Model of Sir Isaac Newton, Micheal Rysbrack

Model of Sir Isaac Newton, Micheal Rysbrack

Model of Sir Isaac Newton
Micheal Rysbrack
England
1730
Terracotta
Museum no. A.1-1938

Newton was the son of an illiterate farmer. His sense of beauty was not a physical one (he was notoriously careless about appearances), but intellectual. Determined to resolve the messy contradictions of life in a vast, synthetic theorem, he established laws of physical behaviour that will - perhaps - be eternally valid. He died in 1729 and his memorial was built, to a design by architect William Kent, in Westminster Abbey in 1730. Michael Rysbrack's terracotta sketch for the marble statue on the memorial is an imaginary portrait: he may have made the scientist's death mask, but they never met in life. The animated modelling of the clay suggests the turbulence of Newton's mighty mind: at the moment of his greatest celebrity he suffered from transient psychosis. In Newton ideas of the most profound beauty were developed by a disturbed and contrary intellect: the man who turned the Universe into an equation was obsessed by religion and alchemy.

Stephen Bayley, Guest Curator