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April 05, 2012, 11:29 AM

Dancing Girl by John Van Nost the Elder

By Alex Puddy

Dancing Girl by John Van Nost [Photo Architectural Heritage

Gloucestershire, UK - An early 18th Century lead figure of a dancing girl with cymbals from the workshops of John van Nost the Elder (1686-1711-1713), previously thought to be 1729. The disputed death date of John van Nost, is an example of the grey areas that surround early lead ornament. The question of authentication of early English lead work is fraught with difficulty. This model of a dancing putto could relate to van Nost's Master, one Arnold Quellin (1653-1686), whose wife, on his passing, van Nost married, and indeed this work notwithstanding the possible Low Countries connection to the Larson family, could have indeed been modelled and cast by Andrew Carpenter (1677-1737), he being principal assistant at van Nost's workshops in London's Haymarket.

It is then confusing, also possible, that this work could be a later casting from an early mould by 'the man at Hyde Park Corner' John Cheere (1709-1787) who took over van Nost's business and moulds upon van Nost's death. All this said, it is most likely that the stylistic similarities to the fighting putti at Melbourne House and the general manner of the piece points firmly towards John van Nost the Elder.

The figure shows a naked, save the 'classic' later applied fig leaf, putto dancing with cymbals, on tip-toe with the body in movement and her head to one side. The figure sports a hairstyle not dissimilar to other known models by Van Nost.

Condition - The surface of the lead shows some oxidisation of iron and the body has taken a number of 'pot shots' from air rifle marksmen! And a small seepage of iron deposits is in evidence on one of the ankles which relates to corrosion of the iron armature embedded within the core, however currently this is currently in a stable condition.

Provenance: Peelings Manor, East Sussex.
Stock no.: 10117/GSO.
Height 2 ft 8 ins [82 cm]
Square at base 10 ins [26 cm]

[Editor's note: Contemporary accounts indicate that John Van Nost the Elder's workshop was located near Queen's Mead House and Stone Bridge in Portugal Street, now Piccadilly, on the site of what is now 105 Piccadilly, not far from Haymarket but nearer to Hyde Park Corner. Records of other statuaries in Portugal Street around the same time include Josias Iback, Edward Hurst and Richard Osgood. It would also seem that there are now three known 'John Van Nosts' - John Van Nost the Elder (d1711) who 'came to England with William III', his nephew John Van Nost II (d1729) and John Van Nost the Younger (d1780), who was JVN II's son. For more information see the latest 'A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain, 1660-1851'. The sale of John Van Nost the Elder's effects in 1712 'was held at his late Dwelling House in Hyde-Park-Road near the Queen's Mead-house'. The catalogue's title-page described the collection as 'the most Valuable that ever was Exposed to Sale in this Kingdom'. Thomas Coke of Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire, vice-chamberlain to Queen Anne and George I, created the fashionable gardens at Melbourne when he was in his twenties. Educated in Rotterdam, he would have been familiar with both lead statuary and Van Nost's Low Countries artistic background.

Architectural Heritage Ltd

Story Type:  Feature

ID: 65730

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