The Great Barrier Reef
William Saville-Kent, 1893.
In the mid 19th century England was gripped by the violent Saville-Kent murder, embroiling the family in scandal and suspicion. In 1860 four year old Francis was brutally murdered, and five years later his half-sister Constance, now 21, was convicted; her younger brother William was suspected as an accomplice by the famous Inspector Jack Whicher but was not brought to trial. After serving twenty years, Constance was released and joined her brother in Australia.
In 1894 William Saville-Kent was appointed Inspector of Fisheries in Tasmania. He was promoted to Commissioner of Fisheries for Queensland and then Western Australia, created the technique used today for cultured pearls and became an early pioneer in theories of sustainable fish farming. Although made notorious by Francis’s murder, Saville-Kent is best remembered for his important work on The Great Barrier Reef.
Off the coast of Queensland in the Coral Sea, the Great Barrier Reef is made up over nearly 3000 reefs, 900 islands and covers an area of nearly 350,000 kilometres. First documented in 1768 by Louis de Bougainville, its length was sailed by James Cook in 1770, and later partial surveys were made by William Bligh, captains Bampton and Alt, Matthew Flinders and the hydrographer Philip Parker King but it was not until Saville-Kent’s survey that a study of the reef’s ecosystem was produced.
Today coral bleaching in the reef has increased (the corals expel their fellow algae, turn white and often die), whilst coral cover has decreased in growing contrast to the abundance Saville-Kent recorded. The chromolithographs produced by Riddle and Couchman after Saville-Kent’s sketches are a poignant testament to the reef as it was over a hundred years ago, and vibrantly capture its colour and exuberance with the same naivety that led Saville-Kent to enthusiastically, and ominously, subtitle his work ‘its products and potentialities’.
Voyage en Turquie et en Perse
Ignace Xavier Hommaire de Hell and Jules Laurens, 1853.
In 1835, the geographer and engineer Ignace Hommaire de Hell sailed to Turkey to oversee the construction of a suspension bridge in Constantinople and a lighthouse on the Black Sea coast. Whilst continuing his ethnographical and commercial research, he extensively surveyed the surrounding region, carried out geographical, industrial, and mining surveys for Czar Nicholas I, and supervised mining and road building projects for the prince of Moldavia until illness forced him to return to France in 1842
Two years later de Hell returned, and in 1847 set off for Persia with the twenty two year old painter Jules Laurens. Anticipating a difficult journey, de Hell sent his wife back to France, and indeed owing to ill health, did not reach Tehran until February 1848. He was authorised by Mohammad Shah Qajar to study the feasibility of a canal from Sahrud to Savojbolaq and spent a month engaged in surveys and archaeological observations, culminating in a study of the Varamin mosque. Returning to Tehran and then setting off for Isfahan that same year, de Hell arrived extremely ill and died two weeks later.
Jules Lauren went on to have a prolific career in France as a painter with an emphasis on the ‘Oriental’, a theme largely visited from memory from his great journey with de Hell into the lands little seen by Western eyes.
Les Delices des Yeux et de l’ Esprit, ou Collection Générale des Differents Especes de Coquillages que la Mer Renferme
George Wolfgang Knorr, 1760
George Wolfgang Knorr’s elegant work on sea-shells was one of the most sumptuously illustrated German works of the 18th century. Les Delices des Yeux were in precis groupings according to Linneas’s system of scientific classification. Drawn by Johann Keller, Professor of drawing at Erlangen and executed by a number of eminent engravers, the plates were then enhanced with delicate hand-colouring.
The late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw a growing number of wealthy collectors acquiring specimens and illustrations of rare and exotic shells, a trend to which Knorr’s work made a significant contribution. A gifted painter, engraver, prominent collector and art dealer, he acted as an intermediary between the collectors of cabinets of natural history and those who used the specimens for identification and scientific enquiry. Knorr gained an international reputation for producing works of fine quality and extreme accuracy, and this was one of his greatest productions.
Voyage Pittoresque de Constantinople et des Rives du Bosphore
Antoine-Ignace Melling, 1819
Born at Carlsruhe in 1763, Melling studied painting and then Mathematics and Architecture. At the age of nineteen he joined the Russian Ambassador’s household and travelled to Italy, Egypt and Smyrna, until finally settling in Constantinople.
Melling’s work on the restoration of the Dutch residence Nestabad brought him to the attention of Sultana Hadidge, sister to Selim III and in 1795 he was appointed Imperial Architect, a post he held for 18 years. His close relationship to the Ottoman Court gave him privileged access not normally afforded to commoners let alone Europeans thus allowing him the opportunity to record an intimate picture of the Ottoman city and its society.
In 1803 Melling returned to Paris and began sourcing subscribers for what would become the monumental Voyage Pittoresque, and by 1819 all 12 issues with a total of 48 plates and 3 maps were published. His publication was wildly successful; his exhibition of the original paintings at the Louvre earned him the Gold Medal and led to his appointment as landscape painter to the Empress Josephine. Regarded in both the West and the East as one of the grandest and most beautiful works of Constantinople, it can be said that Melling saw the city as an Ottoman but painted it as a European, expressing a lovely balance of adoration and artistic skill that renders this work without rival.
Les Champignons Comestibles et les Especes avec Lesquelles Ils Pourraient Etre Confondus
(Edible Mushrooms and the Poisonous Species With Which They Should Not be Confused)
Fritz Leuba, 1890
Apothecary and artist Fritz Leuba’s monograph on mushrooms was a considerable artistic edition to the relatively new discipline of Mycology, the study of funghi. Although the collecting of mushrooms has been integral to societies since prehistoric times, they were largely considered to be a type of plant that was missing organs and as such did not warrant their own field of study. In 1836 Miles Berkley published his first of many contributions to the science, and indeed gave name to and is considered the father of, Mycology.
When Leuba issued his work, the importance of the medicinal value of mushrooms was becoming better understood as was their toxicity, dual elements which previously had only been known through fanciful tales. These fine chromolithographs illustrate Leuba’s exacting eye for detail and understanding of the vital importance of accuracy to life and death whilst the inky black backgrounds provide drama and contrast that emphasises the converging of Art and Science, and alludes to their dark histories.
Happy Christmas Heureux Noel, St Raphael Quinquina
The Parisian weekly newspaper L’Illustration was founded in 1843 by the distinguished lawyer and critic Edouard Charton to improve knowledge and artistic tastes, and was one of the first French newspapers to utilise new techniques in printing. Popular in the bistros of Paris since its successful promotion at the 1900 Exposition, St Raphael, an aromatised fortified wine or quinquina created in 1830, became particularly adept at utilising art for advertisement, and closely associated with the happy years of peace between WWI and WWII.
At the title are the twin waiters who came to represent the aperitif, one for the rouge version and the other for the blanc, whilst a French soldier and a British soldier jovially toast each other in celebration. The reality of the prevailing mood however was decidedly different as both nations had just declared war on Germany in response to the invasion of Poland. Following the liberation of Paris, I’llustration ceased printing but St Raphael remains as popular as ever.
To see more original antique and vintage advertisements, please click on Advertisements & Cartoons or to purchase our book on conflict propaganda, please see War Maps. For further enquiries and purchases, please do contact us.
Thomas Shotter Boys
London As it Is…, 1842
Thomas Shotter Boys first served as an apprentice in London under the engraver George Cooke and was soon absorbed by this gifted family of artists and engravers. Shotter Boys then moved to Paris, and in 1839 had his first major work published by his cousin Thomas Boys in London. In 1842 Shotter Boys issued his next major work, Original Views of London As It Is… with many of his plates personalised with allusions to or puns of his name; of particular note is the view of the Tower and the Mint with the two fat boys who became John Tenniel’s inspiration for Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Depicting an unusually tranquil Metropolis, London As It Is… remains one of the most desirable representations of early Victorian London available today.
Voyage dans l’Amerique Meridionale, 1847
Alcide d’Orbigny arrived in South America in 1826, preceding Charles Darwin’s Beagle expedition by five years and causing Darwin great concern that d’Orbigny would find all the best things first. Indeed in the nearly eight years d’Orbigny spent exploring Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, he catalogued and theorised on over 10,000 species of flora and fauna. These plates capture a moment in time when nature seemed to be unfolding countless mysteries to the naturalists crisscrossing the globe in the hopes of being the first to record heretofore unknown species.
Although in his time d’Orbigny rivalled Darwin in his pursuits and is considered the founder of micropaleontology and biostratigraphy, for the most part he has faded in the shadow of his rival. Even the magnificent flightless bird he first recorded is now known as Darwin’s Rhea having been incorrectly named by an unwitting John Gould.
Broadway Skyline, 1908
At the beginning of the 20th century the United States was entering a period of unprecedented development with New York City leading the way. This early skyline by the renowned American commercial photographer Irving Underhill shows the skyscrapers from the New York Life to the Whitehall, and includes the tallest building in the world at the time, the Singer building. The Singer was completed in 1908 along with the City Investing building and the mammoth Hudson Terminal. More than twenty years would pass before the iconic Empire State building would hold the title of world’s tallest building, which it retained for forty years until the 1970 completion of the World Trade Centre’s North Tower. In 2001 the Empire State tragically regained its title for ten years until the reconstruction of the Trade Centre was completed.
Bernhard Siedgfried Albinus and Jan Wandelaar
Tabluae Anatomicae Scelletti et Musculorum Corpis, 1747
A pupil of the renowned Dutch physician Herman Boerhaave, Bernhard Siedgfried Albinus was the leading anatomist of his time, and in 1747 he published his most important work, Tabluae Anatomicae Scelletti et Musculorum Corpis Humani, with an English edition appearing two years later.
Of outstanding quality, the illustrations for the Tabluae were far ahead of anything that had previously appeared, and marked a high-point in the close association between Art and Anatomy. Executed under Albinus’s direct supervision, the drawings had to meet his three rules – objectivity (precise depiction of form and location), symmetry (aesthetically beautiful with ideal proportions), and vitality (strength, beauty, and grace of movement). The two most famous of the plates depict a rhinoceros calf with a horn yet to grow, drawn from the first living specimen in Europe by the artist and engraver Jan Wandelaar.
Clara was an Indian Rhinoceros who had been gifted by the King of Assam to the director of the Dutch East India Company in Bengal, and brought up as a pet until she grew too large for the house. She was sold to a Dutch captain and arrived in Holland in 1741 where she went on public exhibition becoming an immediate sensation; Albinus and Wandelaar were entranced upon seeing her and claimed her as the symbol of their work.
For nearly twenty years Clara travelled in style around Europe; poems were written to her, portraits painted of her, a hairstyle ‘á la rhinoceros’ dedicated to her. She was handled with considerate care, and fed on a fine diet which included beer, wine and tobacco smoke being blown into her nostrils. Immortalised in memorabilia and the decorative arts, she is mentioned in letters and memoirs from Diderot to Casenova. Wandlelaar’s inclusion of Clara was to heighten the contrast of light and shadow, perspective, contour, form and size, but also to delight with the addition of such a rare and famous beast.
The Tabulae was some twenty years in the making, thirteen for the artwork, utilising a complex three phase grid system for precision and another seven for the engraving. Although widely criticised at time of publication for the very backgrounds that make it so desirable today, this innovative collaboration influenced generations of anatomists and artists, and is one of the most important anatomical works produced during the Age of Enlightenment.
Thomas Mower Martin
A prolific artist until his death at the age of 95, Thomas Mower Martin would be heralded as the ‘Dean of Canadian Painters’ and ”The Father of Canadian Art’. Born in England, Mower Martin was destined for a military career. However after attending several Royal Academy exhibitions he began studying at a number of artistic institutions. In 1862, he bought a farm from a newspaper advertisement and emigrated to Canada with his wife. The farmland was of poor quality and the lifestyle meagre but eventually Mower Martin began painting full time having acquired commissions in Canada and the United States. In 1887 under the sponsorship of the Canadian Pacific Railway he made his first trip to Western Canada, returning every year for a decade and becoming one of the group of artists known as The Railway Painters.
Mower Martin was a founding member of the Ontario Society of Artists, The Royal Canadian Academy and a director of the Ontario Government Art school. He travelled extensively throughout the country and published his major compilation Canada in 1907 with text by Wilfred Owen. His work was a mixture of realism and naturalism, capturing the extraordinary diversity and vastness of the Canadian landscape as it entered the 20th century.
Britannia Illustrata, c1708 – 1720
Born in Amsterdam, Johannes Kip produced his most important work in London – a series of architectural etchings after the drawings of Leonard Knyff, published in London by David Mortier of Amsterdam from circa 1708. Further volumes followed with the second volume consisting of similar bird’s-eye views drawn and etched by Kip, with additional volumes containing the works of other artists as well.
Kip’s spirited yet delicate mastery of the engraving medium coupled with his accuracy, attention to detail and handling of light and shade set the standard for all subsequent topographical engravers. The plates are also remarkable for the way in which Knyff was able to elevate his viewpoint in order to achieve a far reaching bird’s eye view over vast areas of land. Given that he had no means of raising himself above the landscape, we can only assume that he achieved these effects by surveying vast areas of land and using the resultant sketches as a basis for his projections. The period features combined with anecdotal details of human interest (men hunting, reaping hay, etc.) tempt the imagination, and draw us into Kip’s enchanting 18th century world.
Dr Robert Thornton
The Temple of Flora, 1799-1807.
At the end of the 18th century Dr Robert Thornton, an enthusiastic amateur botanist who had come into a substantial inheritance, sought to produce a botanical work that would be ‘a National Honour’. The Temple of Flora was based on the controversial ideas of Carl Linnaeus who began the taxonomy or system of classification still used in science today. Between 1799 and 1807, Thornton published about thirty mixed method engravings, issued in different combinations according to the specific requirements of individual customers. Thornton put every penny into his vision, no expense was spared, with the result being a monumental artistic achievement and colossal financial disaster. In an attempt to salvage some of his fortune he obtained the permission of Parliament to organise a lottery, with twenty-thousand tickets at two guineas each and prizes valued at £77,000, even producing a smaller edition of The Temple of Flora as a lottery prize. Sadly it ended in failure, and when Thornton died in 1837, his family was destitute.
Today, the Temple of Flora is generally held to be one of the finest illustrated botanical works ever produced and is a splendid testament to the passion of Robert Thornton.
William Jones & Co
Standard Uniforms & Patterns, c1886
During The Napoleonic Wars an obsession arose in military style and uniforms amongst the warring nations of Europe, a legacy that is reflected in all aspects of men’s attire today from the three piece suit to the lace up shoe. With the defeat of Napoleon English tailors surpassed their continental colleagues in part assisted by earlier pioneers in men’s style such as George ‘Beau’ Brummel, late of the Royal Hussars and creator of the Regency silhouette.
In the latter part of the 19th century William Jones & Co were the leading suppliers of military uniforms, accoutrements, cap badges and swords. This unusual folio issued around 1886 exemplifies the very best of bespoke military tailoring whilst capturing the depth of colour and intricacy in design that could be achieved with fine chromolithographs.
Les Affiches Illustrés, 1896 and Les Affiches étrangères illustrées, 1897
Known as the father of the modern poster, Jules Cheret was also in his time referred to as the father of female liberation. From his studio in Paris he offered a different vision of women, reflecting the increasing changes in aspirations at a time when women were still unable to vote. Cheret’s studies of fashionable women soon became a familiar and much admired aspect of the streets of Paris, and are in part credited with the less constrained atmosphere in Paris for women. Known as Cherettes, elegant, exuberant and often daring, these figures influenced an entire generation of women who previously had been limited to two dimensional representations – puritan or prostitute. Cheret was instrumental in changing the way in which women were depicted, and increasingly the imagery became more dynamic.
The London Magazine
The London Magazine, or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligence was founded in 1732 to rival the Gentleman’s Magazine, or Trader’s Monthly Intelligencer, which had been founded the year before. These ‘magazines’, a new term, were much broader in their scope than the current periodicals, and were a source of domestic and foreign affairs, political commentary, art, literature, history, science and numerous miscellaneous subjects. The readership was also broader, appealing to a burgeoning middle class, with participation encouraged via submissions and contests.
The three colonial panoramas below are rare examples of the illustrations that accompanied the London Magazine, and some of the earliest views available to the collector.
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The Winning Post
Liberio Prosperi, Vanity Fair, 1888.
The Sport of Kings was brought to Great Britain by the Romans and developed considerably over the centuries. Initially owners, the majority of whom were aristocratic, rode their own horses but as racing became more organised increasingly employed their grooms to ride. The first formal race was held at Newmarket in the reign of Charles II, and more racecourses soon followed including Ascot in 1711. By the mid-19th century, racing was entrenched as a national event and jockeys, once little more than servants, were elevated in prominence to appear with the great and the good in the society magazine Vanity Fair.
Liborio Prosperi, an Italian caricaturist who specialised in racing, drew his fantasy race with eight of 1888’s most successful jockeys, amassing 615 wins between them including the 108 wins of that year’s Champion Jockey, Fred Barrett. To the left are course judge and designer, John Clark and one of the greatest patrons of the turf, Sir John Astley.
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Zoological Sketches, 1861
Joseph Wolf was one of the most accomplished natural history artists working in London during the mid-19th century. Wolf’s Zoological Sketches were commissioned by the Zoological Society of London and published in parts from 1856-67 to provide a record of the rare species living in the society’s Vivarium.
Wolf was particularly noted for his explorations of animals and birds in relation to environment and his treatment of his subject as distinct and individual rather than an exemplar of species or extension of human sentiment. He set his subjects within a natural habitat albeit romanticised for dramatic effect. These original colour lithographs are an enduring testament to a passionate and lyrical talent heralded by critics and colleagues alike as the ‘greatest living animal painter’.
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Frederick Trench
Thames Views, 1825
Commissioned by Lt Col Trench to illustrate his proposals for the re-designing of the Embankment, these superbly detailed and annotated views were executed by the watercolourist Thomas Mann Baynes with the printing entrusted to the celebrated master of early lithography, Charles Hullmandel. Hullmandel’s skillful handling of the medium was much appreciated by contemporaries and was of great importance in popularising lithography as a printing method; he was instrumental in introducing lithography into England and to this day his work ranks with the finest of any period.
Although Trench submitted his plans to Parliament in 1825, it was not for another forty years that his proposals were executed. The Embankment as it is today still corresponds closely to Trench’s designs.
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