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Audio guide: George Frideric Handel

Audio guide stop: 304

Crowdsourced transcription of the audio file

A terracotta figurine of George Frideric Handel
A terracotta figurine of George Frideric Handel
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This terracotta figure was made by French sculptor Louis François Roubilliac as a model for a life-sized marble statue of the composer George Frideric Handel, but it's really a remarkable piece of sculpture in its own right.

For a model, the quality of the modelling and the attention to detail is extraordinary. You can see the veins and fingernails of the composer's hand as he plucks a note from his lyre.

His right foot has fallen free from its slipper and his toes are visible, pressing against the thin fabric of his stockings – there's a strong sense here that we are witnessing Handel at home.

His gown is loose, the buttons of his breeches are undone, and there's a look of concentration on his face, of alertness. Are we perhaps witnessing an intense, fleeting moment of inspiration? A putto at his feet transcribes the notes that he plays.

In spite of this informality, this is, in fact, a model for a public sculpture, one of few in England at the time to celebrate a living person other than the monarch.

Handel was a huge celebrity in mid-eighteenth-century London and the finished marble was the artistic centrepiece of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens on the south bank of the Thames.

Contemporary visitors to this pleasure resort were often startled by the sculpture’s realism, and Roubilliac was likened to Pygmalion, the mythical Greek sculptor whose statue came to life.

Co-production of this resource

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The transcription of the audio file for this stop was enabled by the AHRC funded crowd-sourcing platform MicroPasts. The below generously gave their time to transcribe the file.

Michael Adams, Terence Gould, Adi Levin and Chris Gibbon

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