'motion'. Succeeding investigators confirmed his conclusion, and to him pertains the honour of having first determined that 'heat is a m o d e of motion' and of annihilating as Tyndall says 'the material theory of heat'. In 1798 he gave two thousand dollars to Concord in N e w Hampshire, formerly Rumford, the interest to be used in clothing twelve poor children yearly, and the gift was accepted with the proviso that the girls should be educated as well as clothed. He returned to Munich in 1796 with his daughter, who had joined him in England. Two years later he was in London as minister for Bavaria, but the king

declined to receive one of his o w n subjects in that capacity. John A d a m s , president of the United States, gave Rumford the choice of offices of lieutenant and inspector of artillery or engineer and superintendent of the military academy. He declined, but presented the model of a n e w field-piece as a personal acknowledgement of the compliment. The most important of his works was founding the Royal Institution of Great Britain in Albemarle Street, London. In the 'Proposals', which he drafted, its objects were stated to be two-fold, the first being the diffusion of the knowledge of new improvements, the second 'teaching the application of science to the useful purposes of life.' He designed the lecture-room, and his sketches belong to the Royal Institute of British Architects. On 24 Oct. 1805 he married for the second time, his new wife being Marie A n n e Pierret Paulxe, w i d o w of Lavoisier. They separated by mutual consent on 30 June 1809. Rumford thereupon took an estate at Auteuil near Paris, where he lived till his death on 25 August 1814. He was buried in Auteuil cemetery (now disused). Under the provisions of his will, a professorship of physics was established at Harvard University in 1816, and his philosophical apparatus passed with 1,000/. to the Royal Institution.

33


Apsley Pellatt and the production of sulphid

T h e success of all these wares must have inspired Apsley Pellatt to perfect his cn/stnllo-ceraniie whose production he described in his 'Memoirs' of 1821. Cn/stallo-cemmies, or sulphides, are medallions encase in glass. Because the coefficient expansion of the ceramic biscuit used by Wedgwood is different from glass and the extremely high lead glass used by Tassi had too low a melting point to be suitable. Apsley Pellatt had to develop his own formula for making medallions. In 1819 Mr Pellatt took out a patent whic specified that the formula was a mixture of china clay and potassium supersilicate. When fired, the materia did not retain air and was wettable by molten glass. This mixture (which Apsley Pellatt called 'paste') wa then pressed into a mould and allowed to dry and th resultant impression was heated in a furnace with careful temperature control, so that the material sintered. T h e medallions were then stored until they were required for the production of the final paperweight, medallion, candlestick or tumbler, illustrated here is one of Apsley Pellatt's major works which he illustrated in his 'Memoirs'. It is a superbly detailed portrait of George IV, formerly Prince Regen with the bust fully encased in glass. The edges of the glass have been cut in a decorative manner and the original mount is attached to the top.

Illustrated opposite are two cntstnllo-cerainies whic have not been encased in glass. A microscopic examination shows its particularly granular composition quite unlikely Tassie's glistening glassy surface visible on the back of his medallions, (the visible surfaces were often matted with hydrofluoric acid). T h e left-hand gentleman is signed Bwchardf. T right-hand gentleman, as yet unidentified, although wears the garter star, is modelled by Pierre Honore Boudon d e Saint-Amans. This Frenchman c a m e to England and is mentioned by Apsley Pellatt in his second 1849 book. Between 1818 and 1826, he worked for Sevres. A plaque, presumably by Apsley Pellatt, with this bust, is in the collection of the Agen Museu France.

A sulphide hv Apsloy Pellatt of George IV, together with the original drawing which Apsley Pellatt illustrated in his 'memoires' of 1821.

.34

The research for this book has helped clear up two mysteries which have bedevilled authors for a long time: first, the origin of the word sulphide which is the c o m m o n term for the objects which Apsley Pellatt called crystnllo-ceramies. Previous literature had stated that this word was of unknown origin. This term mu have c o m e from the sulphur impressions which medallion makers at the time used for their permane record. T h e other confusion, already mentioned in th forward, has been caused by the fact that in the Engli language 'paste' has two distinct meanings. O n e is th term used in jewellery circles for an artificial gemston m a d e from a very high lead content glass coloured with metallic oxides. These are the 'pastes' m a d e in Italy and also by James Tassie. T h e second meaning o the word 'paste' is an admixture of solids with a fluid usuallv water, to give a material of a thick creamv consistency. This is the 'paste' which Apsley Pellatt sa he used in the manufacture of his ornaments: a mixtu of ground material and water which was then dried and fired. Tassie did not use a 'paste' in this sense wh making his 'pastes'. He used a solid piece of high lead glass which was heated and then pushed into a moul and allowed to cool.


SULI'llIDES

Two sulphides from the factory of Apsley Tellatt, before being encased in glass.

Left, an experimental portrait of Catherine the Great, after a model by Maria Feredorovvna. T h e head has been stained a flesh colour and the dark blue background softened by a thin layer of white enamel. Right, Two of Catherine the Greats' daughters.

.35


Sulphur The use of sulphur for mould making was well known in the 18th century. The polymaths of the Lunar society would have been equally at home discussing the philosophy of Socrotes, Hogarth's line of beauty or the properties of Brimstone, sulphur's other name. By the time Gray came to write his treatise, education had polarized. Neither Gray nor his successors described what a 'sulphur' was or why sulphur was used in the production of glass medallions. It was apparently looked on as a mechanical process of little interest. Sulphur has been known from very early times. The term Oeiov is frequently used by Homer for sulphur. In the Odyssey (22.481) where, after the slaughter of the suitors, Odysseus, recognized the need for a thorough cleansing he called out: 'Quickly, O! Dame, bring fire that I may burn sulphur, the cure of ills' - and sulphur was then used as a fumigating agent, for Homer also speaks of the 'pest-averting sulphur,' the 'divine and purifying fumigation,' etc. Sulphur was also used by the ancients in some of their religious ceremonies; indeed, the very term is itself derived from 9e6g, meaning God. Pliny said:- 'Sulphur is employed ceremoniously in the hallowing of houses, for many are of the opinion that the odour and burning thereof will keep out all enchantments -yea, and drive away any foul fiends and evil spirits that do haunt the place.' Pliny regarded sulphur as one of the most singular kinds of earth, and an agent of great power on other substances. He said that sulphur was obtained from the volcanic islands between Sicily and Italy; and from the Isle of Melos; and that it was mined from the hills in the territories of Neapolis and Campania.

The extraction of sulphur in the 16th century.

36

Sulphur is a stable element, pale yellow in colour when pure, with a density of around 2. Without goin into details of the different crystalline forms of sulph in simple terms sulphur melts around 115 C to forrri light yellow mobile liquid. If heated above 160 C the liquid starts to darken and turn highly viscous. Sulphur is ideal for making rigid moulds. It melt just above the boiling point of water to a true mobile liquid rather than a cream. It sets quickly to give a perfectly smooth finish unlike a plaster of Paris, whi is slightly granular, and it does not need firing or tim to dry out. Also it is comparatively hard, in relation plaster 1.5/2.5 on the Moh scale. Liquid sulphur will attack basic metals and silve but can be used on gold medallions, glass or plaster. Because of its cheapness and hardness, Tassie apparently used sulphurs for all his master moulds, both positive and negative. From the positives, Tassi would have produced his Tripoli matrices for makin glass items. From the negatives, plasters for sale wou have been produced. Tassie also sold positive sulphurs filled with red lead oxide or other pigments to people who did not wish to pay for glass.These were surrounded by gilt edged paper, as in the example illustrated on page 2 and are often erroneously referred to as waxes. 'The laboratory; or. School of Arts:' (fifth edition), publish in 1806, explains how polishing a sulphur with black lead (graphite) will give 'a fine metallic gloss'. Also explained is the method of achieving a bright red by using Vermillion (mercury sulphide) or a green by adding smalt (cobalt oxide).


Classicism

A classical l a d y in e n a m e l tinted to s i m u l a t e t h e antique, on a p a i n t e d b l u e ground.

T h e study a n d u n d e r s t a n d i n g of classical antiquity has

Collectors of Tassie's w o r k got the best of b o t h

b e e n of great interest to scholars and c o n n o i s s e u r

w o r l d s ; they g o t e x t r e m e l y g o o d c o p i e s in h a r d glass,

collectors since the renaissance. A k n o w l e d g e of

r a t h e r t h a n s o f t p l a s t e r a n d in t h e s a m e c o l o u r s a s t h e

classical G r e e k a n d Latin l a n g u a g e and literature w a s

original g e m s , and they also paid 'reproduction' prices,

e s s e n t i a l f o r a g e n t l e m a n a n d t h i s l e d t o i n t e r e s t in

rather than b e i n g cheated into believing that they were

related artifacts.

b u y i n g items from antiquity.

M a n u s c r i p t s f r o m a n t i q u i t y d o n o t e x i s t in a n y

T h e collecting of copies of antique g e m s , h i d d e n

q u a n t i t y a n d t h e s a m e is l a r g e l y t r u e o f w h a t m i g h t

a w a y f r o m v i e w a n d n e a t l y a r r a n g e d in t h e d r a w e r s o f

l o o s e l y b e called h o u s e h o l d items. T h e r e is virtually n o

c o l l e c t o r s ' c a b i n e t s is n o l o n g e r t h e p a s t i m e o f a

furniture extant from this period. A f e w frescoes remain

g e n t l e m a n . T h e u s e o f s u c h i t e m s in ( c o s t u m e )

b u t these are physically impractical to collect. Glass a n d

jewellery w a s c o m m o n and indeed jewellers even

c e r a m i c s s u r v i v e d in s o m e q u a n t i t y b u t t h e s e a r e

today, seek out Tassies to m o u n t as rings, b r o o c h e s and

usually of a rather m u n d a n e everyday type and only of

n e c k l a c e s . N o w T a s s i e s a r e b e t t e r d i s p l a y e d in a l i g h t

r e a l i n t e r e s t t o t h e s p e c i a l i s t . T h i s left s t a t u a r y i t e m s

b o x t h a n in a c l o s e d c a b i n e t a n d e v e n J a m e s h i m s e l f

and ancient paste and hnrdstone items, which m a y

s u g g e s t e d d i s p l a y i n g t h e m h u n g in w i n d o w s .

loosely be classified u n d e r the general h e a d i n g of jewellery. B y d e f i n i t i o n , all j e w e l l e r y is m a d e t o a p p e a r

O v e r t h e p a g e is t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n , w r i t t e n b y M r K n i g h t in 1 8 2 8 , t o h i s b o o k , ' M o d e r n a n d A n t i q u e G e m s ' ,

attractive and s o m e classical jewellery w a s wonderfully

w h i c h c o n v e y s v i v i d l y t h e ra/sod tVctrc f o r c o l l e c t i n g

e n g r a v e d b y the great artist craftsmen of the classical

such items.

p e r i o d . A c o n s i d e r a b l e m a r k e t in s u c h j e w e l l e r y g r e w up with the n o b l e m e n of Europe vying with each other a s to w h o c o u l d h a v e the m o s t interesting cabinet. U n f o r t u n a t e l y , h u m a n n a t u r e b e i n g w h a t it is, a s t h e s u p p l y o f g e n u i n e i t e m s started to d r y u p Italian c r a f t s m e n r u s h e d t o fill t h e d e m a n d . A l a t e r e x a m i n a t i o n of m a n y of these early cabinets has s h o w n h o w m a n y of these early collectors were cheated and had purchased fakes. A m o r e p r o p e r u s e of c o p i e s to e n l i g h t e n b o t h the scholars and the wealthy dilettante w a s m a d e by the Dresden antiquity I'hilipp Daniel Lippert (1702-1785) as discussed on p a g e 22.

37


INTRODUCTORY R E M A R K S

THOUGH this collection of MODERN ami ANTIQUE GEMS, which may jiisth/ he entitled a Fancy Scrap-Book, as it contains precious morsels and curious symbols in miniature, was originally designed for the use of Seal-Engravers; yet, when completed, it zoas judged to be a u'ork of general utility; and little doubt remained that u'hen it had attained sufficient publicity, it would be found on every library table, and an extensive sale remunerate the considerable pains and expense which have attended the Compiler's researches and the Publisher's endeavours to execute the undertaking in the most elegant manner. To the ADMIRERS OF THE FINE ARTS this work will be a great acquisition, as it contains many subjects for the application and exercise of the mind. The ANTIQUARY nnist also derive great satisfaction from an examination of this work, as it contains Antiques from the Elgin Marbles, some fine Grecian Heads, anda fexv plates of Hieroglyphics. The SPORTSMAN will also be entertained with spwrting subjects; and as Scrap-Books are now the rage, the MAN OF PLEASURE will find a fund of amusement in this little I'olume, on account of the multiplicity of designs chiefly relative to Love. As the subjects are accompanied with appropriate Mottos and Quotations, the MAN OF LETTERS will have, in a small compass, a great deal of food for the mind. Indeed our little volume deserves itself the motto ofMidtnm in Parvo: So full our Scrap-Book, as premised. That Much in Little is comprised. By the Mythology, or History of Fabulous Deities, which this loork tends to illustrate, the SCHOLAR and his PUPIL will be enabled to explain the mysteries of the Pagan Religion, and the Hieroglyphical plates will greatly assist their study... Hence must be apparent the utility of the present little volume; which will not only gratif]! the admirers of the Fine Arts, the Antiquary, the Sportsman, the Man of Pleasure, the Man of Letters, the Scholar and the Pupil, but it will be of essential service to painters, carvers, cabinetmakers (as well as seal-engravers), &c. ami to all those, who, in their labours, arc occasionally obliged to display any taste or fancy-work.

.39


J A M E S TASSIE

40


CLASSICISM

Tassie intaglios Faces have intrigued since time immemorial. lassie's faces include savants and philosophers, soldiers, sailors and statesman, poets, writers and all those who make mankind civilised.

41


J A M E S TASSIE

42


CLASSICISM

Education in the eighteenth century was based on the classics. Even geometry harked back to the days of Euchd. The work of Plato, the stories of Homer and the journeys of Pliny were still thought relevant to day-today hfe. A gentleman might go a-huntin', a-shootin' and a-fishin' but in the evening, over the port, he would reminisce on his Grand Tour and open his cabinet to display his souvenirs. The works of James Tassie, in all the colours known to the ancients, displayed the art of both the engraver of classical times and also his eighteenth century disciple.

43


JAMES TASSIE

As Tassie and his nephew produced over fifteen thousand different medallions, the collector had a wide choice. Marchand and Burch were the most prolific eighteenth century intaglio engravers, with several examples illustrated on this page. William Shakespear and Samuel Johnson are two of the English writers to be found here, amongst the Greek Gods and Warriors.

44


CLASSICISM

45


JAMES TASSIE

46


CLASSICISM

Many of tlnese intaglios were designed as seals, an increasingly profitable market, especially for William Tassie. As well as personal crests, seals could be used to convey messages of love and affection when closing a letter, often using the emblemata much beloved of the early eighteenth century.


J A M E S TASSIE

'Pretty Ornaments for W i n d o w s '

On 1st July 1784, James Tassie wrote to Alex Wilson of Glasgow, '1 at present flatter myself to produce very pretty ornaments for windows. And has it in my power to procure several series of medals for that purpose. The first set we are adoing for a specimen is 24 heads of reformers by Dacier that 1 lately purchased in C o p p a r (Copper). I propose to mount them in brass or coppar frames and soder (solder) them together in various forms, to look firy [sicl. Very few of these have survived; the example illustrated is in a wooden frame, with dark amber profiles on a wliite opal ground.

48

Shown at an exhibition of 'Documentary Ceramics and Related Materials held at Tlie Delholm Gallery and Institute, The Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, Nortli Carolina, in 1968 and formerly in the collection of Mr and Mrs Zygmunt Brodkiewiez.' The diameter of the frame is 11.2ins (28.3cms).


This plaque is one of the largest executed by James Tassie (width 4.3ins, n.2cms). Scratched on the back is the following inscription: 'King of Naples 2/24 V Belli Belli G de Castel Bolognese'

Early in the writing of this book, a cast of this plaque was taken by the author and sent to Ed Bace, w h o has provided the Greeko-Roman commentary for this book. He wrote back, 'I haven't been able to find an exact ancient model for the scene, but it appears to be modelled on the sort of shallow reliefs depicting Roman Imperial campaigns against barbarian tribes, as appear on the C o l u m n s of Trajan and of Marcus Aurelius in Rome. T h e s e reliefs depict naval battles, but in a more documentary fashion than the florid. Baroque style of the plaque. The Column of Trajan, for example, erected after 107 AD in the F o n i m built by that Emperor, depicts Trajan's campaigns against the Dacians (a tribe inhabiting modern Romania). Representations of the ships, sokiiers and barbarians on the C o l u m n are regarded as historically accurate, but your plaque apparently takes much more license. The form and ornament of the ships, for instance, don't seem well suited to battle, and naked soldiers do not accord with Roman practice. T h e double-headed eagle on one of the soldier's standards is more appropriate to the Habsburgs than to the Roman Empire. In all, the image appears to be a pastiche of various Hellenistic-inspired motifs, adapted to current tastes, within a setting inspired by Roman historical reliefs. T h e pose of the two warriors in the boat on the left, for example, goes back to Hellenistic models (as does the mythological relief on that boat). T h e barbarians are easily identifiable bv their garb and curlv hair and beards, but no identification can be m a d e as to tribe (beyond perhaps a European one). I'm afraid the inscription on the back of the plaque casts little light on the scene, except that the King of Naples (if this be Carlo 111, in the eighteenth century) was a keen antiquarian, and followed the excavations at I'ompeii and Herculaneum, a m o n g other things, with great interest.'

A careful study of Raspe by Marika Hughes later revealed that this plaque is n u m b e r 2724. Raspe's entry is given here in facsimile. It was usually J a m e s Tassie's custom to follow the original material of the engraver, in this instance. Rock Crystal, but Tassie chose a reddish-amber glass. Tassie had copied 83 items from the cabinet of T h e King of Naples. Leo X (b 1475) was Pope from 1513 to 1521 at the height of the Renaissance, a period which Raspe obviously admired but in his commentary he could not resist revealing his prejudices against the Holy Roman Empire. * 2 7 2 4 ] ROCK CHRYSTAL. K i n g of Naples. A grand and nioft magnificent naval engagement of three large v e i r d s , fplendidly decorated on the outllde with bas-reliefs, f i n k i n g a f o u r t h . O n hoard of one of the veflels is feen the double Imperial eagle, which the emperors of the H o u f e of A u f l r i a h a v e affumed in their arms, as a f y m b o l of the prcteiukd reunion of the E a f t and W e f l e r n empires. T h i s rich compofition then appears to have been executed in honour of the expedition of Charles V . againft the M o o r s , or the great naval ^iftion which his bartard, D o n J u a n o f A u f t r i a , gained over the T u r k s near L e p a n t o . One of the vefTels is decorated w i t h bas-reliefs reprefeiiting the labours of Hercules. It is an excellent w o r k of the times of L e o X . when the a r t i f i s d i d not k n o w and did not imitate any thing but the c o f l u m e of R o m e , and which this mafter feems to have ftndied to advantage from the bas-reliefs on the pillar o f T r a j a n . T h e drawing is in the tafte of J u l i o R o m a n o , Mantegna, or Polidore. W e perceive the manner of Valcrlo Belli, of I'kema, or rather of Giou. Cnjlcl Ko o^ncfe, w h o , by Gon\ account, {Hift. Glypi. p. 2'26.) engraved on R o c k C h r y f t a l the txpedition of C h a r l e s V . againft the T u n i f i a n s . 49


J A M E S TASSIE

A Collection of White Enamels of Classical Subjects together with John Milton, the Poet and Classical Scholar

50

1

A nude youth and maiden, perhaps Perseus freeing Andremeda 2 Profile of a Roman Republican 3 Venus bathing, loosely based on models going back to the fourth century BC, such as the Bathing Venus by Doidalsas of Bithynia 4 Profile heads of the 12 Caesars (Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespanian, Titus and Domitian) 5 3 putti, playing 'Blind M a n ' s Buff' 6 Profile bust of young female warrior, seemingly modelled on the fifth century BC Athena Lemnia of Pheidias 7 Profile of Napolean 8 A kneeling maiden in Christian mourning 9 Dual portrait of a warrior and his consort, perhaps Mars and Venus 10 The three graces

f 1 G r o u p of 6 putti, perhaps depicting a theft, quarrel and chase. In anticpity putti were often depicted satirizing serious or adult subjects. Here two putti on the right appear to be making off with wine and fruits, while a third is detained by another putto, with two others in hot pursuit, waving clubs and agricultural implements. The leftmost figure appears to b e represented as a satyr, with goat's horns, ears and beard. Vine leaves on the tree to the left of the scene carry through the Dionysiac theme. 12 Venus bathing 13 B u s t o f John Milton

Frontal x'iew of a Gorgon's Head, after Roman Imperial representations based on Hellenistic models. T h e 'Rondanini Medusa' is a similar example, although less round and more horrific in its appearance. T h e Gorgon's head, or Gorgoneion, appeared frequently in classical iconography, originally as an apiitropaic

symbol. The three Gorgon sisters, Medusa, Sthenno and Eurvale, were represented with hideous faces, glaring eyes and serpents in their hair and girdles, Medusa alone of the three mortal. She was slain by Perseus, with the aid of a polished shield, since anything that met the Gorgon's gaze turned to stone.


m

' J

f1


JAMES TASSIE

Roman Emperors were a favourite subject with James Tassie and his customers. Often the images were mounted on dark blue (cobalt) glass.

The smaller medallions, (the largest is l.Sins, 3.8cms) with their original gilt-edged paper mounts, were originally designed to be displayed in closed cabinets and are identical to the ones sold to Catherine the Great, together with the cabinets in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

52

(Top): profile bust of the emperor Vitellius, who ruled briefly in 69 AD (the year of the 4 Caesars, which also included Galba, Otho and Vespasian). Aulus Vitellius, who claimed the imperial title after the defeat and suicide of Otho in April 69, was noted for his gluttony and prodigality. In December 69 his forces were defeated by those of Vespasian, Rome was captured and Vitellius murdered. His portrait appears on coins minted during his brief reign. (Centre left): a profile bust of the emperor Caligula, who ruled 37-41 AD. Gaius Caesar, son of Germanaicus and Agrippina, spent his childhood in the Roman camp and, wearing the soldiers' boot (caliga), he received from the soldiers the nickname Caligula. After beginning his reign auspiciously, he apparently went mad and was eventually murdered after a series of wild excesses. His portrait appears on coins minted during his reign. (Centre right): profile bust of the emperor Nero, last of the Julio-Claudians, as it appeared on coins during his reign (54-68 AD). (Bottom): profile bust of the emperor Vespasian, also drawn from imperial coins from his reign (70-79 AD). First of the Flavian emperors, T. Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus brought stability to the empire after the end of the Julio-Claudians and the subsequent turmoil.

The medallion of Phocion (Raspe No 10122) is also illustrated on page 22 together with its sulphur. (Top): a frontal head of Jove or Jupiter.Labelled Jupiter on paper mount. (Middle left): a profile bust of a warrior or general, like Hellenistic Greek coins representing Leucippus. (Middle centre): Raspe No 9134 on paper mount. Busts, side by side, of Helen in a Phrygian cap embroidered with stars, and Paris crowned with Laurel. (Middle right): Raspe No 10122 on paper mount. Three quarter bust of an elderly man, Phocion, an Athenian general, died 318 BC. (Bottom): a profile bust of a Roman emperor probably Hadrian (P Aelius Hadrianus ruled 117-138 AD) the builder of Hadrian's wall.


53


J A M E S TASSIE

Mythology was just as important as true history and of great interest to Tassie's customers

(Top left): female figure standing before a blazing altar, holding a branch in her right hand, with a serpent twined around her left arm. Serpents played a role in some ancient rites, which were often connected with vegetation and fertility. Dress and hairstyle are in the Greek style. (Top right): unusual iconography. A draped, semi-nude girl appears to nourish a serpent from a patera, or sacrificial dish, before an altar next to which stand a warrior's helmet and shield, and a bare tree stump, on one of whose branches is the head of a bearded man. Serpents figured in several ancient Greek rituals, such as that of Erectheus, but this particular iconography is puzzling. (Bottom left): group of 2 female figures sacrificing at an altar. The standing figure on the left holds a branch of vegetation, while the figure on the right kneels before the blazing altar, sprinkling offerings from a patera into the flames. The identification is 'Votive offering on the hearth of friendship' (the altar bears a relief of two left hands clasping). Sacrificial scenes are common in both Greek and Roman iconography, but this representation seems to be adapted to eighteenth century tastes. Dress and hairstyles are in the Greek style. (Bottom right): Venus and Amor (or Cupid), seemingly based on an eighteenth century adaptation.

54

(Top left): frontal view of the 'Farnese Hercules,' after the three-dimensional bronze original of c320 fcc attributed to the Greek sculptor Lysippos of Sicyon, portraitist of Alexander the Great. Numerous Roman copies survive, among other places, one from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome (signed by Glykon, an Athenian sculptor of the second-century ad), which eventually found its way into the collection of the Farnese family in Rome (now in the Naples Museum). The weary hero is shown resting from his labours. The threedimensional copies show the hero holding the Golden Apples of the Hesperides behind his back.

(Top right): group of 2 figures, depicting Hercules on the left, receiving a globe from Atlas, on the right. As punishment for his part in tlie revolt of the Titans against the Olympian gods. Atlas was employed to support the heavens with his head and hands. The Eleventh of Hercules' Twelve Labours was to obtain t Golden Apples of the Hesperides ('the daughters of Evening'), who lived far away in the west, near the Atlas mountains, guarding a tree that produced gold apples, a present given by Ge ('earth') to Hera when the latter married Zeus. In one version of the tale, Hercules induced Atlas to fetch the apples, holding u the sky in his place while he did this. Some say that Atlas then refused to resume his burden, and had to b beguiled into doing so.

(Bottom left): Omphale, queen of Lydia, to whom Hercules was sold as a slave. Hercules had fallen in love with lole, daughter of Euryti.is, king of Oechalia, but her father and brothers would not consent. In a fit of madnes, Hercules threw one of the brothers, Iphitus, frt)m the walls of Tiryns. For this murder the Delphic oracle bade him go into slavery for a year, and Omphale set him to women's work, assuming his lion's skin and club. Representations of Omphale appear on Greek vases and in Roman wall paintings. The style of the image suggests an eig]iteenth-centi.iry adaption as a model.

(Bottom right): figure of Hippocrates, identifiable by his beard and caduceus. Hippocrates of Cos, a contemporary of Socrates (who lived 469-399 be), wa recognized as the foremost physician of ancient Greec This representation bears hallmarks of eighteenthcentury style. Ancient representations of Hippocrates are not very common. A reduced representation of tli image was used by Matthew Boulton.


55


JAMES TASSIE

56

(Top left): profile bust of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in his prime (inscribed M AVREL). Such portraits appeared on the emperor's coinage towards the latter part of his reign, which lasted 161-180 ad.

(Top right): profile bust of the young Marcus Aurelius Antonius, to judge from the inscription, and from similar portrait types associated with the emperor in his youth. His original name was M Annius Verus; he was adopted, at the desire of the emperor Hadrian, by Antonius Pius, and married the latter's daughter Faustina. The 'philosopher emperor,' author of the 'Meditations,' ruled 161-180 ad, from the age of 40, initially in conjuncton with Lucius Verus, who died untimely in 169 ad. Portraits of both as youths are common, on coins and in sculpture.

(Bottom left): frontal bust of the Roman emperor Caracalla (ruled 211-217 ad), his head turned in profile, as in his three-dimensional sculpture portraits, identified also by the inscription CARACLLA [sic]. The emperor's stern expression accords with his ruthless reputation, as recorded by ancient historians. Known as M. Aurelius Antoninus and nicknamed Caracalla, he was the elder son of the emperor Septimius Severus, and is said to have murdered his younger brother Geta to ensure his sole domination.

(Bottom right): profile head of Julius Caesar, deified after his death in 44 be, as indicated by the inscription D(ivi) luli. The profile likeness is similar to those appearing on coins minted in 44 be and later under hi heir Octavian, who became the first Roman emperor (given the name Augustus) and founder of the JulioClaudian dynasty after defeating M Antony in 31 be.

(Top left): profile head of the young, still beardless Hercules, to judge from the attribute of the club. Beardless, youthful heads of Hercules appear on early Roman (3rd century be) coins minted in Greece. The inscription naios could refer to the name of the creator of the ancient seal on which this image is modeled.

(Top right): profile bust of Pittacus of Mitylene, one of the 'Seven Sages' of ancient Greece, which also included Solon of Athens, Thales of Miletus and Bias o Priene, among others. Pittacus was a leader of the democracy in Lesbos in the latter part of the seventh century be, a contemporary of the poets Sappho and Alcaeus. Images of the 'Seven Sages' appear in antiquity in mosaics, paintings and manuscripts as we as in sculpture.

(Bottom left): Profile bust of the goddess Athena Parthenos, based on the colossal chryselephantine cult image within the Parthenon temple at Athens, the work of the 5th-century be sculptor Pheidias. From the inscription ACIIACIOY ('Aspasios' work') we know that this image is a copy of an ancient gemstone in Rome's Museo Nazionale, dated to the early Roman period (2nd century be), but by a Greek craftsman. Besides the gemstone, several three-dimensional images of Pheidias' Athena Parthenos survive in miniature copies.

(Bottom right): profile head of Alexander the Great, wearing a helmet (inscribed ALESANDROY), cf coin portraits. Alexander the Great, son of Philip II of Macedon, succeeded his father in 336 be at the age of twenty, and extended the Macedonian empire from mainland Greece througout Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt, to the frontiers of India, before his death at the age of thirty-three. His conquests set the stage for the Hellenistic empires which followed, ailed by his lieutenants and successors until the dominance of Rome. Profile portraits of the helmeted Alexander appear frequently on coins, in addition to surviving sculptures in the round, but this image appears to owe a great deal to Renaissance represenatations.


57


JAMES TASSIE

James Tassie is most appreciated for his models of his contemporaries, some of whom have no other likeness surviving.

GREGORY, J A M E S (1753-1821), (top left) professor of medicine at Edinburgh University, son of John Gregory (1724-1773), was born at Aberdeen in January 1753. He was educated at Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and also studied for a short time at Christ Church, Oxford. While he was still a student of medicine at Edinburgh Gregory's father died suddenly during the winter session of 1773, and he, by a great effort, completed his father's course of lectures. His success was such that while Cullen succeeded to the father's chair, the professorship of the institutes of medicine was kept open for the son. He took his m d in 1774, and spent the next two years in studying medicine on the continent. In 1776, at the age of twenty-three, he was appointed professor, and in 1777 he began giving clinical lectures at the infirmary. In 1780-2 the publication of his 'Conspectus' established his position in medicine. From this time he was the chief of the Edinburgh Medical School, and had the leading consulting practice in Scotland until his death on 2 April 1821. He was buried on 7 April in the Canongate churchyard, Edinburgh. Gregory did little original work in medicine of permanent value but Sir R Christison termed him the most captivating lecturer he ever heard. His teaching was very practical; he distmsted premature theorising. His discouragement of meddlesome medicine, when there was no real prospect of success, was a better feature. But it must be confessed that he was an advocate of temperance, of bodily exertion without fatigue, and of mental occupation without anxiety, who by no means followed his own prescription. Gregory wasted his great powers on temporary and irritating controversies. He was keen-witted, sarcastic, and bitterly personal, though probably from pleasure in the exercise of his powers rather than from malice. His first important controversy, with Drs. Alexander and James Hamilton (1749-1835), led him to give the latter a severe beating with a stick. Gregory was fined 100/. and costs by the commissary court for defamation in this case.

Epitaph to James Anderson Transcription lACOB(VS) ANDERSON M(EDICINAE) D(OCTOR) OBIIHT MDCCCIX, AETAITKE) LXXII. INORACOROMANDELI INDICVS TVMVLVM INTVEBITVR LACRHIMANS, POSTERIQVE GRATI NOMINIS FAMAM LAVDIBVS SEMPER E T A M O R E PROSEQVENTVR

ANDERSON, JAMES, M D (d 1809), (top right and centre right) botanist, was physician-general of the East India Company at Madras. It appears from Dodwell and Milne's list of medial officers in India that James Anderson was assistant-surgeon in 1765, surgeon in 1786, member of the medical board in 1800, and died 5 August 1809. Anderson gave an account in a series of letters to Sir Joseph Banks (published at Madras 1781) of an insect resembling the cochineal, which he had discovered in Madras. Gardens, superintended by Anderson, were cultivated for these insects, and when the dye obtained from them did not answer, other insects were introduced from Brazil. Anderson afterwards attempted to introduce the cultivation of silk into Madras, and paid attention to other plants of commercial value, such as the sugar-cane, coffee plant, American cotton and European apple. He published several series of letters upon these topics on Madras in 1789-96. He also published a paper on the minerals of Coromandel in the 'Phoenix,' 1797; and 'A Journal of the Establishment of Napal and Tuna for the Prevention or Cure of Scur\'v,' &c., Madras, 1808. James Tassie modelled James Anderson in 1799, presumably on home leave from Madras. This strong impression shows that James was still in full command of his powers in the year of his death. Nine months later, Anderson died in India and another portrait of him was produced, presumably by William Tassie, of a smaller size, with a touching epitaph engraved on the reverse of the amber glass ground.

Margaret Wardlaw, (centre left), was the eldest daughter of Sir William Wardlaw. In 1791, William had his likeness and that of his three daughters, Margaret, Agnes and Susan, taken by James Tassie.

Translation in an eighteenth-century manner: James Anderson, physician, aged three score And twelve, died eighteen hundred nine. His tomb, on Coromandel's shore. The Indians revere, and pine For him, whose worthy deeds and lore The ages praise with love divine.

Ed Bncc 1995

58


Jnmes Gregory

James Anderson

% Margaret Wardlaw

James Anderson

59


JAMES TASSIE

GORDON, LORD GEORGE (1751-1793), (top) agitator, a younger son of the third Duke of Gordon, born in London, 26 December 1751. He received a commission as ensign 'when in petticoats,' became a midshipman, served on the American station, rose to be a lieutenant and then resigned his commission. He contested Inverness-shire against General Eraser, and became so popuLir by talking Gaelic and giving balls, that Eraser became alarmed, and bought the seat of Ludgershall, Wiltshire. Gordon took his seat in 1774. In December 1779 he accepted the presidency of the Protestant Association, formed to secure the repeal of the act by which (in 1778) the catholic disabilities imposed by the statute had been removed. At a meeting of this body (29 May) a resolution was passed, in consequence of which many thousand persons met in St. George's Eields, and marched in four divisions to the House of Commons where Gordon presented the petition. They retired peaceably upon the arrival of troops, but the same night destroyed some catholic chapels. The magistrates acted feebly and on the 6th, when the petition was to be considered, a violent mob gathered round the houses of parliament. The House of Commons adjourned after passing some resolutions against the mob. The same evening they burnt Newgate and opened other prisons. The mob was now more anxious for plunder than persecution, and on the 7th, besides destroying the King's Bench prison and the New Bridewell, threatened the Bank. On the 8th, twenty thousand troops quelled rioters, some three hundred having been killed; 192 rioters were convicted and 25 executed. On 9 June Gordon was sent to the Tower and kept for eight months. He was tried for high treason in the king's bench 5 February 1781. His junior counsel, Erskine, gained an acquittal after a trial from 8 am on Monday till 4.45 am on the Tuesday. In 1786 he became a Jew, partly to give celebrity to his financial scheme. He wrote a 'petition from the prisoners at Newgate to Lord George Gordon,' praying him to prevent them from being sent to Botany Bay, denouncing the severity of the English criminal law, inconsistent, as he thought, with the Mosaic code. He sent copies to Pitt and to the keepers of Newgate. Some severe remarks upon British justice in this paper led to a prosecution and he was convicted of libel 6 June 1787. Gordon went to Amsterdam, but was sent back by the magistrates. He retired to Birmingham, where he lived quietly in the house of Jew, wearing a long beard and adopting the Jewish customs. On 28 January 1788 he was brought up for judgment, sentenced to be imprisoned for five years in Newgate. He lived pretty comfortably in Newgate, wrote letters, amused himself with music, especially the bagpipes, had six or eight persons to dinner daily, including the society of Newgate. On the expiration of the five years he was unable to obtain the securities required, and had to stav in Newgate, where he died 1 November 1793, from fever, after singing the 'Ca ira'.

60

MARTIN, WILLIAM (fl 1765-1821), (bottom left) painter, pupil and assistant to G B Cipriani, r a and appears to have resided for about twenty years or more in Cipriani's house. In 1766 he was awarded a gold palette for an historical painting by the Society of Arts. In 1775 he exhibited at the Royal Academy a portrait and 'Antiochus and Stratonice.' In the next nine years he contributed portraits, scenes from Shakespeare, or classical subjects. In 1791 he sent 'Lady Macduff surprised in her Castle of Eife,' and in 1797and 1798 portraits. About 1800 he was engaged on decorative paintings at Windsor Castle. He was an exhibitor at the Royal Academy again in 1807,1810,1812, and 1816. In 1810 his name appears as 'Historical Painter to His Majesty.'Erom 1812 he resided at Cranford in Middlesex until 1821; there is no record of his death at that place.

EREIND, ROBERT (1667-1751), (bottom right) headmaster of Westminster School, was born at Croughton, and was sent to Westminster School, then to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1686. He graduated BA 1690, m a 1693, and bd and dd 1709. Was appointed under-master of Westminster School. In 1711 he succeeded Thomas Knipe as the head-master Ereind died on 7 August 1751, aged 84. There are two portraits of Ereind at Christ Church, the one in the hall being painted by Michael Dahl. There is also in the library of the same college a bust of Ereind, executed bv Rvsbrack in 1738. Ereind was a man of many social gifts, a good scholar, and successful schoolmaster His house was the resort of the wits and other famous men of the time. Swift records in his 'Journal to Stella,' under date 1 February 1711-12: 'To-night at six Dr Atterbury and Prior, and I and Dr Ereind met at Dr Robert Ereind's house at Westminster, who is master of the school: there we sat till one, and were good enough company'. Ereind's own special position was not without its effect upon the school, which became for many years the favourite place of education for the aristocracy.


M O D E L S OF C O N T E M P O R A R I E S

William Martin

Robert Freind

bl


JAMES TASSIE

DUNCAN, ADAM, VISCOUNT DUNCAN (1731-1804), (top) admiral, second son of Alexander Duncan of Lundie in Perthshire, entered the navy in 1746 under the care of his maternal uncle. Captain Robert Haldane. In 1749 he was appointed to the Centurion, then commissioned for service in the Mediterranean by the Hon Augustus Keppel. He returned to England in 1763 and had no further employment for many years. During this time he lived at Dundee, and married on 6 June 1777 Henrietta, daughter of Robert Dundas of Arniston, lord-president of the court of session. In January 1779 he sat as a member of the court-martial on Keppel, in which he interferred. The admiralty was therefore desirous that he should not sit on the court-martial on Sir Hugh Palliser in April and the day before the assembling of the court, sent down orders for his ship the Monarch to go to St Helens. Her crew, however, refused to weigh the anchor until they were paid their advance. The Monarch was still in Portsmouth harbour when the signal for the court-martial was made, so that, sorely against the wishes of the admiralty, Duncan sat on this court-martial. In March 1782, when Keppel became first lord of the admiralty, Duncan was then appointed to the Blenheim of 90 guns, and commanded her under Howe at the relief of Gibraltar in October and the encounter with the allied fleet off Cape Spartel. He succeeded Sir John Jervis in command of the Foudroyant, and after the peace commanded the Edgar as guardship at Portsmouth for three years. He attained flag rank on 24 September 1787, became vice-admiral 1 February 1793, and admiral 1 June 1795. In February 1795 he was appointed commander-in-chief in the North Sea, and hoisted his flag on board the Venerable. The initial two years of Duncan's command entailed enforcing a rigid blockade of the enemy's coast. It became apparent in spring 1797 that the Dutch fleet in the Texel was getting ready for sea. With thirty thousand troops for the invasion of Ireland, they were put to sea in early October, due to a persistent westerly wind. Duncan, with the main body of the fleet, was keeping up the pretence of the blockade, together with the Adamant and, from this point, Duncan sighted the Dutch fleet in the morning of 11 October, about seven miles from the shore and nearly half way between the villages of Egmont and Camperdown. The Dutch preserved a bold front but, with the on shore wind, the attack had to be made promptly to avoid the shoal water, where it would not be possible to attack. Duncan made the signal to pass through the enemy's line - a bold departure in two groups and irregular order of sailing - that was crowned with complete success. The news of the victory was received in England with the warmest enthusiasm. It was the first certain sign that the mutinies of the summer had not destroyed the power and the prestige of the British navy. Duncan was at once raised to the peerage as Baron Duncan of Linidie and Viscount Duncan of Camperdown, and there was a strong feeling that the reward was inadequate. Till 1801 Duncan continued in command of the North Sea fleet, but without any further opportunity of distinction. Three years later, 4 August 1804, he died quite suddenlv at the inn at Cornhill, a village on the border where he had stopped for the night on his journey to Edinburgh. 62

Duncan was of size and strength almost gigantic. He was described as 6ft 4in in height, and of corresponding breadth. As a young lieutenant, walking through the streets of Chatham, his grand figure and handsome face attracted crowds of admirers, and to the last he is spoken of as singularly handsome.

HALL, JOHN, (bottom left) no biographical details of this gentleman are available. However, Tassie has signed this medallion on the truncation together with the inscription Teacher Glnsgoic 1796. This likeness must have been taken on one of Tassie's trips to Scotland.

ROWLAND, ADAM, (bottom right) even less is known about Mr Rowland, other that Tassie took his likeness in 1794.


M O D E L S OF C O N T E M P O K A K I E S

Lord Duncan

John Hall

A d a m Rowland

63


JAMES TASSIE

CAMPBELL, SIR ARCHIBALD (1739-1791), of Inverneil, general and governor of Jamaica and Madras, second son of James Campbell of Inverneil, was horn on 21 August 1739. He entered the army in 1757 as a captain in the Fraser Highlanders. With it he served throughout the campaign in North America, and was wounded at Wolfe's taking of Quebec in 1758. When he returned to Scotland he was elected MP for the Stirling burghs in 1774. In 1775 Campbell returned to America, however, the ship which carried him took him unfortunately into Boston harbour while that city was in the hands of the rebels, and he consequently remained a prisoner until the following year, when he was exchanged for Ethan Allen. On securing his exchange he was appointed a brigadier-general, and took command of an expedition against the state of Georgia. The expedition was entirely successful, and Campbell seized Savannah. Campbell returned to England on leave, and married (1779) AmeHa, daughter of Allan Ramsay the painter. On 20 November 1782 he was promoted major-general, and in the following month appointed governor of Jamaica. For his services he was invested a knight of the Bath on 30 September 1785, and was in the same year appointed, through the influence of his friend, Henry Dundas, the president of the board of control, to be governor and commanderin-chief at Madras. He reached Madras in April 1786, and had at once to occupy himself with the difficult matter of the debts of the Nabob of Arcot, whose territories had been sequestrated by Lord Macartney. The matter was extremely complicated; but eventually, through the instrumentality of Mr Webbe, the ablest Indian civil servant of his day, a treaty was concluded with the nabob on 24 February 1787. The advantages of this treaty were obvious, and were seen in the next war with Tippoo Sultan. Lord Cornwallis highly approved of it. In 1789, overcome by ill-health and the abuse of the opponents of his Arcot treaty, he resigned his appointment and returned to England, and was at once re-elected MP for the Stirling burghs. He did not long survive his return; for he caught a severe cold in coming hurriedly from Scotland in 1790 and though a journey to Bath somewhat restored him, he died at his house in Upper Grosvenor Street, on 31 March 1791. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a monument was erected to him in Poets' Corner. Mr JAH Rose in a paper presented to The Glass Circle in 1968 notes that, 'An account that survives in the Campbell of Inverneil Papers shows that in 1780 Sir Archibald Campbell was charged ÂŁ 3 6 / 9 / - for portraits that he had commissioned.'

64

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL ARCHIBALD MACARTHUR, little is known of this soldier's life. Gray merely notes that he was promoted to be a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1781 and his name appears for the last time in the Army List in 1790. CORNWALLIS, CHARLES, IST MARQUIS CORNWALLIS (1738-1805), English soldier, born in London, son of the.lst Earl Cornwallis. Educated at Eton and the Military Academy of Turin, he served as aide-de-camp to the Marquis of Granby during part of the Seven Years' War In the American War of Independence (1775-1783) although he opposed the taxation of the American colonists, he accepted a command in the war, and with an inferior force defeated Gates at Camden in 1780 and more than held his own at Guildford (1781). Later that year he was beseiged at Yorktown, Virginia, and forced to surrender - a disaster that proved the ruin of the British cause in America. From 1786 to 1793 he was governor-general of India and commander-in-chief, and distinguished himself by his victories over Tippoo Sahib. As lordlieutenant of Ireland (1798-1801), with Castlereagh for secretary, he crushed the 1798 rebellion, and showed a rare union of vigour and humanity. As plenipotentiary to France he negotiated the peace of Amiens in 1802. Reappointed governor-general of India in 1804, he died at Ghazipur HASTINGS, FRANCIS RAWDON-HASTINGS, IST MARQUIS O F HASTINGS (1754-1826), English soldier and colonial administrator, governor-general of Bengal, born in Dublin, and educated at Harrow. He fought with distinction in the American War of Independence (1775-1781), in 1794 led reinforcements to Frederick, Duke of York at Malines, became active in politics, and in 1813 was made governor-general of India. Here he warred successfully against the Gurkhas (1814-1816) and the Pindaris and Mahrattas (1817-1818), purchased Singapore island (1819), encouraged Indian education and the freedom of the press, reformed the law system, and elevated the civil service; but in 1821 he resigned after apparently unfounded charges of corruption had been made against him, and from 1824 till his death off Naples he was governor of Malta.


M O D E L S OF C O N T E M P O R A R I E S

Sir Archibald C a m p b e l l

Li>rd C o r n w a l l a c e

Lt Col Archibald M a c A r t h u r

Lord H a s t i n g s

(i5


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BASC01979

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E Chambers.Cyclopaedia or, an universal dictionary of Arts and Sciences. (London).

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RAKOW 1967

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Presented

RASPE1791

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RASPE1791

R E Raspe. A descriptive catalogue of a general collection of ancient and modern engraivd gems, cameos as well as intaglios, taken from the most celebrated cabinets in Europe, and cast in coloured pastes, white enamel and sulphur by lames Tassie, Modeller. (London).

RATHBONE 1898

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James Tassie 1735 - 1799