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Perspectives

Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.

Chalk drawing of human figures by Jean Antoine Watteau

Marking the Journey of a Drawing

Dr. Lydia Miller

[ Stories )

Assistant Curator Dr. Lydia Miller explores the journey of two drawings in our collection by examining collectors’ marks.

Every artwork, no matter how old or new, embarks upon a journey as soon as it is created and leaves the artist’s studio. This journey is described as an artwork’s provenance and it is unique to the work.

Provenance research involves tracing when and where an artwork was bought or sold, or gifted, and by whom. The older an artwork, the harder it is to trace its provenance, as documentation often becomes increasingly scarce. Records have been lost in fires and floods. Sales catalogues have been thrown away, or published with a generic list of works – ‘five drawings by English School’ is not helpful to a researcher or curator! If a work was gifted by a friend or relative, it is very likely that there is no formal record or receipt of this exchange. However, provenance is important in order to understand the history of an artwork; it can add value to a work depending on who owned it and when, and it can help prove that an artwork is authentic and not a forgery.

Two drawings that are in the collection at Pallant House Gallery and are currently on display in our Print Room exhibition, Old Masters, Modern Masters: Drawings from the Hussey Bequest bear physical scars of their provenance in the form of collectors’ marks. Collectors’ marks were traditionally added to works on paper – prints and drawings – in order for a collector to identify the works that they owned. These marks may have also corresponded to a handwritten inventory of pictures in the owner’s possession. Some drawings bear two or three different stamps. These marks help trace a work through different collections, sometimes across hundreds of years of history.

Four ddrawings behind glass in print room exhibition

The first of these drawings is Etude de Quatre Personnages avec Deux Femmes Assises (Study of Four Figures, with Two Seated Women) by the French artist Jean-Antoine Watteau. Watteau was one of the most influential French painters of the 18th century and was best known for his invention of the Fête Galante painting. These were small cabinet paintings which depicted romantic scenes of men and women, dressed in extravagant costume, and set in an idealised landscape. Etude de Quatre Personnages is thought to have come from one of Watteau’s numerous bound volumes of drawings in which he detailed figures that he had drawn from life. Watteau would refer to these drawings constantly and these figures would serve as sources of inspiration for his paintings.

Unlike the traditional collectors’ marks which were added to drawings by individuals, Watteau’s drawing is stamped with ‘C..x’. This is the mark of an art dealer in Paris, Cailleux (L.4461). The stamp illustrates the work’s transition between collections as it passes through the Parisian dealer. Jean Cailleux first created this stamp in 1966, three years before Hussey purchased this drawing. The recent identification of this mark, which resulted from research for the Old Masters, Modern Masters exhibition, led to the discovery of a series of letters from Cailleux to Walter Hussey in the West Sussex Record Office. These letters document the purchase of this Watteau drawing by Hussey, his negotiation of price, and the customs record for this drawing to enter the UK in November 1969.

The collector’s mark on Etude de Quatre Personnages is unusual in its placement. According to the Marques de Collections database, Cailleux would print their stamps on the recto – or front – of a drawing on the bottom right, whereas the stamp on our Watteau drawing is positioned on the bottom left. It is likely that the stamp was printed in this position to avoid another very faint mark on the bottom right. This mark is yet to be identified but appears to depict the letters G and possibly D surrounded by a pumpkin-shaped lozenge.

Drawing of woman by Watteau
Drawing of man by Watteau

The second drawing in Old Masters, Modern Masters which is stamped with collectors’ marks is Head of an Eagle by Giulio Romano. This is the oldest drawing in the Gallery’s collection, dating to 1526-1528. It was described by Christine Begley in the exhibition catalogue Giulio Romano: Master Designer as ‘one of the most monumental and powerful drawings in [Romano’s] oeuvre’, and is one of only two known surviving drawings depicting an eagle’s head by the Italian artist.[1] The other version, which illustrates an eagle with an open beak, is in a private collection.

Both Romano drawings are thought to have been used as preliminary sketches for the gilded stucco eagles that decorate the Camera delle Aquile in the Palazzo Te in northern Italy. Romano designed and built the Palazzo Te for the Duke of Mantua, and it is likely that these drawings were created in the infancy of Romano’s design. They would have been used continuously by the artist and his studio as templates for various decorations in a number of different media. The eagle was a symbol of imperial power, as well as being the emblem for the Duke of Mantua and his family, the Gonzagas.

Although the 16th century provenance is hard to trace for Romano’s Head of an Eagle, once this drawing reached England, its provenance is much clearer. A collector’s mark in the form of a printed ‘R’ is visible just off centre at the bottom of this drawing. This mark was initially catalogued by the collector, connoisseur and art historian Frits Lugt in 1921, and was included in the first edition of his reference book of collectors’ marks, Les marques de collections de dessins et d’estampes. Lugt correctly identified the ‘R’ as a collector’s mark belonging to Jonathan Richardson, the Elder (L. 2184).

Drawing of an eagle's head

The inscription on the reverse of this drawing, ‘From the famous Eagle of the Mattei (as tis called) an antique in the Villa of th…’ suggests that Romano copied a large bronze eagle in the gardens of the Villa Mattei, now the Villa Celimontana, in Rome. Richardson’s son, Jonathan Richardson the Younger, recalled Romano’s eagle drawings copied from the Villa Mattei in 1722,

‘An Eagle, Antique; call’d the Famous Eagle of the Mattei. My father has several Drawings of the Head of it by Giulio Romano.’[2]

The sculpted eagle can also be seen above a fountain in a print by Giovanni Francesco Venturini in the Rijksmuseum, and a bronze eagle which crowns the top of a granite pillar is also mentioned in Johann Georg Keyssler’s Travels through Germany.  Finally, James Dallaway in 1800 wrote that,

‘The Mattei collection was remarkable for the number and excellence of the bas-reliefs, and the bronze Eagle, which Giulio Romano delighted to copy.’[3]

Jonathan Richardson the Elder was a talented portrait painter working in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and by 1705 his pictures were fetching prices comparable to portraits by Godfrey Kneller, the leading court painter in England at the time. As well as working as a professional artist, Jonathan Richardson was also a prolific writer on art. An Essay on the Theory of Painting which was published in 1715 was still on the History of Art reading list when I was at university.

Richardson also amassed a vast collection of Old Master drawings from the 14th to the 17th centuries which he meticulously catalogued, mounted, and stamped (as seen on our Romano drawing). These drawings were sold at auction in 1747 and were dispersed. It is likely that Head of an Eagle was part of this sale and according to the sales catalogue a ‘Julio Romano’ drawing was sold as a group lot with three other drawings.[4]

Eagle wing drawings with collectors marks by Romano

It is not known who bought Head of an Eagle directly after Jonathan Richardson’s death but several years later, Romano’s drawing entered the collection of Thomas Lawrence, the leading portrait painter of his generation and later the President of the Royal Academy. Lawrence, like Richardson, had a large collection of Old Master drawings totalling around 4,300 sheets and seven albums – according to an inventory dating to the year of Lawrence’s death in 1830.[5]

On Lawrence’s death, he left his drawings to the nation for £18,000 – roughly half the money he had originally spent on them. This offer was, rather foolishly, rejected and the collection was bought by Lawrence’s creditor, the art dealer Samuel Woodburn for £16,000. It was at this point in time that Head of an Eagle, along with the thousands of other drawings which had belonged to Thomas Lawrence, were blind stamped with Lawrence’s collector’s mark, ‘TL’.[6] A blind stamp creates a depression in the paper – the opposite of embossing.

Head of an Eagle does not appear to be one of the drawings that was exhibited in the Fifth Exhibition at Samuel Woodburn’s gallery on St Martin’s Lane, London in 1836. This exhibition displayed several drawings by Romano, and was one of ten exhibitions which aimed to show the public 1000 drawings owned by Lawrence by over 20 different artists.[7]

The ‘TL’ collector’s mark on Head of an Eagle not only provides us with the provenance of Thomas Lawrence and Samuel Woodburn, but after Woodburn acquired this drawing, he was able to sell it along with the rest of the Romano drawings as a complete set to Lord Francis Egerton, Earl of Ellesmere.[8] This drawing stayed within the family when it was sold by the Duke of Sutherland through Sotheby’s in 1972. It was then briefly with the Brod Gallery in London before being acquired by Walter Hussey.[9]

Walter Hussey was instrumental in helping found Pallant House Gallery forty years ago in 1982. After his death in 1985, the Hussey Bequest became our founding collection. Etude de Quatre Personnages by Antoine Watteau and Head of an Eagle by Giulio Romano, as well as several other drawings from the Hussey Bequest, can be seen currently in the Print Room exhibition.

 

Old Masters, Modern Masters: Drawings from the Hussey Bequest is on display in the Print Room until 10th April 2022. There will also be an online talk ‘500 Years of Drawings: The Hussey Bequest’ from Dr. Lydia Miller on Thursday 17th February at 7PM.

 

References

[1] Janet Cox-Rearick Ed., Giulio Romano: Master Designer, (New York, 1999), 58-9.

[2] Jonathan Richardson Senior and Younger, An Account of some of the Statues, Bas-Reliefs, Drawings and Pictures in Italy with Remarks, (London, 1722), 180.

[3] James Dalloway, Anecdotes of the Arts in England or Comparative Observations on Architecture, Sculpture, & Painting, (London, 1800), 226.

[4] Mr Cock, A Catalogue of the Genuine and Entire Collection of Italian and other Drawings, Prints, Models, and Casts, of the late Eminent Mr. Jonathan Richardson, Painter, Deceas’d.’ From Thursday 22nd January 1747, ‘Second Night’s Sale, Friday, Jan 23.’ Lot 40.

[5] Paul Joannides, ‘The dispersal and formation of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s collection of drawings by Michelangelo’ in The Drawings of Michelangelo and his Followers in the Ashmolean Museum, (Cambridge, 2007).

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Lawrence Gallery. Fifth Exhibition. A Catalogue of One Hundred Original Drawings by J. Romano, F. Primaticcio, L. Da Vinci, and Pierino Del Vaga collected by Sir Thomas Lawrence, Messrs. Woodburn’s Gallery, 112 St Martin’s Lane, London, 1836.

[8] Paul Joannides, ‘The dispersal and formation of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s collection of drawings by Michelangelo’ in The Drawings of Michelangelo and his Followers in the Ashmolean Museum, (Cambridge, 2007).

[9] Janet Cox-Rearick Ed., Giulio Romano: Master Designer, (New York, 1999), 58-9.

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