This Roman-medallion vignette of birds reflects the mid-18th century taste for bedroom apartments decorated à la Français and hung with the bird-inhabited Chinese wallpapers popularised by Parisian 'marchands merciers' and East India merchants. The picture, in basso relievo, was executed by the Islington artist Isaac Spackman (d. 1771). He produced three series of birds, issued in 1754, 1764 and 1769. The present picture is dated 1758, placing it at the earlier stage of his bird series. Spackman's chief source for his bird pictures was Edwards' A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, published in two volumes between 1743-1747 ('More about Dixon and his Imitators', Quarterly Bulletin of the Irish Georgian Society, June 1980, and A. Longfield, 'Identifying Spackman's Embossed Bird Pictures', Country Life, 25 January 1979, pp. 196-197).
An embossed bird picture of a peacock pheasant by Spackman was sold anonymously [50 Years of Collecting: The Decorative Arts of Georgian England], in these Rooms, 14 May 2003, lot 134.
A pair of oval frames in gilt carton-pierre was supplied to Edward Lascelles for the Yellow Chintz Bedroom at Harewood House, Yorkshire by Thomas Chippendale in circa 1770 (C. Gilbert, The Life and Works of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol. II, p. 174).
IDENTIFICATION OF BIRDS
The birds in the present picture have been identified as:
1. Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum) - South-East Africa.
2. Scarlet Macaw (Ara maccao) - South America. Here Spackman has confused two species, the Scarlet and the Blue and Yellow Macaw. Basically his painting is of a Scarlet Macaw but he has given it a blue tail and a blue head when it should have a mainly red tail and red head.
3. Ruby-throated humming bird (Archilochus colubris) - North America.
4. Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) - North America.
5. Mallard - (Anas platyrhynchos) - Europe, Asia, North America.
6. River Kingfisher - (Alcedo atthis) - Europe to south-east Asia.
7. River Kingfisher - (Alcedo atthis) - Europe to south-east Asia
8. Lesser Grey Shrike, female (Lanius minor?) - Europe to central Asia. Copied from one of the pairs of birds that Edwards himself had some doubts and he thought that they may have been a pair of Bearded Tits - (Panurus biarmicus).
9. Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
10. Possibly a Tanager - South America
11. Possibly a Tanager - South America
We are grateful to Peter Olney for his assistance in preparing the cataloguing of this lot.