Sotheby’s London will offer the earliest known bird’s-eye view painting of a British garden for $950,000 or £600,000 at its sale of Old Masters on December 3rd. The work was painted sometime around 1665,and is a large-scale topographical view of Llanerch Park, Denbighshire; which is considered to be an extremely important historical document.
The painting has been in the same family collection since the owner commissioned the artwork in 1665, according to a report in the Guardian. The garden was the pride and joy of Mutton Davies, who was inspired to create a state of the art Italian garden around a much older house in north Wales – after the landowner’s trip to Italy between 1654 and 1658.
Davies commissioned the painting of his garden creation, meticulously detailed down to the mounting block by the stables and the fountains designed to spurt water from unexpected places and drench the unwary as they passed by.
A 17th-century poem described the garden in all of its glory: “Elegantly he diverted streams of cold water into his gardens and, praise be, he can wander in a great garden which he made, in the grounds about his mansion, and costly are his devices.”
The artist is anonymous, but believed to be English.
“There are much more accomplished later views of gardens like Hampton Court, by more sophisticated artists who often came from the continent. This is really very early…and the artist is clearly having a few problems with the perspective -but we believe it to be by the earliest by a native painter, so it is really quite an important thing.” Sotheby’s specialist Julian Gascoigne told the Guardian.
Llanerch Hall, the house shown in this picture, was probably built in the late-16th century. The BBC reports that “parts of the much-altered hall is still in use but the garden has long since gone.”
There are two versions of the picture. A smaller painting was acquired in 1968 by the Yale Centre for British Art in New Haven.