William Havell (British, 1782-1857) Sunrise on the Grand Canal of China 33 x 41 cm. (13 x 16 in.)

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Lot 40
William Havell
(British, 1782-1857)
Sunrise on the Grand Canal of China 33 x 41 cm. (13 x 16 in.)

Sold for £ 20,400 (US$ 26,926) inc. premium
William Havell (British, 1782-1857)
Sunrise on the Grand Canal of China
inscribed 'Chinese Canal/W. Havell/No 1' on stretcher verso
oil on canvas
33 x 41 cm. (13 x 16 in.)

Footnotes

  • William Havell was born into the famous Havell family of Reading, Berkshire, which included a number of notable engravers, etchers and painters, as well as writers, publishers, educators, and musicians. Largely self-taught, he worked in his family's London-based engraving firm for several years with his father, the topographical and architectural engraver and publisher, Daniel Havell, and his cousin, the painter William Havell. He was a founding member of the Old Water-Colour Society in 1804, along with his close friends the Varleys and Cristall.

    Havell accepted the post of official artist to the embassy of China led by William Pitt, Earl Amherst of Arracan (1773-1857) to the Chinese Emperor Jiaqing, which set out in 1816. The purpose of the mission was to address "the complaints of injustice and exactions on the part of the Chinese mandarins . . . from the English merchants at Canton". The voyage was made via Madeira, Rio de Janeiro, the Cape and Java. During this journey Havell is reported to have offended one of the ship's officers, which resulted in his decision to leave the Embassy as soon as was practical.

    It is not certain whether he accompanied Amherst to Peking or remained with the ships at the Grand Canal of the Hai river near Tongzhou. It is also unclear at which point he left the Embassy, and whether he was on board H.M.S. Alceste when she was wrecked on her return journey. However, we know he was able to sketch the Chinese countryside as the embassy took the return route overland from Beijing to Guangzhou. He seems to have abandoned this venture during a stop in Macao, then spent the next eight years in India painting portraits and landscapes in watercolour.

    Havell completed several versions of the Grand Canal. In 1827, he exhibited 'A View on the Grand Canal near Chong-trieu, with the principal junks and boats employed to convey His Excellency Lord Amherst, Ambassador to the Court of China, in the year 1816' (no.192). In the same year, he showed 'Sunrise - Entrance to the Grand Canal with the Junks employed in the late Embassy to China' (no.80) at the Royal Watercolour Society. In the following year, he exhibited 'View of the Grand Canal, near Changtsieu, China' (no.284) at the Royal Society of British Artists. 'Anchorage at Tong-Chow' is also one of the plates in H. Ellis, Journal of the proceedings of the late embassy to China (London, 1817).
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