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A SET OF SIX IRISH GEORGE II EMBOSSED BIRD PICTURES
A SET OF SIX IRISH GEORGE II EMBOSSED BIRD PICTURES

BY SAMUEL DIXON, CIRCA 1755

Details
A SET OF SIX IRISH GEORGE II EMBOSSED BIRD PICTURES
BY SAMUEL DIXON, CIRCA 1755
The basso relievo part set of 'Foreign and Domestick Birds', in black and gilt-japanned glazed frames, depicting:
The Summer Duck, red-billed whistling duck and shells, with dedication to the Countess of Hillsborough and description to reverse,
A red and blue Macaw, a grey-finch and a wax bill, with indistinct transcribed dedication,
A green-winged dove perched on a stump and a cock and hen red-throated hummingbird at nest, with remains of a label to reverse,
A canary-bird with wasp among anemones, polyantheus, hyacinths, tulips and jessamin,
A goldfinch perched upon a branch, with honeysuckle, ranunculas, peony and other flowers,
And a cock butcher-bird above a floral still-life of roses, poppies, and ranunculas
13¼ x 17½ in. (34 x 44.5 cm.) and slightly smaller (6)
Provenance
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's London, 13 March 1981, lot 101.

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Lot Essay

Samuel Dixon's first 'Sett of curious Foreign Bird Pieces' was prepared in 1749 and advertised in Faulkner's Dublin Journal on 4 April that year. Sets of twelve portrait depictions of single birds were probably first offered for sale in the summer of 1750, in black and gilt-japanned frames such as those of the present lot. The subject matter derived from George Edward's Natural History of Uncommon Birds, published 1743-51 and the descriptions were also drawn directly from Edwards' works.

The present lot, however, includes six compositions which were included in Dixon's second and more ambitious set of bird pictures - Foreign and Domestick Birds. They differed from the 1750 set in size and in the complexity of their compositions, some featuring as many as three birds, insects, flowers, fruit, shells and corals. Faulkner's Dublin Journal reported on 21 August 1753 that 'Mr Dixon of Capel-street, is designing a most curious large set of Pictures', but it was not until 9 September 1755 that they were finished and ready for distribution to subscribers. Whereas the earlier set had carried a single dedication, each of the twelve in the second set carried an individual dedication, honouring prominent members of the Irish nobility. Sadly now lacking to all but one of the pictures in this lot, the following dedications would once have been included: the Countess of Carrick (the red and blue Macaw); Lady Molesworth (the green-winged dove and hummingbirds); the Countess of Cork (the canary); the Duchess of Dorset (the goldfinch); and the Duchess of Hamilton (the butcher-bird).

Many of the 1755 works corresponded closely to George Edwards' Natural History of Uncommon Birds, but others such as the canary, goldfinch and bullfinch would have been more likely encountered as imported caged birds. At the same time Dixon advertised completion of this set he announced his intention to travel abroad and thus sell off his stock (excepting the newest work), with auction notices published in January 1756. After an absence of two years Dixon returned, setting up a linen printing works at Leixlip, Co. Kildare. It appears that this was the last large set of pictures he produced. Examples from this set are illustrated in Ada K. Longfield, 'Samuel Dixons's embossed pictures of Flowers and Birds', Quarterly Bulletin of the Irish Georgian Society, vol. XVIII, no. 4, 1975, pp. 28-30, figs. 10-12.
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