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George Barret, R.A. (Dublin 1728/1732-1784 London)
George Barret, R.A. (Dublin 1728/1732-1784 London)

A wooded river landscape with a man fishing in the foreground, a shepherd playing a flute beside a flock of sheep and a town beyond; and A wooded river landscape with fishermen in a boat, a ruined building beyond and figures crossing a bridge

Details
George Barret, R.A. (Dublin 1728/1732-1784 London)
A wooded river landscape with a man fishing in the foreground, a shepherd playing a flute beside a flock of sheep and a town beyond; and A wooded river landscape with fishermen in a boat, a ruined building beyond and figures crossing a bridge
oil on canvas, unlined
23¾ x 49½ in. (60.3 x 125.6 cm.)
in their original carved and gilded frames
a pair (2)
Provenance
Commissioned by Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown (1701-1783), for the Saloon at Russborough, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, and by descent until acquired by
Capt. Denis Daly, along with the remaining contents of Russborough in 1931; Hamilton & Hamilton, Russborough, 21 October 1952, lots 147-8.
Mr. and Mrs. Donald Davies, Charleville, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow; Christie's, on the presmises, 23 January 1978, lot 142, where acquired by the present owner.
Literature
J.P. Neale, Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in the United Kingdom, 2nd series, III, London, 1826, p. 18.
B. Fitzgerald, 'Russborough II', Country Life, 30 January 1937, p. 121, pl. 2 (in which a detail of one of the pictures can be seen).
A. Crookshank and the Knight of Glin, Ireland's Painters 1600-1840, New Haven and London, 2002, p. 133.

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Clemency Henty
Clemency Henty

Lot Essay

George Barret was the most celebrated and successful Irish landscape painter of the latter half of the 18th century. These exceptionally well preserved landscapes formed part of one of the largest and most important commissions that Barret received in the early phase of his career. Joseph Leeson (1701-83), who commissioned them, was the scion of a Dublin brewing family and a considerable connoisseur. A politician who served for many years as Member of Parliament for Rathcormic, and was eventually appointed a Privy Councillor, he was created Baron Russborough, of County Wicklow (1756), Viscount Russborough of Russeltown (1760), and ultimately Earl of Milltown in 1763. Leeson had begun work on the construction of a magnificent country house, Russborough, near Blessington, in County Wicklow, in 1741, which, like Powerscourt House, was designed by the German born architect Richard Cassel (Castle), and work was eventually completed some seven years later. Leeson set about acquiring works of art for his new house while it was still under construction; and while on the first of two Grand Tours, he sat to Batoni in 1744 (the earliest recorded portrait of either an Irish or English sitter; Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland), and acquired four Capricci by Panini, among other works. These purchases were to be complemented by others made on a second Grand Tour with his son, Joseph Leeson, later 2nd Earl of Milltown, and his nephew, Joseph Henry, Earl of Straffan. The present paintings, which are thought likely to have been executed in the early 1750s, are part of a commission of twenty decorative landscapes that Leeson gave to George Barret, sixteen of which are now in the National Gallery of Ireland. Leeson had precise positions in the house in mind for these landscapes; the majority were destined for the Library (now the Dining Room) on the entrance front. The remainder were intended for the Saloon. The present horizontal landscapes are one of two pairs of overdoors that were originally in the Saloon. They hung over the pedimented bookcases leading to the Small Dining Room and Music Room, and a corner of one of them is visible in a photograph of the Saloon published in 1937 (see Country Life, op. cit.). The lower parts of each frame show how these rested on the apex of the doorframes. For further information on this commission and illustrations of the sixteen works from the series in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland, see N. Figgis & B. Rooney, Irish Paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 2001, pp. 47-57.

We are grateful to Aidan O'Boyle, whose article reconstructing the arrangement of the Milltown collection at Russborough will be published in Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies next year.

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