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Studio of Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg (Strasbourg 1740-1812 London)
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VA… Read more THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN (LOT 199)
Studio of Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg (Strasbourg 1740-1812 London)

A winter morning with skating in Hyde Park

Studio of Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg (Strasbourg 1740-1812 London)
A winter morning with skating in Hyde Park
oil on canvas
35¼ x 49 3/8 in. (89.5 x 125.5 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 7 December 1945, lot 127, as 'de Loutherbourg'.
with Leggatt Bros., London, from whom purchased by the father of the present owner.
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Lot Essay

This is one of several versions of perhaps de Loutherbourg's most enduringly popular composition, the prime version of which is the picture of 1776 sold at Christie's, New York, 23 October 1998, lot 78 ($466,000). The subject functioned both as a topographical scene and an exercise in social satire. It depicts the Serpentine in Hyde Park which froze in winter, attracting people from all social classes, who came to it to skate. De Loutherbourg portrayed several of his friends within the composition, including his wife, Lucy Paget (standing behind the figures at the chair). Near her is the engraver V.M. Picot (who was also De Loutherbourg's partner from 1776 to 1782), John Webber (the cartographer who accompanied Captain Cook on his third circumnavigation of the world) and Jean-Georges Noverre, the French-born choreographer and author of a seminal work on 18th-century dance, Lettres sur la danse (1769). De Loutherbourg himself can be identified as the young gentleman seated on a chair who is having his skates fitted (see for comparison Gainsborough's portrait of the artist at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, inv. no. 66, which was painted in 1778). As a Frenchman who settled in London, De Loutherbourg brought the sharp but affectionate eye of an observant outsider to this comic scene of Englishmen at play. A Winter Morning appealed, in particular, to Thomas Rowlandson, who must have seen the prime version, together with its pendant, A Summer evening with a view of a road (now lost), when they were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1776; the copy that he drew of it is today in the British Museum.

These paintings were among De Loutherbourg's most famous works, and were the first of a number of depictions of popular amusements which the artist produced between 1776 and his brief withdrawal from public life around 1787. In response to the popularity that the pictures enjoyed, De Loutherbourg sent Winter and later Summer, to be used by Matthew Boulton as models for 'polygraphs', or mechanical paintings. The process was established in 1776 as a means of making available, at low cost, reproductions true to the original painting's colour. To make a polygraph, an acquatint plate was inked in several colours and transferred with pressure onto a prepared canvas; the copy was then touched up by hand and varnished. Boulton's mechanical paintings were only produced for four years because the expense of hand finishing made the process uneconomical.

In addition to the present work, other painted replicas produced by De Loutherbourg and his studio are in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg; the Maidstone Museum, Kent, and a signed work in a private Dutch collection.

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