Head of Sale
Sold for £344,750 inc. premium
Submit your item online for a free auction estimate.How to sell
Our Travel & Exploration specialists can help you find a similar item at an auction or via a private sale.Find your local specialist
Acquired in the 19th Century and thence by family descent.
Private collection, UK.
Daniel Thomas Egerton (1797-1842) was born in London and would train at the informal Academy of famed royal physician, art patron and watercolourist Thomas Monro. Like Turner before him, under Monro, Egerton was granted access to a vast art collection and allowed to perfect his draughtsmanship as a student and copyist. Very little of his early works are still in existence, but his skill in drawing can be seen in his etched satirical illustrations for the book of 1824, Fashionable Bores or Coolers in High Life. These illustrations highlight the pomposity of life amongst the upper-classes of London and perhaps give some indication to his early disillusionment with life in London. In the same year that this was published he would begin exhibiting at the newly formed Society of British Artists, later the Royal Society of British Artists, where he would continue to show work up until 1829.
In 1831 Egerton would embark on his first trip to Mexico, perhaps attracted by opportunity and adventure following the Spanish departure in 1821 or simply in search of new landscape to explore through his work. He would spend five years travelling the country, recording his findings through sketches which he would later develop into a limited series of thirteen large scale oil and watercolours. He exhibited these at the Society of British Artists between 1838-1840 upon his return from Mexico in 1836. The same scenes would also be depicted in his set of Lithographs published in 1840 under the title Egerton's Views in Mexico; being a series of twelve coloured plates executed by himself from the original drawings, accompanied with a short description. This print series would prove hugely popular and went towards funding his next trip to Mexico in the same year. In 1842, after having settled on the outskirts of Mexico City, him and his young companion would be murdered under suspicious circumstances.
The picture we have here is one of the limited run of oils which he produced upon his return to London in 1836. It is therefore one of the few works in existence by the artist which we know the location of, one other such landscape being held in the British Government Art Collection. This landscape is recreated in Egerton's book of lithographs and we subsequently have a description of the scene from the book:
Vera Cruz, and Castle of San Juan D'Ulloa
This is the principal port of the Republic, situated in the Gulf, in N. lat. 19°, W. long. 96°, and that by which the Spaniards, the conquerors of Mexico, entered in 1521. The Castle of San Juan, seen in the picture, was their last strong-hold, when, after a dominion of 300 years, they were driven from a country where they had established their religion, their laws, customs, and language, leaving but faint vestiges of its aboriginal character. The coast is extremely dangerous, and the harbour itself affords no shelter from the violence of the north winds (nortes), which prevail generally from November to February. These winds, however, have a salutary effect, dispersing the miasma that hangs over the coast during the summer and rainy seasons, and which is supposed to produce the pestilential disease called vomito prieto, before mentioned, The Castle of San Juan is built upon a small island, upon which is likewise situated a lighthouse. It is a strong fortress, commanding the city, as well as protecting the approaches to it by sea, and has been converted, on several occasions, into an offensive power, instead of a protecting one. The land around the city lies low for some miles, and is an unhealthy spot. The route shown in the picture is the main one, leading through heavy sands to the interior, and towards the Capital. The Correo (postman), a class of men who seldom spare horseflesh, gallops along, regardless of the heat, or of the nature of the road: the white handkerchief flapping about under his hat is a contrivance in general use among riders, motion being given to the hanging ends, in travelling along, a current of air is produced, which is cooling to the face. The muleteer chooses his way over the hard wet sand, and, with steady pace, conducts his litter. One with a guiding rein, precedes the first mule that bears litter, the hinder one is kept to his work by a driver, while in the rear another conducts the light baggage and relays: the abrupt ascent from the coast, after the first few leagues, the bad roads, together with the excessive heat, render this mode of conveyance the most agreeable.
D. T. Egerton 'Egerton's Views in Mexico; being a series of twelve coloured plates executed by himself from the original drawings, accompanied with a short description' (London, 1840)
Beautifully presented in an ornate gilt frame, this painting makes clear Egerton's understanding of Mexico; bringing together the elements of landscape, history and contemporary life. We can also see in this canvas his skill in capturing light and movement, through the glow of the sky and movement of clouds, to the horseman racing across the beach. It is a rare and important painting of Mexico by a significant, yet elusive, British artist.
Please note that the work is dated '1839' and not '1830' as it appears in the catalogue description.