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Lot 37

Dramatic Reverse Glass Painting of the Death of Cook

37. CARTER, George (after). The Death of Captain James Cook, | by the Indians of O. Why. ee one of the Sandwich Islands.... 47 x 63.5 cm (16-7/8 x 60.2 inches). [N. p., ca. 1794 or after]. Reverse painting on glass with legend of printed view pasted below and hand tinted azure blue. Contemporary gilt wooden frame. Beddie 2566 (original 1784 edition of Sayer & Bennett engraving). Despite some small areas of deterioration (generally at margins), fine. Colors bright and suffused with light from the glass. A striking, unforgettable image. Provenance: Sir Maurice Holmes.

     This alternate view of Cook’s final moments is a copy of the view shown in the above lot (Item 36 herein). Large reverse paintings on glass are an unusual genre and rare survivals. The subject matter of this image makes it especially desirable. The skillful rendering of the scene and attention to fine detail suggest the present painting must have been the work of an accomplished artist. The genre is sometimes predominated by folk art (often amateurish), but here the painting is striking and well-executed—in fact, one of the most refined examples of this medium we have seen. Older examples of reverse glass painting in good condition, like the present one, are difficult to obtain, no doubt due to the fragile nature of the medium. Although the artists used durable natural colors—colored earths, plant dyes, ground malachite, and lapis lazuli in an egg white or gum arabic medium—the glass broke easily.

     This is perhaps the most interesting and unusual offering in this catalogue, a real treasure for a serious collector or collection, and a thing of beauty. ($10,000-20,000)


Images (click to enlarge)

Back of painting, illustrating technique


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