RUGENDAS. (Johann Moritz) HABITANTE DE GOYAS. Quadro a óleo pintado sobre madeira.
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MERCER. (Douglas) (LATER DOUGLAS MERCER-HENDERSON). WATERCOLOUR ALBUM BY...
Circa 1811. 22,5 x 11,5 cm.
Watercolours size: 22x11 cm.
Full leather binding packed on a later synthetic skin protection case, with a portrait of the author at the centre front board (replica from the one at the National Portrait Gallery in London) and with his name and date in gilt letters under it.
An historically important album, containing 39 watercolours and 21 drawings, some partially coloured, depicting views of Portugal as well as typical Portuguese figures and animals, done by the British Army Officer Major Douglas Mercer, probably during a reconnaissance journey in the period he was ADC to Major General Dilkes or actually during the retreat of the French Army (March 1811) when Major Mercer is reported to have been wounded twice, at Barrosa and Sobral.
A curious detail is that a rough map of the area surrounding the city of Guarda is outlined, somewhat hidden in one of the drawings, this having been the area where the French Army under the command of General Massena, during the Third Invasion of Portugal, finally retreated. It is also to be highlighted that, although the album might be taken as the work of a talented and interested visitor, all the views shown bear obvious military and topographical interest, relating to the crossing of rivers, hilly areas or fortified towns.
As stated in his obituary, Major, later Lieu-General Mercer, was a highly distinguished officer but also an undoubtedly talented artist. He fought bravely at Waterloo, commanding the 2nd Battalion. A portrait of him is in exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
In 1852, he inherited Fordell Castle, Fife, Scotland, after his elder brother Robert was deceased. By royal licence dated 14 January 1853, Mercer and his descendants were authorised to take the surname of Henderson in addition to and after that of Mercer, and to bear the arms of Henderson together with those of Mercer.
Watercolours, sketches, author captions (between quotes) and our comments, as follows:
Front endpapers: ownership title: «Douglas Mercer 7th 1811 Portugal & Spain» on the left side, followed by several pencil sketches with handwriten captions and notes, such as the drawings of a man riding a donkey; navy frigates; a tipical Lisbon sailing boat; wine boat in the Douro (with a note); and on the right (that is page nº 1) an almost invisible - although very perfect - pencil sketch of the Convento da Pena (before it was rebuilt as the Royal Pena Palace).
Pages 2/3 The first watercolour, double page, with a caption: «Cascais August 30th 1811» (a gorgeous view of the Cascais bay, seen from the sea, with English frigates approaching the harbor and the skyline of Serra de Sintra surrounded by the usual scenic clouds).
Pages 4/5 «View near Almada – opposite Lisboa» (A wide panorama in a double page watrcolour. At the right page the mouth of the River Tagus, and at the right side the church of St. Sebastian [Igreja de São Sebastião] in Almada.
Page 6 «Boat bridge at Villa Velha» (this is just a soft skecth, near invisible, placed upside down, very precisely depicting the strategical river pass at Vila Velha de Ródão, with a makeshift bridge made of a row of barges. On the right side we can see how the river Tagus strangled before the gorge was dinamited in the 20th century).
N. B: There are no pages 7, 8 and 9, neither the foliae are missing, and we believe it is just a numbering error).
Page 11 «Cintra» (the mountain cliffs)
Page 12 «Cintra» (The Church of Sta Maria)
Page 13 «Cintra» (the country road near Seteais, with the Pena Palace on the top of the mountain)
Page 14 «Sabugal» (the castle and the bridge)
Page 15 «Palácio de Cintra» (panorama of the "Palacio da Vila" seen from the road called "Volta do Banho").
Pages 16/17 A beautiful double page, coloured and signed by the author: «Oak trees – Leiria: Leiria in Portugal – of the buildings of Casais. Mercier»
Page 18 «Pera Macor» (i.e. the castle of the village of Penamacor, within the theater of operations of Bussaco Battle).
Page 19 «Houses in Santa Combadaõ. Portugal 1811» ( View of the village from the opposite bank, in which we can see the central square with the pillory)
Pages 20/21 «Sabugal» (these are 2 consecutive views of the same bridge - both sketches are not coloured: the one in the left was drawn before the demolition of the bridge, and the other one afterwards).
Page 22 «Sabugal. Castle dark brown» (this is a non-coloured drawing with a notice for a later colouring, usual throughout this sketchbook).
Page 23 «Castello de Celorico» (this is a non-coloured drawing with the castle of Celorico and the surrounding area).
Page 24 This page is upside down and depicts two different panoramas – placed one over the other horizontally – however for the candid viewer it seems one and the same. The captions are hidden in the watercolour . The upper one: «Spanish frontier from Ciudad Rodrigo over Robleda dotted with everglades and oaks» (This is an impressive panorama of the Meseta Castellana, that is, the central mountain system of the Iberian Peninsula). The bottom caption: «Sabugal» (the Portuguese village nearby standing one step lower at the previous mountain range).
Page 25 «Bridge near Celorico. Alverca road». (this is a non-coloured drawing).
Page 26 This page is upside down and depicts two different panoramas – placed one over the other horizontally. The captions are hidden in the watercolour. The upper one: «Ciudad Rodrigo. Peculiar fei trees». The bottom one: «South range» (depicting the direction opposite of previous page 24)
Page 27 «Celorico from the Road of Lagiosa» (this watercolour shows the the river with willows and, at a far distance, we can see Celorico).
Page 28 «Ponte de Cinco Villas» (a beautiful watercolour, near Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, showing the bridge in the valley of the Coa River, not yet demolished at this stage of the war).
Page 29 «Ponte Ladrão, Lagiosa, Açores» (This is a scenic view of the long valley where there is a bridge, which still connects Celorico with the Spanish border in Vilar Formoso, crossing the small village of Açores).
Pages 30/31 «Val de Mondego. Between Açores & the Ponte Ladrão» (This is a magestic wide angle watercolour, drawn on a double page, showing several lines or layers of mountains, which surround the course of Mondego River.
Pages 32/33 «Banks of the Mondego, Nº 1 /Nº 2, Quinta [de] Alameda. Luís Oliveira». (This is a magestic wide angle watercolour, drawn on a double page, showing on the background the mountains that surround the quiet river banks of the Mondego. A big farm is depicted on the right and left pages, whose owner is identified by the author: Luís Oliveira. Here is the Pass of Portela da Oliveira, referred in the "Battles of Bussaco and Torres" as the best place to cross the Mondego river within this region)
Pages 34/35 Double page panorama. Non-coloured. «Pinhel. From Govea [Gouveia] Road. Convento Sta. Cruz. Palace» + «Castelo Rodrigo» (a Portuguese village seen from Gouveia).
Pages 36/37/38 «Ponte Mizerells» [Ponte da Mizarela: a very strategic bridge seen from different perspectives: page 36, the platform of the bridge; page 37, the reinforcemnts of its pillars; page 38, the other side of the bridge with the mountain ridge surrounding the pass]. Non-coloured.
Page 39 A Vinyard. Val de Mondego» (with the panorama of a Portuguese farm in the middle of a vinyard enclosed by stone walls. Non-coloured.)
Page 40 «Alpedrinha. Dressing Cork». (non-coloured).
Page 41 «Remarkable Cork Trees near Foia». (Half coloured page with a pink base-colour for the landscapes. The view is from the main sightseeing point of Serra da Estrela facing the Spanish border).
Pages 42/43 Two coloured views: the first is the smallest of this sketchbook: «Mondego» and the second ocuppies half of page 42 and the panorama continues to page 43 with the caption: «View down the Mondego from Ponte Mizerelho». (Both views depict in detail the crossing over the water rapids).
Page 44 «Ponte de Cinco Villas. Mondego». (The author goes back to the subject of page 28, another beautiful watercolour, near Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, showing the side view of this bridge in the valley of the Coa River, not yet demolished at this stage of the war).
Page 45 A non-coloured drawing – without caption or location - showing the slopes and vegetation of the Portuguese forest, with several levels of trees within a few metters.
Pages 46/47 A beautiful coloured double page. Although with different captions, it seems to be the same view. On page 46: «Velosa»; and on page 47: «Açores. Lagiosa?». (The autor seems to be confused since he put an interrogation mark on the caption. Probably his main purpose was to give an idea of proportion - mainly the mountains - of the landscape at these two nearby strategical points. The red coats of the British troops can be seen on the centre of page 47).
Pages 48/49 «Ponte de Faya». [Ponte de Foia]. (Another beautiful coloured double page. The author shows us, down the river, the magestic bridge with its protection turret surrounded by luxurious vegetation, also capturing the viewer's attention to the mountain ridge at the far right. A perfectly framed panorama and a masterpiece of watercolouring).
Pages 50/51 «Val de Mondego. Nº1 + Nº 2. Misarello». [The Pass of Mizarela – already depicted in captions 36/37/38 – seen from a village up on the mountains in a very scenic double page watercolour].
Pages 52/53 «Val de Mondego» [near] «Ponte de Cinco Villas». A double page watercolour).
Page 54 «Campello. Spanish Mountains». (A watercolour view from an upper perspective, with the nearby mountains covered by low clouds).
Page 55 «Ponte de Cinco Villas. Pinhel». (Another watercolour of this bridge seen from a perspective that alows us to see Pinhel at the centre, at a far distance).
Page 56/57 «Pinhel. Nº1 + Nº 2.». (The last complete watercolour of this sketchbook: In first plan we can see the detailled suburban houses and farms of the village, the castle in second plan).
Pages 58/59/60/61/62 + back endpaper: all containing miscelanious studies of animals, persons, scenes and local customs, and even a Portuguese poem.
N. B.: Page 60 contains a map of the theatre of military operations hidden by an ox cart drawn upside down. The map is oriented North using the corner in which is written the number 60 as a natural arrow. The roads are almost invisible. The cities and villages are slightly marked, masked by the parts of the ox cart. The map covers the territory comprised by the eastern limits of Castelo Bom – Vila Maior – Alfaiates (all near the Spanish border) and Baraçal – Celorico – Lagiosa – Foia – Guarda - as the western limits inside the portuguese territory. These directions give us a completely new direction of the operations as they do not use the main roads of that time, but secondary vectors of operations.
The sketchbook finishes with its factory mark: the blank stamp and the corresponding ex-libris of best stationary house in London - Smith, Warner, & Co, 211, Piccadilly, London. A leading supplier that was established in Piccadilly by 1800, advertising a new method for fixing soft crayon and chalk drawings. It was a partnership between Peter Warner (c.1749-1824) and the experimental chemist, Charles Smith (d.1845). This was one of three businesses singled out in 1811 by the drawing master and Royal Academy exhibitor, John Cart Burgess, as having brought watercolours to the greatest perfection, the other two being James Newman and Reeves & Woodyer (John Cart Burgess, A Practical Essay on the Art of Flower Painting, 1811, p.32). […] Burgess singled out certain colours made by Smith & Co as peculiarly excelling those of other manufacturers: Madder Liquid, finest Ultramarine and the cheapest sort of Ultramarine, Italian Smalt and Permanent neutral tint. […] John Varley owned an album, now dismembered, with Smith Warner’s stamp from 211 Piccadilly (Christie"s South Kensington, 6 December 2012, lot 206) and J.M.W. Turner used a sketchbook in 1827, with paper watermarked 1819, labelled Smith, Warner & Co, 211 Piccadilly (A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, 1909, p.694). The draughtsman and miniaturist, William Wood, records using their balsam varnish in 1806 (V&A National Art Library). John Linnell used Smith Warner for some of his colours in 1816 and for buying chalk pencils by the dozen in 1817, as his account book shows [Vide: npg.org.uk/research/programmes/directory-of-suppliers/s.php]
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