Saturday, July 31, 2021

jean chardin, later sir john chardin ... french merchant, business man and exemplary historian of the persians ... file under forgotten


travelled to persia as a young man in the 1660s ... was away from paris several years ... heavily involved in establishing trade between europe and asia ... set off for persia again in the 1770s and continued to india, returning to paris by ship around the cape ... probably came to england because of french religious intolerance against the protestants 

his life


his own published account of the persians ...

gallica's edition of his travels;2

Monday, July 19, 2021

George Stubbs ... from my recent facebook scrapbook ...


A month of George Stubbs ... painter of Whistlejacket ... if George Stubbs had painted nothing else, then he'd still be known for this ...

Although the famous painting of Whistlejacket has no background, Stubbs backgrounds became remarkable. He was always aware of perspective and space, even while he distorted them; in this earlier commission he gave careful attention to the textures of his vaporous skies and from early on he was really good at “atmosphere”, so that the details of trees and hills became diffused in the distance.
Molly Long-Legs with her Jockey, 1761-ish … this picture hangs in Liverpool’s Walker gallery … in Stubbs' home town.

Stubbs worked as an independent portraitist from the age of about twenty but also engaged as an illustrator for surgeons and anatomists. He began dissecting for his own Anatomy of the Horse in 1756 but engraving the plates was such a long process that his Album of 24 prints only appeared in 1766.
Stubbs's driving ambition in the early 1750s was to study the anatomy of the horse. He had discussed this project with Charles Atkinson and others at York, hoping to enlist their help, but they were unable to join him. In or about 1756 Stubbs returned to Barton upon Humber to paint a portrait of Lady Nelthorpe's young son, Sir John Nelthorpe (priv. coll.). Pre-sumably he discussed his project with Lady Nelthorpe, who may have arranged for him to work in a farmhouse in the village of Horkstow, a few miles from Barton upon Humber.
Stubbs's work at Horkstow occupied him for about eighteen months. He dissected many horses, working on them one by one, first bleeding them to death by the jugular vein, then injecting the veins and arteries with wax-like substances to preserve their shape. Having fixed iron hooks in the farmhouse ceiling, he rigged up tackle from which (with drawings in mind) he could suspend a horse in a seemingly natural attitude, its hooves resting upon a plank. He then dissected each horse until it was no longer 'fit for use'; each lasted on av-erage six to seven weeks.

These were commissioned by Lord Rockingham at the same time as the National Gallery’s grand “Whistlejacket”.
Mares and Foals, 1762
Whistlejacket and two other Stallions with Simon Cobb, the Groom, 1762

If a rich patron had a horse that needed painting, there might also be a doggy ...

Stubbs must have puzzled over light, he had been reading Leonardo’s treatise on painting and so he usually avoided the impression of bright sunlight creating deep shadows; Stubbs’ shadows are usually meticulously diffused and rarely sharp.
Joseph Smyth Esquire, Lieutenant of Whittlebury Forest, Northamptonshire, on a Dapple Grey Horse
Lustre, c.1762 … in the background here, he painted what I take to be the faintest of sunbeams illuminating very distant fields, subtly done and quite unusual in his work.

Stubbs’ Self-portraits, 1759 and 1781

Portrait of Stubbs by Thomas Orde-Powlett, 1775-ish

Stubbs by Ozias Humphrey, 1777

Gimcrack, 1765 … Christies’ encyclopaedic Auction Notes for this item are most scholarly and give a good account of a typical Stubbs commission, and of the patrons’ lifestyles.

Otho with John Larkin up, 1768 … a rare example of strong sunlight illuminating a Stubbs subject

A Lady Reading in A Park, 1769-ish … There are no animals in this picture and it is such a pretty portrait that the auctioneers who sold it in 1928 thought it was by Zoffany.

Clearly, despite his unusual lifestyle, and despite his fifty years of devoted partnership with Mary Spencer ‘til Death Did Them Part, Stubbs was a connoisseur of fine wimmin.
No image of Mary has been positively identified BUT some people speculated that the circular painting of Hope Nursing Love, painted with enamel on copper, signed in 1774, might be her likeness. Doubtful …

Stubbs’ painstaking objectivity meant he was often commissioned to paint newly imported novelties. The atmosphere and depth of the invented landscapes behind these portraits of confined creatures was always masterly.

Queen Charlotte’s Zebra, 1763

Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians, 1765 …

Like Zoffany, Stubbs was often commissioned to paint family groups … but Stubbs’z groups are better balanced, less showy.

Basil Taylor wrote … “How few English painters have regarded design as a matter of disposing of weight and force through the control of mass, as the balance and counter-balance of thrusts and lines of force, as a matter of dynamics … This is the method which Stubbs employed and obviously understood

Captain Samuel Sharpe Pocklington, 1769

The Milbanke and Melbourne Families, 1770 … the lady on the left is sixteen and pregnant, but she is famously bright and has an impressive future …

Around 1770, with Britain’s aggressively expanding investments in exploration and colonization, new animals were being shipped in from every continent, sometimes as curiosities and sometimes as having commercial potential for herding or hunting. The Duke of Richmond acquired a young bull moose from Quebec and the naturalist William Hunter commissioned Stubbs to paint it …

A Kongouro, and a Dingo, both paintings commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks on returning from New Holland ( later to be re-named Australia ) with Captain Cooke in 1771.

Stubbs’ drawing technique was extraordinarily delicate. In 1773, Sir Joseph Banks asked him to visit Marmaduke Tunstall’s house in Welbeck Street to draw a mouse lemur, newly acquired from Madagascar. It is the smallest of primates, less than eleven inches from nose to tail. Stubbs immediately drew the living creature with enormous understanding. The British Museum have three sheets from Stubbs’ visit. This is the finest …

It is difficult for us in the 21st Century to understand Stubbs’ 18th Century attitude to horses. The theme of a horse threatened and attacked by a lion was an obsession, possibly provoked by an ancient sculpture he saw in Rome.
The kindest construct that has been offered is that Stubbs had pondered on the nature of life itself and the question of the basic character of animals, & whether they possessed any true “nobility” of spirit, as it was supposed humans do.
This subject disturbs and perplexes me … but then, “the Past is A Foreign Country, they do things differently there” …
Aris Sarafianos offers an historian’s perspective on some philosophical notions that might have interested Stubbs at the time …
… whilst Stubbs’ excellent biographer, Robin Blake suggests a much deeper allegorical concern …

I don’t suppose Stubbs ever encountered leopards in the wilds of Kent or Derbyshire, they were confined to menageries, but this was how he chose to paint them.
Tygers at Play, 1776 … tygers might have been a generic term for large cats, rather than a specific one.
Here’s a bit of Sotheby’s sales hype for the 2014 auction.

A King Charles Spaniel, 1776
Stubbs had a nice way with doggy paintings … the best will look you in the eye with calm intelligence, just like this one.

John and Sophia Musters, 1777 … could he forgive her ?

Stubbs also portrayed Fanny, Mrs Musters favourite spaniel.

Isabella Saltonstall as Una, from Spenser’s Faerie Queen, 1782. 

One of several paintings enamelled by Stubbs on earthenware plaques from about 1780 onwards; the plaques were specially made to order & were then fired for him at considerable expense by Wedgewood’s, on which venture Stubbs slowly but surely lost his fortune and fell into debt. 

Isabella’s parents were among Stubbs’ early patrons and she was most generous with financial help in his last years, long after this picture was made and long after his enamelling ventures had failed to achieve recognition or popularity.

Whilst Stubbs dreamed up his enamelling projects, he was also taking time out from his usual commissioned works to paint these harvesting scenes for his own satisfaction.

Stubbs was a self-taught master of engraving and trained his son in this craft. Many of Stubbs’ popular paintings were subsequently published by them as fine engravings.

The Prince Regent, famously dissolute and spendthrift, commissioned a variety of paintings from Stubbs.
Prince of Wales, 1791

John Gascoigne ( the Prince Regent’s hunting groom ) with a Bay Horse, 1791
The horse, rather than its groom, was the subject of the commission … but you already knew that.

Another Stubbs masterpiece from the Royal Collection Trust ... William Anderson with Two Saddle-Horses, 1793

Again, The Prince of Wales is showing off his horses, rather than his groom.

I think the scenery might be an approximation of the view from the downland where Brighton Racecourse now stands, in which case the light would be from a low sun "quite early one morning", the best time to exercise your thoroughbreds.

Laetitia, Lady Lade, 1793

Yer 18th Century party-animal-ess, naughty & loud-mouthed, enormously spend-thrift, ( who wasn’t ? ) but widely admired as very good company, and especially admired in high society as a splendid figure on horseback, hence this portrait commissioned from Stubbs by her great friend the Prince Regent.

The Prince of Wales’ Phaeton, 1793

Phaeton’s were built higher, just for showing off, and were sometimes raced by their rich young owners ... the Prince Regent in 1793 being 29 years old.

Soldiers of the 10th Light Dragoons, 1793

The Prince was “appointed” by his father as Colonel Commandant of the 10th in January 1793. At that time, the prince hoped he might serve with the dragoons in France. I’m not sure the men would have shared his hopes.

The Reapers, 1795 … for years, Stubbs continued to experiment with painting in enamels, on Wedgewood biscuit earthenware instead of copper.  He paid Wedgewood lots of development money to make elliptical plaques that were dead flat and then paid lots more for the highly skilled firing of his meticulously enamelled works.

Hambletonian, 1799 ... a very large canvas, twelve feet long, the masterpiece of Stubbs’ later years … commissioned by the horse’s young owner, Sir Henry Vane-Tempest after winning a famously huge £3000 wager … he subsequently declined to pay the agreed sum of £300 but Stubbs sued and got his money. The painting still hangs in the home of the purchaser. Note: before and after a race in those days, a horse might have to be walked hundreds of miles to and from the meeting.
Judy Egerton’s views on this painting and her questions about Stubbs attitude to racing, are succinct … see page 98 of her lovely Catalogue RaisonnĂ© …

Stubbs’ relentless curiosity ... his obsessive interest in dissection and anatomical drawing never diminished … in 1795, aged seventy-one, he began systematically exploring and recording the comparative anatomies of the human, the tiger, and the common fowl !

The task so absorbed him that, eleven years on, in 1806, on his deathbed and still lucid in his last hour, he said his only regret was he could not complete this project.