This drawing appears to be the earliest known depiction of Athlone, County Westmeath, 78 miles west of Dublin. Athlone Castle was built in 1210 by John de Grey, Bishop of Norwich and Justiciar of Ireland. The town became the seat of the Presidency of Connacht in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. According to archival sources the upper stories of the façade in this drawing almost certainly show the residence of the president. This view can probably be dated to the 1650s, since the central arch of the bridge over the Shannon was deliberately destroyed and replaced with a removable section at the time of the siege of the city by Cromwell's forces in 1650 and 1651 (H. Murtagh, Athlone, history and settlement to 1800, Athlone, 2000, p. 105). The castle was besieged twice during William of Orange's campaign after 1688, and was largely destroyed during the assault of General Godart van Ginkel, later Earl of Athlone, on 30 June 1691. The layout of the castle and bridge was recorded, although in less detail than in the present sheet, in a drawing of 1684/5 by the military engineer Thomas Philips now in the National Library of Ireland (NLI ms. 3137 (33), H. Murtagh, op. cit., illustrated as frontispiece).
A view of Culmore Fort on Inishowen, County Donegal, by Jan Peeters' elder brother Bonaventura (see the following lot), was recorded in a print by Hollar (Pennington 1090; A. Crookshank and the Knight of Glin, The Watercolours of Ireland, London, 1994, p. 17). Bonaventura made a number of views of the British Isles, many of which, like the present drawing, were formerly in the collection of P.H. Lankrink (for example D.B. Brown, op. cit., no. 198), but no other British views by Jan are known. Although he may have been a traveller himself (drawings by him of the Mediterranean, Piraeus and even Yemen are known), Peeters may have relied on drawings by his nephews Bonaventura II and Gillis II, who are known to have been indefatigable travellers.
The attribution to Jan Peeters was suggested by Frits Lugt, recorded in a pencil note on the mount. Comparison can be made with a view of the Monastery of Montserrat, Barcelona, in the Frits Lugt Collection (C. van Hasselt, Flemish drawings of the 17th century, exhib. cat., London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1972, no. 70).
We are grateful to Dr Harman Murtagh for his kind help in preparing this note.