Samuel Palmer (British, 1805-1881) The harvesters return
Lot 85
Samuel Palmer (British, 1805-1881) The harvesters return
Sold for £8,400 (US$ 13,777) inc. premium

Lot Details
Samuel Palmer (British, 1805-1881)
The harvesters return
signed and dated 'S.PALMER/1861' (lower left), bearing a Walker's Galleries Ltd label on the backing board and titled in a later hand on a label for Mawson, Swan & Morgan Ltd, picture frame makers on the inside of the backing board
watercolour over pencil with gum arabic heightened with bodycolour on paper laid on card
19.5 x 42.5cm (7 11/16 x 16 3/4in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    With Walker's Galleries Ltd, 118 New Bond Street, London;
    Acquired by a private collector almost certainly from the above;
    Thence by descent

    EXHIBITED:
    Most probably The Old Watercolour Society, 1861, no. 216, titled In Vintage Time;
    Walker's Galleries Ltd, 118 New Bond Street, 48th Annual Exhibition of Early English Water-Colours, 30 June 1952, no. 86, under the title The End of Day, giving the same dimensions as here

    LITERATURE:
    Raymond Lister, Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Samuel Palmer, 1988, p. 188, no. 582, listing In Vintage Time.

    Samuel Palmer was one of history's most innovative and influential British watercolourists. A child protégé who was largely self-taught and greatly encouraged by his future father-in-law John Linnell as well as his close friend William Blake, Palmer achieved an idiosyncratic style that was to inspire future generations of artists and poets. Rarely do his works appear on today's market and even rarer is the opportunity to acquire two untraced watercolours. They are indeed an important rediscovery having been purchased by a private collector, almost certainly from the Walker's Galleries (situated for 66 years until its closure in 1962 close to Bonhams). These two watercolours were shown there in the summer of 1952 under the titles Noon – Resting Time and The Harvesters Return. However it is considered that neither titles nor those on the present mounts are the original ones especially in view that there are several experimental titles for A Chase in Venezia penciled in a modern hand on the inside of the backing board and even the chosen one bears little relation to other of the artist's titles.

    Furthermore it is asserted that lot B, showing the fruits from the grape harvest, may very well be Palmer's watercolour entitled In Vintage Time shown in 1861 at The Old Watercolour Society, where he was elected an Associate in 1843 and then full Member in 1854. Raymond Lister, in his Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Samuel Palmer notes that In Vintage Time has been untraced since 1861 and its size unknown. He does however suggest that the exhibited work may have been the same as another watercolour entitled Harvesting the Vineyard or Returning from the Vintage dated 1859 (Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Bedford; Lister no. 573). But that was only a possibility. For it should be noted that since there was a time lapse of two years between the completion of the latter work and it's supposed showing at The Old Watercolour Society, there are far stronger grounds to accept that the present work was in fact his 1861 exhibition piece since it is dated that same year. The scene is a celebration of the grape harvest as oxen pull the heavily laden cart toward an Italian Medieval hillside town, which is bathed in pink and golden hues under the evening light. One can almost feel a sense of joy as a young mother swings her baby in the air and a girl plays her tambourine while the dog, who ambles toward a stream, adds to the narrative content. The cirrus cloud formation compares with other of Palmer's works such as Sheep Washing, circa 1861 (Lister no. 581), as does his use of dotting and dappling to represent the varying textures, which he also used to great effect in Sunset on the Mountains of 1861 (Lister 591). Like Harvesting the Vineyard, this work was undoubtedly inspired by the artist's prolonged honeymoon trip to Italy with his young wife Hannah née Linnell, 1837-9. Those Italian travels were to have a long lasting effect on his art, providing constant inspiration for later works.

    Likewise A Chase in Venezia has distinct Italianate overtones with its Apennine inspired mountain range in the distance, the rich colouring as well as the figure of the young woman standing beside a donkey as she supports a pitcher on her head. This was a familiar image in Palmer's oeuvre and appears in variant forms, for instance in Mountain Landscape at Sunset or The Dip of the Sun, circa 1859 (Lister no. 567). As Lister notes she probably derived from an engraved classical gem. Although the landscape may have been inspired by Italy, the distant clumps of trees look back to Palmer's earlier Shoreham period as do the glimpses of dappled golden sunlight that shine through small clearings in the trees. The young woman turns to look toward mounted huntsmen in medieval dress and their accompanying hounds as they chase a stag across a stone bridge. This vignette, cast almost in shadow save shafts of light that catch the stag, some of his pursuers including a liver spotted hound, evokes Palmer's love of John Milton. In particular it may relate to another untraced watercolour shown at the Old Watercolour Society in 1861 - In the Chequered Shade (Lister no. 586), the title of which was taken from Milton's L'Allegro in which the poet also wrote "Oft listening how the hounds and horn/Cheerily rouse the slumbering Morn". Both works possess their own individual mythical atmosphere in which acute observation of nature combined with a superb command of colour and contrasting diagonal areas of light and shade create their own poetic lyricism that was distinct to this celebrated artist.
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