RP Bonnington letter
Lot 26
Sold for £475 (US$ 798) inc. premium
Lot Details
Autograph letter signed ("RPBonington"), to the engraver W.B. Cooke, accepting his "most flattering" offer although "I fear that my having so long deferred writing to you, will render any offer of mine respecting the Pere la Chaise drawings, quite useless", nevertheless hoping "to acquit myself more punctually with the Venetian drawings" and assuring him "how proud I should feel to see any of my drawings engraved by you", to which end he promises to "do you a picture as soon as possible" and asks the favour "of your exhibiting the one of the 2 columns at the British Institution, this winter" which he will have ready by 1 January ("...I am ashamed thus to trouble you, and to return you so barren and miserable scrawl for your kind letter, but I dread waiting till the morrow to lengthen it – I shall be happy to undertake any commission for you here..."); with autograph address leaf, wafer-seal and postmarks; together with a Duffield Harding lithograph portrait (1829), 2 pages, on paper watermarked Dobbs & Pratt, 1813, address leaf tipped onto an album leaf, 4to, 11 rue des Martyrs, 5 November 1827


  • BONINGTON PROMISES TO HAVE HIS VIEW OF THE PIAZZETTA, VENICE, READY FOR EXHIBITION AT THE BRITISH INSTITUTION, an exhibition held shortly before his death and which can be seen as marking the point when he began to influence the work of his British contemporaries. The reference in our letter to the "one of the 2 columns" clearly indentifies the painting under discussion as the View of the Piazzetta near the Square of St Mark, Venice, a composition dominated by the columns of St Mark and St Theodore. It was exhibited at the Institution that January, together with The Ducal Palace at Venice, both paintings being now at the Tate, while the preparatory sketch for the first is at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Our letter, or one very similar in content, is discussed by Lucien Lepoittevin and Pierre Miquel: 'More practical were the relations he established with engravers in England. Letters in the possession of Mr Westley Manning show that he had received commissions from Colnaghi, and that he was in treaty for a Venetian view to be engraved by the able W.I. [sic] Cooke. But he was worried by the pictures not coming up to his standard – the Père La Chase drawing [now in the V&A] would not do. He was worried that he was behind the clock with his orders... he had definitely decided to attack the Academy next year, and if possible the British Institution. Both objects were achieved. But the two pictures he sent to the Institution -- View of the Piazzetta near the Square of St Mark, Venice (198), and The Ducal Palace at Venice (314) – had a mixed reception, though the latter was bought by Robert Vernon and later bequeathed by him to the National Gallery... [the reviews] suffice to show the quick response of the public eye to Bonington's work, explaining how readily his influence was accepted by contemporary painters' (Bonington: Les débuts du romantisme en Angleterre et en Normandie, 1966, p. 37-8). For further discussion of the painting, see Patrick Noon, Richard Parkes Bonington: On the Pleasures of Painting (1991).

    Bonington was to die less than a year after writing our letter, a month before his twenty-sixth birthday. His letters as a consequence very rarely occur for sale: none are listed as having been sold at auction in ABPC. The letter has a note of provenance written on the folder, possibly by the painter and noted collector William Westley Manning: "982/ bought from Dulau [& Co]./ Ap.l 1929/ From John Lane's library" (Lane had published a translation by C.E. Hughes of Albert Dubuisson's Richard Parkes Bonington : his Life and Work in 1924).
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