Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Le Sueur, Hubert

LE SUEUR, HUBERT (1595?–1650?), sculptor, appears to have been born in Paris about 1595. According to tradition he was a pupil of Giovanni Bologna at Florence, but nothing seems certain except that Le Sueur assisted Pietro Tacca, Bologna's pupil, in 1610, in the completion of Bologna's statue of Henri IV on the Pont Neuf at Paris, which was destroyed in the revolution. After receiving employment from the king on various works in Paris, Le Sueur came over to England about 1628. He lived for a time in Drury Lane, and afterwards in Bartholomew Close, near the church of St. Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield.

In 1630 Le Sueur was employed by Sir Richard Weston (afterwards Earl of Portland), then lord treasurer, to make and cast a brazen statue of Charles I on horseback, to be set up in the gardens of Weston's new house at Roehampton. Le Sueur was to take advice from the king's ‘riders of great horses’ as to the shape of the horse and the king's action on the horse, and he was to receive 600l. for the work, which was to be completed in eighteen months. This is the first important commission that Le Sueur is known to have received. There is no evidence to show that the group was completed; but an identical group was cast in London in 1633, apparently at the expense of Weston, although, according to tradition and the inscription on the engraving of the statue by Hollar, it was at the expense of the Earl of Arundel. A small model by Le Sueur was in Charles I's own collection. There appears to have been an intention to set the statue up in Covent Garden, but it seems to have remained unplaced until the execution of the king, when it was sold as old metal by the Parliament to one John Revett, a brazier in Holborn, and was ordered to be destroyed. Revett, however, concealed it safely, and produced it in 1660; it was immediately claimed by Weston's son Jerome, earl of Portland, but Revett declined to give it up, and presented it to the king. It was not till 1674 that it was set up at Charing Cross upon a pedestal, designed by Grinling Gibbons [q. v.], and executed in marble by Joshua Marshall. On the left forefoot of the horse is the signature ‘huber le sveur (fe)cit 1633.

From another agreement preserved among the State Papers, dated 20 March 1633, it appears that Archbishop Laud gave Le Sueur a commission to execute for 400l. two bronze statues of the king and queen; these were completed in 1634, and presented by Laud to St. John's College, Oxford, where they still remain in the second quadrangle: they have sometimes been attributed to F.Fanelli [q. v.] Another agreement, dated 18 July 1634, records a commission to Le Sueur from Lord Cottington to set up a great tomb in Westminster Abbey. Le Sueur's tomb and bust of Lady Cottington still remain, but the recumbent figure of Lord Cottington was executed at a later date by F.Fanelli. Le Sueur was extensively employed by the king, and payment was frequently made to him for busts, copies of antique statues, and other works in bronze or copper, while he received allowances for house-rent and similar expenses. Peacham, in his ‘Compleat Gentleman’ (edit. 1634, p. 107), gives a description of six statues done by Le Sueur for the king at St. James's Palace. Among these was a copy of the famous ‘Borghese’ gladiator in the Louvre, that stood for many years in St. James's Park, at the end of the canal opposite the Horse Guards, and is now in the private garden at Windsor Castle. Other works executed by Le Sueur for Charles I include a ‘Mercury’ for a fountain in the gardens of Somerset House, a bust of James I, which still remains at Whitehall, and a bust of Charles I, life-size and gilt, with a crown on his head.

On the death of his patron the Earl of Portland in 1635, Le Sueur was employed to execute his monument in Winchester Cathedral; this was subsequently wrecked by the puritans, but the figure still remains. In 1635 also Le Sueur executed the fine bust of Sir Thomas Richardson in Westminster Abbey. In the Bodleian Library at Oxford there is an excellent statue of William Herbert, third earl of Pembroke, by Le Sueur. By an agreement dated 17 June 1638 (also among the State Papers), and witnessed by Inigo Jones, Le Sueur agreed to make two statues of James I and Charles I, at 170l. each; these were completed in 1639, and formed part of the screen designed by Inigo Jones for Winchester Cathedral. On the removal of this screen these statues were moved to the west end of the cathedral, where they still remain. There is no record of Le Sueur after this date, though he is usually stated to have died in London about 1652. All Le Sueur's work in bronze and copper is of the highest merit.

Le Sueur was married in Paris before 1610 to Noemi Le Blanc, and their son Henri was baptised on 17 March 1610 at St. Germain l'Auxerrois in Paris. A certificate of strangers living in London in December 1635 (among the State Papers) records Le Sueur as living in St. Bartholomew's parish, with three children, English born, and four servants. A son Isaac was buried in St. Bartholomew's Church in 1630.

In the medal room at the British Museum there is a fine portrait-medal of Le Sueur, executed by Warin in 1635. A portrait of a sculptor painted by Vandyck, and engraved in mezzotint by Jan Van Somer, is supposed on generally accepted grounds to represent Le Sueur.

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. Car. I, 1630-1640; Jal's Dict. Crit. de Biographie et d'Histoire; Walpole's Anecd. of Painting; Dussieux's Les Artistes Français à l'Etranger; Vertues Cat. of Charles I's collection; Cunningham's Handbook of London; Carpenter's Pictorial Notices of Vandyck; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ii. 54; information from H. P. Horne, esq.]

L. C.