Catherine, wife of James Taylor (d.1747) and aunt-by-marriage of the 1st Earl of Bective, married secondly in 1755 Alexander, 5th Earl of Antrim (d.1775). It was 'To the Countess of Antrim' that 'No 8' in this series was originally dedicated.
Samuel Dixon of Dublin was made famous by his sets of embossed bird and flower pictures issued between 1748 and 1755. These pictures incorporated a technique which Dixon called 'basso relievo' whereby parts of the design were raised by means of a copper plate and then coloured in gouache.
Dixon's first 'basso relievo' set of twelve formal flower arrangements was advertised in the 26 April 1748 'Faulkner's Dublin Journal'; this article invited the 'Nobility and Gentry' to purchase these pictures which were 'not only ornamental in Lady's chambers but useful to paint and draw after or imitate in shell or needle work'. These very popular 'Flower Pictures' encouraged Dixon to produce a 'Sett of curious Foreign Bird Pieces' advertised the following year. The designs for these pictures were taken directly from the first four volumes of George Edward's Natural History of Uncommon Birds, 1743-51, as were the descriptive labels on the back of each picture.
In 1755 Dixon produced a further set of 'Foreign and Domestick Birds', distinguishable by their larger dimensions. The oblong shape of this larger set afforded Dixon more scope for grouping or elaboration of subsidiary ornamentation, hence this set was more ambitious than his previous sets (A. Longfield, 'Irish Conceits of Birds and Blooms', Country Life, 3 December 1968, p. 1460). The set of 'Foreign and Domestick Birds' were dedicated respectively to: The Countess of Carrick; Lady Castlecomer; The Countess of Meath; The Duchess of Dorset; The Countess of Antrim; The Countess of Howth; The Countess of Hillsborough; The Countess of Kildare; The Countess of Cork; The Duchess of Hamilton; The Dowager Countess of Kildare; Lady Molesworth. Each of the original set of 'Foreign and Domestick Birds' was labelled to the reverse with descriptions of the birds illustrated and a reference to whom the sets were dedicated. The backboards having been removed from the current set suggests these dedications are now lost. Significantly though, their original frames with gilt-japanned motifs of Chinese pagodas and willow trees is a previously unrecorded design.
A set of nine Irish George II embossed bird pictures by Samuel Dixon, from Dixon's 'Sett of curious Foreign Bird Pieces', circa 1750, was sold by the late 16th Earl of Dalhousie K.T., Christie's, London, 6 July 2000, lot 5 (£97,250).
We are grateful to Robert Beardsley, Esq. for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.