Gibbons, Grinling

, an eminent carver in wood, and a statuary, supposed to be of Dutch parents, was born in Spur-alley in the Strand. He lived afterwards in Bell-savage court, Ludgate-hill, where he carved a pot of flowers, which shook surprizingly with the motion of the coaches that passed by. There, is no instance, says lord Orford, of a man, before Gibbons, who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers, and chained together the various productions of the elements with a free disorder natural to each species. He lived afterwards at Deptford, where Mr. Evelyn, discovering his wonderful talents, recommended him to Charles II. who gave him a place in the board of works, and employed him in the chapel at Windsor. His carved work here is done in lime-tree, representing a great variety of pelicans, doves, palms, and other allusions to scripture history, with the star and garter, and other ornaments, finished with great perfection. At Windsor too, he carved the beautiful pedestal in marble, for the equestrian statue of the king in the principal court. The fruit, fish, implements of shipping, are all exquisite; the base of the figure at Charing-cross, and the statue of Charles II. in the Royal-exchange, were also his, and probably the brazen statue of James II. in the Privy-­garden, for there was no other artist of that time capable of it.

Gibbons made a magnificent tomb for Baptist Noel viscount Camden, in the church of Exton, in Rutlandshire; it cost 1000l. is twenty-two feet high, and fourteen wide. There are two figures of him and his lady, and bas-reliefs of their children. The same workman performed the wooden throne at Canterbury, which cost 70l. and was the | donation of archbishop Tenison. The foliage in the choir of St. Paul’s is of his hand. At Burleigh is a noble profusion of his carving, in picture frames, chimney-pieces, and door-cases, and the last supper in alto-relievo, finely executed. At Chatsworth, where a like taste collected ornaments, by the most living eminent masters, are many by Gibbons, particularly in the chapel; in the great antichamber are several dead fowl over the chimney, finely executed, and over a closet-door, a pen not distinguishable from real feather. When Gibbons had finished his works in that palace, he presented the duke with a point cravat, a woodcock, and a medal with his own head, all preserved in a glass case in the gallery. In lord Orford’s collection is another point cravat by him, the art of which arrives even to deception, and Herodias with St. John’s head, alto-relievo, in ivory. In Thoresby’s collection was Elijah under the juniper-tree, supported by an angel, six inches long and four wide. At Houghton, two chimneys are adorned with his foliage. At Mr. Norton’s, at Southwich, in Hampshire, was a whole gallery embroidered in pannels by his hand but the most superb monument of his skill is a large chamber at Petworth, enriched frpm the ceiling, between the pictures, with festoons of flowers and dead game, &c. all in the highest perfection and preservation. Appendant to one is an antique vase, with a basrelief of the purest taste, and worthy the Grecian age of cameos. At the earl of Halifax’s, at Stanstead, is a chimney-piece, adorned with flowers, and two beautiful vases. The font in St. James’ church in white marble, was also the work of Gibbons. It is supported by the tree of life; fche serpent is offering the fruit to our first parents, who stand beneath; on one side, of the font is engraven the Baptist baptising our Saviour: on another, St. Philip baptising the Eunuch: and on the third, Noah’s ark, with the dove bringing the olive-branch, the type of peace, to mankind. The chancel, above the altar, is enriched with some beautiful foliage in wood, by the same great artist.

Gibbons died August 3, 1721, at his house in Bowstreet, Covent-garden, and in November of the following year, his collection, a very considerable one, of pictures, models, &c. was sold by auction. Among other things were two chimney-pieces of his work, the one valued at 100l. and the other at 120l.; his own bust in marble, by himself, but the wig and cravat extravagant; and an original | of Simon the engraver, by sir Peter Lely, which had been much damaged by the fall of Gibbons’ house. 1


Walpole’s Anecdotes of Painters, &c.