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SM BR28. ©Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photo: Art UK
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John Michael Rysbrack (1694 - 1770), sculptor

Model for the marble bas relief, ‘The surrender of the French after the Battle of Blenheim’ (in the Chapel of Blenheim Palace)

c.1730-32

Terracotta relief, in a narrow neoclassical frame probably designed by John Soane

Height: 50cm
Width: 137cm
Depth: 5cm

Museum number: BR28

Curatorial note

The marble relief for which this is the terracotta model forms part of the monument to John, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), designed by William Kent, in the Chapel of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire (see also A53), one of the largest and finest 18th century funerary monuments in the British Isles.

In the scene, modelled in high relief, two Field-Marshals, on horse-back, face each other in the middle of the composition. Marlborough on the left, the French Marshal, Tallard, on the right. Behind each Field-Marshal is a group of mounted figures. On Marlborough’s side, the nude seated figure of a wounded man is in the foreground in high relief. Further to the left a corpse lies on the ground. On Tallard’s side, a French soldier in a pointed hat carries the colours about to be surrendered. The composition is closed on the right by a blasted tree. In the centre of the panel, on the ground, are two draped drums.

By the time the Duke died, although he remained Britain's greatest military hero, his reputation had been sullied by rumours that he had obstructed a peace settlement in order to continue to benefit financially from his military successes. His widow, Sarah, commissioned the memorial and recent research in the Blenheim papers at the British Library has revealed the enormous cost of the white statuary marble for the figures and for the bas relief for which this is the model. A fee of £2200 was agreed between the Duchess and Rysbrack in May 1730 and he was installing the tomb by May 1732.

Literature

For an account of Kent's role in the commission see Susan Weber (ed), William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain, 2013, pp.566-70
James Legrand, 'The Marlborough Monument and the Chapel of Blenheim Palace' in Mausolus, The Journal of the Mausolea and Monuments Trust, Summer 2021, pp.18-26

Associated objects

A53, related material


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk