Sir John Franklin (1786-1847)
After Stephen PEARCE. [The Arctic Council planning a search for Sir John Franklin. London: published by the Printseller's Association, circa 1851]. Hand-coloured steel-engraving with mezzotint and roulette work, visible area: 56 x 73.5cm. (image area: 45 x 71.5cm.), proof before letters, signed 'Jas. Scott' in pencil beneath the image. Framed and glazed.
A rare hand-coloured proof, signed by the engraver, taken from one of the most famous images connected with 19th century Arctic exploration: Stephen Pearce's original oil, a group portrait of ten members of the Council now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London. The more usual print is uncoloured, on india paper, and includes facsimiles of the signatures of the subjects beneath the image (see lot 157 in these rooms, 17 September 1999). The Arctic Council was founded in the mid-1830s as an advisory group to filter proposals for attempts on the North-West Passage. Members came and went, according to circumstances, but Sir William Edward Parry, Sir James Clark Ross, Sir Francis Beaufort, Sir George Back, Frederick William Beechey, Edward Joseph Bird, Sir Edward Sabine and Sir John Richardson are depicted in Pearce's group portrait as well as John Barrow Jnr. and William Baillie Hamilton, and in the paintings visible on the rear wall: Sir John Franklin, James Fitzjames and Sir John Barrow himself. The scene depicted shows the council in discussion about their most important project: the search for Franklin and his expedition. The influence that Lady Jane Franklin had on the protracted search for her husband is acknowledged in the two letters on the table from American supporters of her quest: one from Henry Grinnell, the second from Edwin de Haven, both addressed to Lady Franklin.