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THE 'YARDS' OF VAN NOST AND CHEERE
The van Nosts (originally van Ost) were a family of sculptors of Flemish descent. The eldest, John van Nost, is first recorded working at Windsor Castle circa 1678. He had his own yard by circa 1687 and there manufactured 'Marble and Leaden figures, Busto's and noble Vases, Marble Chimney Pieces and Curious Marble Tables'. However, he is best remembered, and most influential, as a supplier of cast-lead garden statues, such as those for Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire, between 1699 and 1705. Inspired by Versailles, gardens ornamented with statuary were increasingly popular in England, and the demand for figures in both stone and lead was substantial. Van Nost worked in a restrained Baroque manner, appealing to English taste, but often based compositions on earlier and contemporary European sources such as Giambologna and Du Quesnoy; his subjects for garden figures invariably drawn from classical mythology and literature. He had a large school of pupils and assistants and after his death in 1710, the workshop near Hyde Park Corner was continued by his cousin, also John (b.1686), possibly with his nephew, Gerard. A sale was held on April 17, 1712 of 140 pieces of marble and lead at the yard. John van Nost the second produced the equestrian figure of George I, now at the Barber Institute, Birmingham, another copy at Stowe, further figures at Canons Ashby, Wrest Park and Castle Bromwich. John the second died in 1729, the business then being taken over by his widow and their son John the third (the younger, b.1713-d.Dublin 1780, an apprentice of Henry Scheemakers (1670-1748)). A sale of his effects held by his widow was advertised in the Guardian (No.60, 20 May, 1731) ..several extraodinary fine things belonging to the late famous sculptor Mr.John Nost, fine inlaid marble tables, marble chimney-pieces, figures, etc., and that Mrs.Nost designing to go beyond seas, will dispose of them at reasonable rates at her house near Hyde park where attendance will be daily given.
By 1734 another relative, Anthony van Nost, was running the yard. He in turn appears to have sold it to John Cheere (b.1709-d.1787, younger brother of the sculptor Sir Henry Cheere (1703-1781)) in 1737. Cheere thus acquiring the moulds for figures, he catered for classical and rococo tastes. Amongst the remaining identifiable figures are those of Flora and Augustus at Longford Castle, Wiltshire, the River God at Stourhead and perhaps his most outstanding commission, the ninety-eight lead statues purchased by the Portuguese minister in London for the royal palace of Queluz, near Lisbon in 1756. On his retirement, about 1770, a sale of the contents of his yard was held. His effects and 'all the statues with models, moulds, patterns' were left to his nephew Charles Cheere, who in 1788 offered the Royal Accademy any figure they liked from his uncle's collection. Samuel Whitbred purchased a number of the lead statues, including 'The Four Seasons' for Southill Park, Bedfordshire.
The decline in popularity of the lead garden figure by the late 1780's reflected the change in taste from the formal garden to the landscaping of Capability Brown. Cheere by that time relying more heavily on plaster figures and library busts.
The figure of Africa (lot 429) and the later figure of America (lot 430), are loosely similar to designs by van Nost the elder for a statue of King William III flanked by two Continents (V&A archive). It is conceivable the design also included two further figures of Continents to the rearward projections of the plinth. This design was not executed, but other statues of William III attributed to van Nost remain at Wrest Park and Portsmouth Dockyard. Nost supplied the King with much external as well as internal decoration for the gardens at Hampton Court. In 1700, he carved four Portland stone panels with the king's arms and six figures of boys 'cast in hard metal'. These works and designs continued until the death of the king in 1702.
One of the more popular models from the Nost yard were the 'Blackamoor' sundial bases. Weaver records 'a pair at Glemham Hall, which came from Campsea Ash, when it belonged to the Shepherds'. Two life-size figures attributed to van Nost, of the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene were also at Campsea Ash and Glemham Hall (see Christopher Gibbs advertisement N.A.C.F Review 1989).
T.F.Friedman and T.Clifford The Man at Hyde Park Corner: Sculpture by John Cheere 1709-1787, Leeds, 1974.
T.Clifford The Plaster Shops of the Rococo and Neo-Classical era in Britain Journal of the History of Collections, 4, No.1 (1992) pp.39-65.
Margaret Whinney Sculpture in Britain 1530-1830 revised, London, 1988.
S.O'Connell The Nosts: A revision of the Family History, Burlington Magazine CXXXIX (1987) 802.
John Physick Designs for English Sculpture 1680-1860 HMSO, 1969.
The Anglo-Dutch Garden in the Age of William and Mary, Journal of Garden History, 1988.
Simonetta Luz Afonso and Angela Delaforce Palace of Queluz, the Gardens, Lisbon.
Rupert Gunnis Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851 London, 1953.
Lawrence Weaver English Leadwork, It's Art & History 1909.
John P.Davis Antique Garden Ornament Woodbridge 1991.