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Samuel William Reynolds the Elder

(1773–1835, London)

The Falconer. Mezzotint after James Northcote. 50.3 x 35 cm. 1797. Whitman 414 I (of II).

Samuel William Reynolds studied in London under Charles Howard Hodges and John Raphael Smith and like his teachers soon began to specialise in portraits and mezzotints. The present sheet with the elegant depiction of a falconer dates to 1797 and is thus one of the artist’s earliest works. The composition is based on a painting by the portraitist James Northcote (1746– 1831), a pupil of Sir Joshua Reynolds. For the figure of the falconer Northcote portrayed his elder brother, the watchmaker Samuel Northcote (1743–1813), who is shown here against a landscape background carefully balancing a falcon on his left hand. The noble bird, whose sharp gaze is fixed on the hunting dog looking up at it from below, seems just to have been prevented from flying off by a careful movement of the falconer’s hand. Reynolds produced the mezzotint in the first year his works were exhibited at the Royal Academy. Later the artist earned greater renown, including at the Paris Salon exhibitions, being highly esteemed as a printmaker in France and elsewhere. In 1820 Reynolds was appointed portrait engraver to George III, in which function he produced a series of over 350 portrait engravings after works by his namesake Joshua Reynolds, which appeared in four editions between 1821 and 1826.

A very fine, velvety impression with wide margins around the inky platemark. This is an impression of the first state before the addition of the title, the artist’s name and the publisher’s address. Minimal traces of handling, otherwise in excellent condition.

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