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RYSBRACK, JOHN MICHAEL (JOANNES MICHIEL) (1693?–1770), sculptor, is usually stated to have been born in Antwerp on 24 June 1693, but the date and place both seem uncertain. He was son of Pieter Andreasz Rysbrack, a landscape-painter of Antwerp, who, after working in England for a short time in 1675, went to Paris, where he married a Frenchwoman, Geneviève Compagnon, widow of Philippe Buyster, by whom he had, besides the sculptor, two sons, Pieter Andreas and Gerard. A strong leaning to French models in the sculptor's work may be traced to the French origin of his mother. Rysbrack studied at Antwerp under Theodore Balant, one of the leading sculptors there, and in 1714–15 was ‘meester’ of the guild of St. Luke in that city. According to another account, his master from 1706 to 1712 was the sculptor, Michiel Van der Vorst. Rysbrack came to England in 1720, and at first gained a reputation for modelling small figures in clay. Afterwards he executed a few portrait-busts, which brought him into notice, and he obtained employment on monuments from James Gibbs [q. v.] and William Kent [q. v.], the architects. Not being satisfied with their treatment of him, Rysbrack began an independent practice, and quickly became the most fashionable sculptor of his day. He was very industrious and did much to introduce something of simplicity and good taste into the rather oppressive style which prevailed in monumental sculpture. Among the principal monuments executed by him are those in Westminster Abbey of Sir Isaac Newton (designed by Kent), the Duke of Newcastle, Matthew Prior, Earl Stanhope, Admiral Vernon, Sir Godfrey Kneller (designed by himself), Mrs. Oldfield (designed by Kent); in Worcester Cathedral Bishop Hough; in Salisbury Cathedral, the Duke and Duchess of Somerset; at Blenheim the Duke of Marlborough. Among the statues executed by him were the bronze equestrian statue of William III at Bristol, the statues of the Duke of Somerset at Cambridge, John Locke at Oxford, George I and George II for the Royal Exchange. As a sculptor of portrait busts Rysbrack has seldom if ever been excelled. Nearly all the leading men of his time sat to him, including Pope, Walpole, Sir Hans Sloane, Gibbs, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, Martin Folkes, and many others. When his supremacy was shaken by the growing popularity of Scheemakers and Roubiliac, Rysbrack produced three important portrait statues of Palladio, Inigo Jones, and Fiammingo, which were placed in the Duke of Devonshire's villa at at Chiswick. At the same time he executed a large statue of Hercules, which was compiled from the Farnese Hercules and studies made from noted pugilists and athletes of the time; it was purchased by Mr. Hoare of Stourhead, Wiltshire, who built a temple there on purpose to receive it. Besides his merits as a sculptor, Rysbrack was also an accomplished draughtsman, and executed many hundreds of highly finished drawings in bistre, all in the manner of the great Italian artists. In 1765 he retired from business, and sold part of his collection of models and drawings; other sales followed in 1767 and 1770. Rysbrack resided for many years in Vere Street, Oxford Street, where he died on 8 Jan. 1770; he was buried in Marylebone churchyard. A portrait of Rysbrack was painted by J. Vanderbank.

[Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting (ed. Wornum); Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; J. T. Smith's Nollekens and his Times; Rombouts and Van Lerius's Liggeren der Antwerpsche Sint Lucasgilde.]

L. C.