This beautiful early 19th-century topographical watercolour depicts a landscape with several figures before an impressive castellated country house. Stylistically, it’s close to the work of the eminent draughtsman Paul Sandby (1731-1809) and it’s plausible that the artist was trained by him.
This work appeared in a sale at Sotheby’s in 2002 but alas the country house portrayed remains a mystery. It’s an interesting building with a ruin, perhaps an abbey, on the far right. The building itself feels a little Jacobean and features battlements so it’s likely that an earlier building has been adapted over centuries. It’s reminiscent of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire and Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds. Do you recognise it? If so, do tell us.
Paul Sandby was a drawing master at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich and, as such, trained numerous artists during his time there. This style of drawing was particularly popular with the aristocracy who sought to capture views of their own estate. You may also be familiar with engravings of this nature as many were completed during the 18th century for a keen audience of avid collectors. It’s fair to say that topographical drawings were the first widely accepted form of landscape painting in Britain but today remain underrated.
In terms of the date, there are a number of clues, including its style, that help us to determine that it’s circa 1815. The frame is particularly telling as it’s probably original and has a label on the reverse from John Smith (1781-1855) picture framer to his Majesty. The label dates to a short period between 1812-1821. Smith worked for a lengthy list of high-profile clients including Lord Byron, the Duke & Duchess of Argyll, Lord Francis Egerton, Lady Shelley, the Duke of Wellington, and the Marquess of Westminster.
The watercolour is framed and glazed. Formerly at Sotheby’s, The Keil Sale, 2002, lot 406.
Medium: Pen, ink and watercolour on paper
Overall size: 34” x 25” / 87cm x 64cm
Year of creation: c. 1815
Condition: Artwork presents well. Frame with some light wear.