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19 January 2019

John Boydell Dorrington, Shrops., 1719 – London 1804 to his
300th Birthday

John Boydell, engraver, etcher and publisher, was from 1741 to 1750 pupil of the etcher W. H. Thoms, at the same time attending St. Martin’s Lane Academy. From 1752 onward etcher and publisher by himself, as art dealer he became “one of the richest merchants in Europe” and for his great merits and high reputation was elected Alderman of Cheap ward in 1782, an office he attended until his death, 1785 sheriff and 1790 Lord Mayor of London.

“ Already 1744 he had published his first book with landscapes, the Bridgebook. His ambitious aim

to raise English etching to the international level

he achieved by large editions of prints after paintings of famous artists like R. Wilson, S. Rosa, N. Berchem, and others. All in all he published

48 large folio volumes with 4432 prints.

“ 1794-96 the collection of views An history of the River Thames came into being. B’s financial success enabled him to realize his greatest venture, the Shakespeare Gallery. This occupied him from 1786 until his death. He commissioned more than thirty eminent painters, including Füßli, W. Hamilton, A. Kauffmann, J. Opie, J. Reynolds, and G. Romney, to paint pictures from scenes of Shakespeare. For the executed paintings he built a gallery in Pall Mall from own means. The etchings he executed from the paintings B. published in nine folio volumes and distributed them throughout Europe … As artist himself of second rank, B. nevertheless

exerted an extraordinary effect on English art … ”

So Christian Hornig 1996 in Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon XIII, 462. No different already 1888 Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., III, 290:

“ His greatest venture was the Shakespeare Gallery … which made him one of the richest merchants in Europe. Another similar work was the Houghton Gallery (“the paintings of which came to Russia … his most fortunate venture”, Nagler). By the (Napoleonic) war of 1804, which blocked off the continent (Continental System), he found himself compelled to prepare an art lottery in which

the original drawings for the Shakespeare Gallery figured as big ticket;

however, the same was only realized only after his death … By his Liber veritatis (1777, 2 vols.) he made the drawings of Claude Lorrain known. A photographic edition of his Shakespeare Gallery was published at London 1873. ”

And chronologically closest Nagler 1835 in Künstler-Lexicon II, 98 f.:

“ His print trade was immense, and often he paid tremendous sums to one single artist, e. g. for one plate after Dominichino 4000 pound sterling. Altogether in fifty years he spent 350,000 pound sterling on publishing costs.

His art palace in Cheapside at London
was one of the greatest attractions of this city. ”

Of the engravers he commissioned to be mentioned beside numerous further first-rate names William Woollett, whose masterly executions of Benjamin West’s The Death of General Wolfe and The Battle of La Hogue were a great success commercially, too, Francesco Bartolozzi, who contracted Boydell as the official publisher of his works, William Blake, John Dixon, Simon François Ravenet, Victor Marie Picot, Jean Marie Delat(t)re, and Richard Earlom.

His nephew Josiah Boydell (1752-1817) was first employee, then partner and finally successor, the widow of whom sold the enterprise 1818 to Hurst, Robinson & Son. Cf. Gentleman’s Magazine, 1804, II, 1177, too.

Aert van der Neer/Adrian van Drever, Winter

“ J. Boydell sculp.t
& Sold by J. Boydell Engraver
at the Unicorn the Corner of Queen Street
in Cheapside London 1753 ”

Aert van der Neer – Adrian van Drever (in reality? bogus?, active as the case may be Amsterdam about 1670/80). Winter. Wide frozen river, in front parting to the left and right and lined on both sides by a row of houses including one windmill each tapering off in the distance, with kolf players and various boats, one of which with fish trap next to secured tree trunks. On the bank in front a man sitting in company of a standing girl. While far left one of the players strives homeward, on the right a bag-carrier just enters the scene in turn, accompanied by a leaping dog. Etching with engraving by and at John Boydell (Dorrington/Shrops. 1719 – London 1804). Inscribed: in the picture facsimiled in reverse lower right AV (ligated) D / 1675; below typographically Van Drever pinx.t / J. Boydell sculp.t / Winter / Engrav’d (in reverse) from an original Picture of Van Drever, in the Possession of Mr. (John) Poyner (apothecary) at Islington. – / Published according to Act of Parliament; & Sold by J. Boydell Engraver at the Unicorn the Corner of Queen Street in Cheapside London 1753. – 11⅜ × 16¾ in (29 × 42.6 cm).

Splendid large sheet with adequate centered watermark

(6⅛ × 3 in [15.5 × 7.5 cm], not in Heawood) on heavy laid paper with margins laterally 6.2-7 & above/below 6 cm wide. These on three sides and above including the white platemark, too, faintly foxspotted/stained, on the far left a little more, just as then generally a little more perceptible on the back. Utterly untouched by this the picture itself and the general impression barely.

The absolute rarity of the sheet

supported not least by its missing in Weigel’s Art Stock Catalog, sections I-XXVIII (1838-1857) comprising far above 20,000 plates still closer to the time.

And shrouded in mystery in regard of the source painting:

Offer no. 16,241

William Hogarth, Pool of Bethesda

“ John Boydell excudit …
Febry. 24th. 1772 … in Cheapside London ”

William Hogarth (1697 London 1764). The Pool of Bethesda. The curative pool at Jerusalem’s Sheep’s Gate, visited by the sick and healthy with Jesus as Good Samaritan in the centre. Engraving by Simon François Ravenet (Paris 1706/21 – London 1774) & Victor Marie Picot (Monthières 1744 – Amiens 1802). Inscribed: Willm. Hogarth pinxit. / John Boydell excudit. / Ravenet & Picot sculpserunt / Engraved from the Original Picture; Painted by William Hogarth Esqr. / on the Stair Case in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. / Size of the Picture 13F„8I by 20F„3I in Length. / Published Febry. 24th. 1772 by John Boydell Engraver in Cheapside London. / Vol II No. 57. / St. John Chap: V., otherwise as above. 19⅛ × 22¼ in (48.5 × 56.4 cm).

Nagler, Ravenet (“one of the most excellent artists of his time”), 29 & Picot, 2. – Harmonic impression on sturdy paper from the plate retouched by the royal engraver James Heath (1757 London 1834) about 1822 (“Even these impressions have become relatively rare today though”, Art Gallery Esslingen 1970; and Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., VIII [1888], 625: “A fine edition”, esteemed also already by contemporary collectors of the rank of for instance an A. T. Stewart [Catalog of the Stewart Collection, New York 1887, 1221, “fine plates”]). – Top edge trimmed to platemark.

Offer no. 15,256 / EUR  490. / export price EUR  466. (c. US$ 563.) + shipping

William Hogarth, Good Samaritan

– – The same. The Good Samaritan. Caring for the victim left by the robbers. Behind of this the vanity symbol of the broken, almost dead tree growing just a sparse little branch anymore. Affixed to it the Samaritan’s horse bridled with long blanket and leopard skin. On the left priest with believer on his knees as well as Levite with scroll who both had ignored the victim. Engraving by Simon François Ravenet (Paris 1706/21 – London 1774) & Jean Marie Delat(t)re (Abbeville ca. 1742/45 – Fulham, London, 1840). Inscribed in the plate: Willm. Hogarth pinxit. / John Boydell excudit. / Ravenet & Delatre sculpserunt / Engraved from the Original Picture; Painted by William Hogarth Esqr. / on the Stair Case in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. / Size of the Picture 13F„8I by 16F„9I in Length. / Published Febr. 24th. 1772 by John Boydell Engraver in Cheapside London. / Vol II No. 56. / St. John Chap: V., title as above. 19 × 22⅜ in (48.2 × 56.7 cm).

Nagler, Ravenet (“one of the most excellent artists of his time”), 28 & Thieme-Becker, Delattre, VIII, 596. – Impression on especially strong paper from the plate retouched by the royal engraver James Heath (1757 London 1834) about 1822 (“Even these impressions have become relatively rare today though”, Art Gallery Esslingen 1970; and Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., VIII [1888], 625: “A fine edition”, esteemed also already by contemporary collectors of the rank of for instance an A. T. Stewart [Catalog of the Stewart Collection, New York 1887, 1221, “fine plates”]).

Offer no. 15,258 / EUR  430. / export price EUR  409. (c. US$ 494.) + shipping

Nathaniel Dance, Garrick in Richard III

“ Publishd April 28 1772
by John Boydell Cheapside London ”

The Great Garrick as Richard III

Nathaniel Dance (London 1735 – Carnborough House/Winchester 1811). (Mr. Garrick in Richard the Third.) In ermine coat along with Order of the Garter and further one as well as spurs after the loss of his horse in the lost Battle of Bosworth (22 August 1485) against the Earl of Richmond, later King Henry VII. The sword in the raised right at the moment of his immortalized words

“ A horse , a horse , my kingdom for a horse ”.

Laterally left Richmond’s cavalcade, driving Richard’s infantry. Set further back manor house. Mezzotint by John Dixon (Dublin about 1740 – London 1811). Inscribed: within the subject below right J. Dixon Fecit, and in the white inscription edge below N.Dance pinxt (far left) / Dance pinxt (5 cm from platemark) / Publishd according to Act of Parliamont (sic!) April 28 1772 by John Boydell Engraver Cheapside London / J Dixon Fecit. 25 × 15¾ in (63.4 × 40 cm).

Chaloner Smith 15.I (of II, but see below); Nagler III (1836, but ditto 1913 also Thieme-Becker VIII, 340 f.), 258 f. (Dance’s “main work is Richard III as after the lost battle he calls furiously for his horse”) and page 422 on Dixon (“made himself known especially by his engravings in mezzotint manner, in what he proved genius and taste … nothing but appreciable works, among which to be mentioned particularly: … Garrick’s portrait in the character of Richard III … There are impressions before the letter.”) resp.

Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon (AKL) XXIV (2000), 73: “1771 (Dance’s, subsequent Sir Dance-Holland)

dramatic rendering of David Garrick as Richard III

in Stratford on Avon … yet increasingly he turns from the conversation pieces practiced in Rome to (as here, too) life-size , stately portraits.”

Dixon in turn – AKL XXVIII, 2001, 56 – “renders in his high-grade prints the designs truthfully and sensitively. Frequently he accentuates his mezzotints with other graphical techniques, too, i. a. dry-point.” Befriended with Garrick, he indeed dedicated various works to him, the last still 1779 after the pale Thomas Hudson, but unsurpassably Dance’s model

of the wonderful Garrick

in present immortal pose of just that moment

“ as he calls furiously for his horse after the lost battle ”

(Nagler). Yet defying Richard’s dramatic appearance as a “titanic portrait of a villain of surrealistic force” (Erwin Laaths, 1953) Garrick’s position of the mouth rather aims at a quieter My kingdom I would give if only I had a horse now.

Here then now adequately in Dixon’s just technically conditioned – only “50 or 60 … clean prints” the velvety mezzotint grants, so 1675 the expert von Sandrart –

rare main sheet

in marvelous early impression of vibrant chiaroscuro

before the title .

Two-line typographic watermark along with oval secondary mark. – Margins 2-2.5 cm wide laterally and 0.7-1 cm above & below, as for the old mezzotints worth emphasizing, all the more with such a downright

imperial format .

Particularly the latter then also marginalizing the but insignificant agemarks. Expressly mentioned yet a blotchiness of 2⅜ × ¾-1⅛ in (6 × 2-3 cm) in the storm clouds at the edge top left. – Shortly,

the horse call of world literature —

here as the visualized trouvaille assoluta !

Offer no. 15,859 / EUR  4300. / export price EUR  4085. (c. US$ 4938.) + shipping

William Hogarh, The Indian Emperor

William Hogarth (1697 London 1764). The Indian Emperor. Or the Conquest of Mexico (John Dryden’s, 1637-1700); Act 4, Scene 4. As performed in the year 1731 at Mr. Conduit’s, Master of the Mint, before the Duke of Cumberland &c. Engraving by Robert Dodd (1748-1818). Inscribed: Painted by Wm. Hogarth. / Engrav’d by Robt. Dodd. / From the original Picture, in the Collection of Lord Holland. / Publish’d Jany. 1. 1792, by J. & J. Boydell, Cheapside, & at the Shakspeare Gallery Pall Mall., otherwise as above. 18⅜ × 23¼ in (46.7 × 58.9 cm).

Hogarth Catalogue Tate Gallery, 1971/72, 41 (the painting of 1731/32) with ills. – The play usually enacted in the house of the directing John Conduitt here as children theatre at St. James’s Palace before the little ones of the royal family and their entourage, among which the Duke of Cumberland. – Somewhat palish impression on strong paper from the plate retouched by the royal engraver James Heath (1757 London 1834) about 1822 (“Even these impressions have become relatively rare today though”, Art Gallery Esslingen 1970; and Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., VIII [1888], 625: “A fine edition”, esteemed also already by contemporary collectors of the rank of for instance an A. T. Stewart [Catalog of the Stewart Collection, New York 1887, 1221, “fine plates”]).

Offer no. 7,875 / EUR  146. (c. US$ 176.) + shipping

William Hogarth, Sigismonda

“ From the Original Picture ,
in the Collection of Alderman Boydell ”

William Hogarth (1697 London 1764). Sigismonda (Mourning over the Heart of Guiscardo). Three-quarter figure of the richly dressed princess with pearl diadem sitting at the table, pressing with the left the cup with the heart of her lover, whom her father, king Tancred of Salerne, had been killed. At the wrist of the right, supported on the jewel case, pearl bracelet with portrait medallion of the king. Stipple by Benjamin Smith (London c. 1754 – Somers Town, London, 1833) for Boydell. Inscribed: From the Original Picture, in the Collection of Ald. Boydell. / Painted by Willm. Hogarth. / Engraved by Benjn. Smith. / Published June 4, 1795, by J & J. Boydell, at No. 90, Cheapside; & at the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall Mall. / Size of the Picture, 3 Ft. 3 ln. high, by 4 Ft. 2 ln. long., otherwise as above and below. 16⅛ × 17½ in (41 × 44.6 cm).

Nagler, Smith, 11. – Harmonic, wide-margined impression from the plate retouched by the royal engraver James Heath (1757 London 1834) about 1822 (“Even these impressions have become relatively rare today though”, Art Gallery Esslingen 1970; and Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., VIII [1888], 625: “A fine edition”, esteemed also already by contemporary collectors of the rank of for instance an A. T. Stewart [Catalog of the Stewart Collection, New York 1887, 1221, “fine plates”]). – In the margins feeble foxspots.

Exasperated by the difficulties related to the engravings of the Election set of 1757 Hogarth had intended to restrict himself to portraits thenceforward. Lord Charlemont, however, persuaded him to paint one more comic history, leaving theme and price – “the payment was noble but the manner with which it was given by a note enclosed in a letter was far more pleasing to one of my turn of mind”, so Hogarth himself – to the artist. Sir Richard Grosvenor now would not be inferior to this generous gesture and offered the same price for something comparable to The Lady’s Last Stake, again leaving the motif to Hogarth’s choice.

As angered as tempted by the £ 400 a Sigismunda by Correggio he considered false – actually not by this, but by Francesco Furini – had scored, Hogarth decided himself for this very theme, with the intention to show the connoisseurs of his time what quality is. May it be that both James Thomson’s 1745 adaptation of the first novel of the fourth day from Boccaccio’s Decameron popular at London’s theatres and Dryden’s revision “Sigismunda and Guiscardo” in his Fables Ancient and Modern from already 1699 had interested him anyway. Just as it is also said his wife had sat for him, it additionally would reflect the history of his own marriage as it was secretly and against the wish of her father, Sir James Thornhill, who only later became reconciled with his former pupil and now son-in-law.

Despite all pains and time Hogarth spent on it – or probably just because of this and not only for this “grand style of history” not being his way – Sigismunda became no success. Not only the client refused the painting as he could not and would not look at something like this day in, day out. Likewise the opponents of previous battles, Wilkes and Churchill, rushed at it with zeal and spite. What in return finally also lead to Hogarth’s concentric charge John Wilkes and The Times.

Sigismunda, however, remained in the possession of Hogarth who now wanted to have it engraved, but James Basire’s etching was not finished, probably because of Hogarth’s death. Time Smoking a Picture – another mosaic piece in his decades-long fight against the high esteem of “dubious Old Master paintings” (David Bindman, Hogarth and His Times, 1997, p. 113) – served as subscription ticket. The £ 500 requested by Hogarth could not be realized by his widow either and for 56 guineas it finally passed from her bequest

into the possession of the Boydells

who had Benjamin Smith execute present engraving for the complete edition of 1795 – thus well 35 years after its creation and 30 years after his death – with Hogarth’s note in the lower margin:

“ Let the picture rust, / Perhaps Time’s price enhancing dust, / As statues moulder into earth, / When I’m no more may mark its worth, / And future connoisseurs may risc, / Honest as ours, and full as wise, / To puff the piece and painter too, / And make me then what Guido’s (Reni) now. / Hogarth’s epistle. ”

By the bequest of J. H. Anderdon 1879 Sigismunda finally passed into the National Gallery,

“ where, in spite of theatrical treatment and a repulsive theme, it still commands admiration for its colour, drawing and expression …

“ With the art connoisseurship of his day he was wholly at war, because, as he believed, it favoured foreign mediocrity at the expense of native talent; and in the heat of argument he would probably, as he admits, often come ‘to utter blasphemous expressions against the divinity even of Raphael Urbino, Correggio and Michelangelo’. But it was rather against the third-rate copies of third-rate artists – the ‘ship-loads of dead Christs, Holy Families and Madonnas’ – that his indignation was directed; and in speaking of his attitude with regard to the great masters of art, it is well to remember his words to Mrs Piozzi: ‘The connoisseurs and I are at war, you know; and because I hate them, they think I hate Titian – and let them!’

“ But no doubt it was in a measure owing to this hostile attitude of his towards the all-powerful art dealers that his contemporaries failed to recognize adequately his merits as a painter, and persisted in regarding him as an ingenious humorist alone. Time has reversed that unjust sentence. He is now held to have been a splendid painter, pure and harmonious in his colouring, wonderfully dexterous and direct in his handling, and in his composition leaving little or nothing to be desired … If we regard him – as he loved to regard himself – as ‘author’ rather than ‘artist,’ his place is with the great masters of literature – with the Thackerays and Fieldings, the Cervantes and Molières ”

(Austin Dobson, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911).

Offer no. 14,745 / EUR  225. (c. US$ 272.) + shipping

William Hogarth, Self-portrait

“ From the Original Picture
in the Collection of John & Josiah Boydell ”

William Hogarth (1697 London 1764). William Hogarth. Half-length self-portrait as mirror image on top of – outside of the oval – folios with his favorite pug Trump and palette, enclosed by drapery as a symbol of the mysterious reflecting upon the mirror. Stipple by Bartolozzi’s pupil Benjamin Smith (London c. 1754 – Somers Town, London, 1833). Inscribed: Painted by W. Hogarth. / Engraved by Benj. Smith. / William Hogarth. / From the Original Picture in the Collection of John & Josiah Boydell. / Published June 4, 1795 by J. & J. Boydell, No. 90, Cheapside, & at the Shakspeare Gallery Pall Mall. 15½ × 11¾ in (39.5 × 30 cm).

Nagler 33 and, Smith, 4. – Posthumous version of the painted self-portrait of 1745 for the first complete edition (1790-1809) published by Boydell as the original plate of 1749 was lost due to further use by Hogarth in 1763 (see “The Bruiser”). Unlike the engraving of 1749 in the same direction as the painting. Otherwise with the full palette inscription “The Line of Beauty / And Grace / WH 1745” and legible titles for two of the three tomes: Shakespeare and Swift Works resp.; the third being Milton. – Later impression on sturdy paper (“Even these became relatively rare today though”, Art Gallery Esslingen 1970; and Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., VIII [1888], 625: “A fine edition”, esteemed also already by contemporary collectors of the rank of for instance an A. T. Stewart [Catalog of the Stewart Collection, New York 1887, 1221, “fine plates”]). – Diagonal marginal box pleat still affecting the right margin of the picture and a further horizontal one weakly perceptible for just a few cm above the folios. Backed dog’s ear upper right. The wide white margin foxstippled and with faint tidemark lower left.

Offer no. 7,610 / EUR  220. (c. US$ 266.) + shipping

William Hogarth, Night Scene

“ From an Original Sketch
communicated by Messrs. Boydell ”

The Well-nigh Ingenious Sketch published herewith supposedly for the First Time

William Hogarth (1697 London 1764). From an Original Sketch communicated by Messrs. Boydell. (A Night Scene.) The guard bringing home the intoxicated husband, awaited before the fireside by the weeping wife and her maid. Engraving in outline by Thomas Cook (c. 1744 – London 1818). Inscribed: Hogarth pinx. / T. Cook sculp. / Published by Longman … et Orme, Oct. 1st. 1809., otherwise as above. Subject size 5¼ × 7¾ in (13.2 × 19.8 cm).

The well-nigh ingenious sketch published herewith supposedly for the first time. – Trimmed within the wide white platemark whose edges are slightly foxed.

Cook “made his mark as Hogarth engraver, too, whose complete work he has engraved in copy” (Thieme-Becker) and whose original format he maintained contrary to all later Hogarth editions in his first, earlier edition. For some sheets not published by Hogarth himself Cook became their first engraver as he then also gained approval of a contemporary connoisseur as Maximilian Speck von Sternburg.

Offer no. 15,228 / EUR  128. (c. US$ 155.) + shipping


„ vielen herzlichen Dank für die Faxübermittlung Ihres Schriftverkehrs mit … Hochinteressant und das Thema (des jagdlichen) ‚Wurstwagen‘ wunderbar anschaulich darstellend! Nochmals vielen Dank! “

(Museum S. B., 23. Februar 2004)