An Early 19thC Naïve School Watercolour of Three Prize Sheep c.1812

Origin: English
Period: Regency
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1812
Canvas Height: 11.5”
Canvas Width: 14.75”
In Frame: 17.25” wide x 14” high x 0.75” deep

The charming depiction of three prize sheep amongst woodland and a part cloudy blue sky, using a myriad of mainly green and blue hues, being signed and dated lower left J.C. Aires? 1812, the whole presented glazed in its original gadrooned gilt wood and gesso frame and surviving from Regency period England.

The painting has not been inspected out of the frame but remains in good overall order. There is a crease mark to the centre and near the signature as photographed. The original frame has small losses and wear to the lower bole, making it decorative. Though the date is quite clear, the signature is more difficult to ascertain.

In the period this picture was painted wealthy British landowners were breeding animals larger and fatter than ever before. Proud of their achievements and eager for recognition, they commissioned paintings of themselves and their livestock with the early 1800s being the peak of livestock painting.

Often the subjects were racehorses, painted in slender lines denoting their speed and grace, but for farm animals, corpulence was key. In the paintings, the cow, sheep, and pigs are massive, yet supported by only four spindly legs. Sometimes, their owner is painted in as well, proudly looking over their creation with the resulting images being part advertisement and part spectacle. Beyond making wealthy farmers famous, animal paintings and prints had a practical purpose with breeders across the country using a specific animal’s image as a model for their own herd, since livestock that fit beauty ideals were worth much more.

The year of 1812 in England saw the births of Charles Dickens and Augustus Pugin, and the country still involved in the Napoleonic Wars with France and its attempts to stop French trade lead to the War of 1812 with the United States. Lord Wellington was active in the Peninsular War in Spain and the year also marked the only assassination of a British prime minister when Spencer Perceval is shot.

A very attractive example of animal portraiture and worth further research as to the artist at work here.