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    Sale 5280

    The Sunday Sale - Property from the Collection of The Late The Hon. Mrs. Angela Lascelles

    28 October 2007, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 125

    TWELVE NEW DESIGNS OF ENGLISH BUTTERFLIES (Nissen 4411)

    H. ROBERTS AFTER BENJAMIN WILKES (DIED 1749)

    Price Realised  

    TWELVE NEW DESIGNS OF ENGLISH BUTTERFLIES (Nissen 4411)
    H. Roberts after Benjamin Wilkes (died 1749)
    the complete set of twelve engravings depicting nearly 300 species of butterflies in ornate arrangements, 1742, on laid paper watermarked Strasbourg lily with initials, the rare first edition, comprising frontispiece and 12 plates, each with artist's and engraver's names, numbers, titles and text printed below, published by the artist and printed for J. Bowles & Son, London, 1741-42, with wide margins, loose (as issued), with pale time staining and minor defects at the sheet edges, the frontispiece with a few losses, otherwise in good condition (13)
    P. 352 x 284 mm. (average), S. 474 x 303 mm. (average)


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    This work holds a unique place in English natural history since it was the first time in which plates were engraved for decorative, rather than purely educational purposes. Little is known of Benjamin Wilkes, other than that he initially trained as a history painter. His career changed irrevocably when he was invited to a meeting of the Aurelian society whereupon he first saw specimens of butterflies and moths. Instantly inspired by their meticulous geometric arrangements and contrasting colours, he realised that it was through the study of nature that he would learn most about 'colour' and 'form', in art. This was to be Wilkes' first of many publications on the subject, and was dedicated to the Aurelian Society. Curiously, the artist was not only keen for buyers to purchase his works, but also that they should come and view his own collection of insects 'against the Horn Tavern in Fleet Street.'

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