PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF STELLA DE WERGIFOSSE (LOTS 96-97)
These two large watercolours by Thomas Girtin, are both impressively imposing and punctuated with the charming details of everyday life that together, mark Girtin out as one of the most successful practitioners of the Romantic movement of British landscape painting. Dating from circa 1798, they are sophisticated compositions, depicting important landscapes of Lincolnshire at the end of the 18th Century. Both buildings have been expertly translated into pictorial form, with the height of the towers almost filling the landscape format of the watercolours, emphasising the monumental nature of the buildings and their impact upon the flat Lincolnshire countryside. In the watercolour of St Botolph’s Church, Boston, tiny, almost insignificant figures amble through the churchyard while others go about their everyday business in the shadow of the great building. In the view of Tattershall Castle, Girtin has contrasted the peaceful pastoral surrounding of the castle with its former important role in Cromwell’s plans. Both have survived in remarkably good condition for watercolours by the artist.
Girtin’s first sketching tour, on which he was accompanied by the antiquarian James Moore was in 1794 and took in Lichfield, Warwick, Lincoln and Peterborough. The view of Boston (lot 96) would have been worked up from one of the sketches Girtin made on this trip. However the plate after the View of Tattershall Castle (lot 97) and most likely the drawing in the Whitworth too, is inscribed `from a sketch by B. Howlett’, `View was taken in 1798’. It seems unlikely that Girtin omitted Tattershall Castle on his tour with Moore, rather he may have borrowed Howlett’s sketches to add detail. Both watercolours were engraved and published by Bartholomew Howlett for his A Selection of Views in the County of Lincoln with seventy-five plates from drawings by Girtin, John Nash, James Bourne and others. The watercolour of Tattershall Castle was also engraved in 1818 for Hassell’s Aqua Picture, which was an ambitious project containing 15 plates in four states, each illustrating the development from drawings to completed watercolours.
Both watercolours share an illustrious provenance. The watercolour of Tattershall Castle was presented to William Brand by Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), of Revesby, Lincolnshire, botanist and patron of natural sciences, according to the inscription on the backboard. Brand was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a collector of his Majesty’s Customs in the Port of Boston. Brand and Banks appear to be well acquainted. There is a copy of Sir Joseph Banks Fishing Book in the Yale Center for British Art; a manuscript detailing the fishing parties arranged by Banks, with text by his sisters Sarah and Sophia Banks, a thirteen part map by William Brand and seven other watercolour illustrations by Brand, many showing charming group portraits. Boston Church also entered Brand's collection, sometime before 1812. The watercolours are next recorded as being in the collection of Baron Brownlow of Boston, Lincolnshire, Sir Brownlow Cust, 4th Bt., was created Baron Brownlow in 1776 and succeeded by his son in 1808. Both watercolours have descended through the Cust family to the present owner.