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Patrick Allan Fraser Album
Date not known
Album of blue paper, bound in vellum
3100 x 2200 mm
Inscribed in ink ‘No 4’ and repeated on the fly-leaf
Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the National Lottery Fund 1996
Frances Place and by descent to his daughter Ann, wife of Stonier Parrott (or Perrott); her son Francis and thence to his daughter Elizabeth, wife of Major John Fraser; her daughter Elizabeth (d.1873), wife of Patrick Allan who took the name Fraser (d.1890), founder of the Patrick Allan Fraser Art College, Arbroath; sold by the College Trustees, Sotheby’s, 10 June 1931, bought A.P. Oppé; by family descent until purchased by Tate Gallery in 1996.
This album dates from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century and comprises ninety-two individually itemised drawings and prints, some of which have now been removed and separately mounted. It was once owned by the gentleman engraver Francis Place and formed part of his collection of ‘pictures, prints drawings & other things belonging to my painting room’ which in his will he bequeathed to his second wife, Ann Wilkinson.1 Place died in 1728 and his wife in 1732, when the collection was inherited by their two daughters, Frances, who married Wadham Wyndham in 1733, and Ann, wife of Stonier Parrott.
Place’s original collection was wide-ranging and extended beyond drawings and prints. Before his death he had donated to his friend, the antiquarian Ralph Thoresby, further prints and drawings as well as pottery, letters, a medal, Indian arrows and armour, an old horn punch ladle, various zoological specimens including bones from a whale and a shark’s fin, shell fish, fossils, a coconut shell, iron ore and many other treasured rarities.2 It was a gathering of diverse curiosities, reflective of the eclectic interests typical of the amateur antiquarian and virtuoso of the later seventeenth and early eighteenth century, intent on discovering and recording natural and man-made specimens. The large proportion of the collection of prints and drawings remained intact at the Patrick Allan Fraser Art College in Hospitalfield, Arbroath, until its partial sale in 1931. An idea of its former size and scope can be gained from the sale catalogues and works now in public institutions.3 Drawings, etchings and mezzotints by Place, as well as some remaining print albums still survive in the Hospitalfield collection, as do two recently discovered mid-eighteenth-century manuscript catalogues of the collection.4 Place’s collection reflects not only his zeal for collecting but, through his choice of works, reveals the native and continental sources which influenced and shaped his own art. It was a hugely influential stock of source material which he drew on for his own landscape compositions, and which he studied for examples of etching techniques.
As well as drawings and etchings by Place himself, at the core of the collection were works by Wenceslaus Hollar, including sketchbooks and prints, which Place bought in London from Hollar’s widow in 1677.5 He also owned drawings by and prints after Francis Barlow, whose work he etched for the London print publisher Pierce Tempest from the mid-1680s; landscape drawings by Thomas Manby (see The Ruins of the Colosseum c.1660–90, Tate T05518, originally from Place’s collection); works by his friend, the topographical artist William Lodge; prints by his fellow etcher Richard Gaywood; and a large collection of French and Netherlandish prints, mainly topographical and landscape etchings by, for example, Perelle, Israel Silvestre, Stefano della Bella and Esaias van de Velde. The Tate album (described as a scrapbook in the 1931 sale catalogue) is thus only a small slice of the original collection. It contains no original drawings by Place, although there are a handful of his etchings, and seems to have been sold primarily for the twelve drawings by Barlow originally mounted at the beginning of the volume (see Tate T08083–T08094). The album itself is not in its original condition. Richard Parrott (c.1721–74), son of Place’s daughter Ann, was interested in etching and printmaking and made copies after Place’s work.6 Some of the prints in the album should be assessed with caution, therefore. At least fourteen of the prints are eighteenth-century additions pasted on blank pages. Herons, after Barlow (Tate T11699), is probably dateable to c.1770, and Sheriff Hutton Castle (Tate T11607) is a later impression after Place made in c.1820–30.7 These provide evidence that later family members continued to make additions to the album.8
Despite antiquarian George Vertue’s comment that Place had ‘means enough to live on’ and ‘passed his time at ease, being a sociable & pleasant Companion much beloved by the Gentry’, it is clear that in the early stages of his life, in the 1660s and 1670s, he was professionally employed in London as an etcher.9 Relatively soon after arriving in London to practise law at Gray’s Inn, Place became acquainted with Wenceslaus Hollar, the great topographical artist then in his fifties and the most accomplished etcher in London. It appears that it was through Hollar that Place was introduced to the London print-selling world and learnt the art of etching. In 1716, in a letter providing valuable information on Hollar, Place told Vertue that although he was ‘intimately acquainted’ with Hollar, he was ‘never his disciple nor any bodys else which was my misfortune’.10 Place, nevertheless, seems to have benefited from working in close proximity with Hollar whose influence on Place’s work was profound. Place’s early works were directly modelled on Hollar’s own. It was through Hollar that Place gained his first book engraving project, at least seventeen plates for John Ogibly’s English edition of Jan Nieuhof’s An Embassy to the Emperor of China, published in 1669. An official of the Dutch East India Company, Nieuhof had travelled to China in 1665 and his book was first published in Holland in that year. Ogilby commissioned Hollar to copy Nieuhof’s 142 plates and Place worked alongside him, producing at least seventeen (signed ‘FP’), although a further twenty-three are probably by him. Many of the plates are of plant life, but Place also etched views of Chinese towns and buildings, his first essays in topography.11 The Ambassadors House (Tate T11556), signed ‘FP’ in the bottom left-hand corner, and Monglet (Tate T11584), a fortress on a rocky river bank with junks in the foreground and also signed ‘F.P’, are from this series.
As well as topographical etchings, from at least 1667 Place was producing etchings and mezzotints after the work of continental artists, for example Dutch tavern scenes after David Teniers and Adriaen Brouwer. A mezzotint after the latter, dateable to 1666–7 and therefore an extremely early English example of this method of reproduction, was sold by John Overton, one of Hollar’s print-sellers.12 Such low-life scenes were a popular and staple element of print-sellers’ stock and were sold by Arthur Tooker, for whom Place worked in the 1670s, and Pierce Tempest, Place’s print-seller from the 1680s.13 Place’s prints of the senses (see Tate T11535–8) fall within this genre. Depicting the same character smoking (smell), drinking (taste), counting money (hearing) and having a boil lanced (touch), they are most likely copied after mezzotints by Abraham Blooteling. No other impressions of this set by Place are known.14 Bainbrigg Buckeridge referred to such works by Egbert van Heemskerk as ‘drunken drolls’ which, he says, were ‘in vogue among the waggish collectors and the lower rank of virtuosi’.15
Place was the first English artist to concentrate on landscape. A handful of early topographical drawings exist and in c.1675 he made several views in and about York in conjunction with William Lodge, which he probably intended for etching. The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, possesses nine slightly later views taken in and around the Isle of Wight, all of which seem to have been sketched at the same time, one of them dating from 1677. Two of these views, Cowes Castle from the West and Hurst Castle were etched by Place and were published most likely by Arthur Tooker, who definitely published Place’s Rochester Castle, etched after his drawing of c.1670. All three plates were later reissued, possibly by Pierce Tempest, as part of a larger series of castles, the skies being re-engraved, Tooker’s name removed and numbers added to the plates.16 Horst Castle (Tate T11611), which is numbered ‘7’, is an example of this second state (Rochester Castle was number 8). The wide panoramic view of the Solent with ships passing the sixteenth-century castle on its shingle spit is strongly influenced by Hollar, drawn with linear precision but at the same time light and free. Sheriff Hutton Castle, the castle to the left with a view to York in the distance, seems clearly to be part of the same series, although, as discussed above, is a later impression. Place sketched Sheriff Hutton on several occasions, the last recorded time being as late as 1718.
The continental plates in the album are largely Dutch and French etchings, mainly topographical and architectural views in Italy and France, or landscapes in the Dutch-Italianate manner. Veduta di un Palazo antico di Roma (Tate T11588), produced by the French print publisher Nicolas Langlois, and Veue de la Muette de Saincte Germain en Laye (Tate T11592), by Israel Silvestre (printed on possibly English paper), have obvious parallels with Place’s own work.17 Place’s etched series of imaginary Italianate coastal scenes and landscapes, some in roundel format, published by Tooker in the early to mid-1670s, are clearly influenced by similar scenes produced by Silvestre, a large body of whose work Place owned.18 Items in this album by Silvestre include views in Italy with exotically clad figures in the foreground (see Tate T11605 and T11614) and engraved and etched title plates (see Tate T11586–7), which would have been of interest to Place when he was altering or re-designing Barlow’s title plates for Tempest in the 1680s. As well as works by Silvestre, the album contains, among many others, etched mythological landscapes by Herman van Swanevelt, a tavern scene by the Dutchman Pierre Nolpe, and imaginary harbour and river scenes etched by the Frenchman Morin after Montaigne. Towards the end of his career Place became interested in combining figures and landscape, producing a number of sketches and more finished works of Tobias and the Angel to which Tobias and the Angel (Tate T11612) by Jean Le Blond after Le Potre presumably relates.19