Lot 46
  • 46

David Le Marchand (1674-1726) English, London, circa 1704-1716

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
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  • Portrait medallion with a Gentleman, probably Sir John Houblon, Governor of the Bank of England and Lord Mayor of London (1632-1712)
  • initialled: D.L.M. fec.
  • ivory
  • David Le Marchand (1674-1726) English, London, circa 1704-1716
with an old paper label to the reverse printed and inscribed in ink: David Le Marchand c.1674 d.1726. / Samuel Pepys. 1633-1703. / GEORGE BUCKTON BROWNE. / Exhibited Burlington
Fine arts Club 1932. Cat No 220 / "Charles II loan Exhibition 1923 Cat no. 131. / ...entioned by M H Longhurst in "English Ivories" p.59


G. Buckston Browne Esq., 80 Wimpole Street, London W1
Sotheby's London, 27 April 1945, lot 62
Sotheby's London, 14 December 1978, lot 232
on loan to Museum Schnütgen, Cologne, September 2009 to December 2012


London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of Carvings in Ivory, 1923, no. 220
London, Young Women's Christian Association of Great Britain, 22-23 Grosvenor Place, A loan exhibition depicting the reign of Charles II, 1932, no.131
Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland; London, The British Museum; Leeds, City Art Gallery, David Le Marchand 1674-1726. 'An Ingenious Man for Carving in Ivory', 1996-1997, no. 70


G. Buckston Browne, Exhibition of Carvings in Ivory, exh. cat. Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1923, no. 220, pl. LI
M. Longhurst, English Ivories, London, 1926, p. 59
A loan exhibition depicting the reign of Charles II, exh. cat. Young Women's Christian Association of Great Britain, London, 1932, no. 131
L. Grodecki, Ivoires Français, Paris, 1947, p. 137
F. Davis: 'Talking about Salerooms', Country Life, 29 March 1979, p. 902 f.
C. Avery, David Le Marchand 1674-1726. 'An Ingenious Man for Carving in Ivory', London, 1996, pp. 93-95, no. 70, pl. 8


Overall the condition of the ivory is good with dirt and wear to the surface consistent with age. There are minor abrasions, including to the edges of the relief. There are some stable hairline cracks to the ivory consistent with the material, including some around the neck and chemise to the proper right side, to the face, and to the ground at the proper left side of the head. There are two separately carved inserts to the ground at either side of the head; these are probably later restorations, but are very well executed. There is some yellowing to the surface of the ivory, particularly to the face, drapery, and to the ground above the head and below the drapery. Separate to the ivory, in a frayed plastic sleeve, are two frayed paper labels. The first is mounted on felt and printed:' Mr. GEORGE BUCKSTON BROWNE / 80 Wimpole Street / London W. 1.' and inscribed in ink: 'M7281/ HSCff 320 Gms:' . The second is printed: A. WELTI-FURRER AG Abt. Kunst-Transporte / Pfingstweidstrasse 31A CH 8005 Zürich 051/441211 / Künstler: Prof. aus Berlin (in ink) / Titel: / Masse o/R: / Masse m/R: / Bemerkung:' and numbered in ink: '16' and with a further illegible ink inscription.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This superb relief portrait by the virtuoso French Huguenot ivory carver David Le Marchard is one of the most important English Baroque ivories in existence. Describing the medallion in 1996, Charles Avery observed that it ‘is one of the more celebrated of David’s reliefs’ and noted that, ‘its large size and the direct, unflinching gaze of the sitter engage a viewer’s attention immediately’ (Avery, op. cit., p. 94).

David Le Marchand was the foremost ivory carver, and one of the most influential portraitists, operating in late 17th- and early 18th-century Britain. He was born in 1674 in the Northern French port of Dieppe, a town famed for its long tradition of ivory carving. With the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which persecuted the Huguenot community, Le Marchand chose to flee to Britain, settling in Edinburgh in 1696, where the city granted ‘Liberty and Licence to David Lemerchand designer and cutter in Ivory to exercise the sd. Arte’ (Avery, op. cit., p. 13). By 1700, Le Marchand moved to London, where he established himself as one of the most fashionable portraitists in the city. His sitters included many of the leading notables of the day, including Sir Christopher Wren, Samuel Pepys and Sir Isaac Newton. Le Marchand’s oeuvre should ultimately be viewed against the backdrop of Restoration London, a hive of commercial activity and the rapidly changing heart of a burgeoning trading empire. The expensive medium of ivory and Le Marchand’s dramatic Baroque style appealed particularly to those men of enterprise who had helped to elevate The City. Le Marchand’s most loyal patrons were the Raper’s, a family of wealthy silk merchants, who were amongst the earliest Directors of the Bank of England.

The present relief most probably represents Sir John Houblon, first Governor of the Bank of England and Lord Mayor of London. The identity of the sitter was proposed by Avery, who, noting the importance of the Raper family's patronage to Le Marchand, looked for further patrons within their circle, in particular, fellow founders of the Bank of England. Within this small group of individuals, Houblon, who was of Huguenot descent, emerges as the most likely candidate. A comparison with Closterman’s 1696 painting of Houblon, confirms a strong correspondence between him and the man portrayed in the present ivory. Note the same oval-shaped eyes, hooded eyelids, fleshy cheeks, and prominent lines running from the sides of the nose to the corners of the mouth. Charles Avery suggests that it is likely that Le Marchand carved the relief after Closterman’s portrait, and that it may have been commissioned as a posthumous memento, possibly by members of the Raper family. The absence of the inscription ad vivum, found on several other Le Marchand ivories, would further indicate that the relief was carved not from life, but posthumously. A previous suggestion that the portrait represents Samuel Pepys can be discounted by a comparison with Le Marchand's portrait of Pepys in the British Museum (inv. no. 458).

Within Le Marchand’s oeuvre, the present relief finds its closest comparisons in his busts in the round. The majority of his other reliefs depict the sitter in profile and in low relief, placing the present work in a distinct and rarer class of alto-relievo carvings. This deep carving, is believed to have been borne out of Le Marchand’s practise of modelling his portraits in malleable wax prior to working them in ivory. The only comparable reliefs in alto relievo, are his Sir Isaac Newton in the Thomson Collection and his Thomas Guy in the V&A (inv. no. A.I-1936), both of which similarly present the sitter en-face. The arrangement of the extraordinary wig, open collar, comfortable fold of flesh beneath the chin, drilled eyes and searching gaze, are, however, closest to his Lord John Somers at Wimpole Hall, dated 1706. Another relevant, though less elaborate, comparison is with a bust in the Thomson collection dating to c. 1716-29, which is believed to represent another Govenor of the Bank of England, Sir Humphry Morice; the central parting of the wig terminating in almost rigid curls, is very similar to that worn by Houblon. The turned head and generous drapes, are particularly close to those seen in the bust of Francis Sambrooke, dated 1704, in the Thomson collection. On the basis of a comparison with the Lord John Somers, Theuerkauff suggests that the present portrait dates to the first decade of 18th century, whilst Avery, considering the possibility that it could have been a posthumous tribute, dates the relief to the second decade. What is clear, given the above comparisons, is that the present ivory would almost certainly have been carved between c. 1704-1716.

M. Longhurst, English Ivories, London, 1926, p. 59; L. Grodecki, Ivoires Français, Paris, 1947, p. 137; S. R. Houfe, 'A Whig Artist in Ivory,' Antique Collector, April/ May 1971, pp. 66-70; C. Avery, David Le Marchand 1674-1726. 'An Ingenious Man for Carving in Ivory', London, 1996, pp. 93-95, no. 70, pl. 8; C. Avery, 'David Le Marchand. Precursor of eighteenth-century English portrait sculpture,' The British Art Journal, vol. I, no. 1, pp. 27-34; C. Avery, 'David Le Marchand (1674-1726): Addenda to the Catalogue', R. Marth and M. Trusted (eds.), Festschrift für Christian Theuerkauff. Barocke Kunststückh. Sculpture Studies in Honour of Christian Theuerkauff, Munich, 2011, pp. 149-155; A. Dawson, 'A Virtuoso Ivory Carving by David Le Marchand (1674-1726): Louis XIV Victorious', R. Marth and M. Trusted (eds.), Festschrift für Christian Theuerkauff. Barocke Kunststückh. Sculpture Studies in Honour of Christian Theuerkauff, Munich, 2011, pp. 156-159