Wednesday, November 26, 2014

174. Altered Designs for American Covers

The six volumes of The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, issued by Macmillan in London between 1922 and 1926 (and reprinted several times), were also issued in American editions shortly afterwards. In his bibliographical description of the first volume Allan Wade states that the American edition of Later Poems was 'Issued in similar style and binding to the English edition', excepting the spine title and the trimming of the edges, an observation that was repeated in his descriptions of the other volumes.


Dustwrapper for W.B. Yeats, Essays (1924), designed by Charles Ricketts
The original cover drawing (also used for most of the dustwrappers), designed by Charles Ricketts, shows architectoral elements. There are roses in the four corners. The central panel depicts sprays of yew and their berries, located at the corners. The inner panel contains circles and circled dots. These circled dots also appear in other places, and can be seen as Ricketts's trademark.

The volumes were printed by R. & R. Clark in Edinburgh. The American editions were 'Printed in the United States of America'. The London volumes were issued by Macmillan and Co. Limited, the American ones by The Macmillan Company of New York. The 'similar' bindings of the American editions were done in America as well, and, indeed, the designs for these bindings were redrawn.

The American deviation from Ricketts's original drawing can best be seen on the wrappers with the design printed in blue on brown paper. The second volume, Plays in Prose and Verse appeared in an American edition in April 1924.


Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse(American edition, 1924): upper part of front wrapper
The central panel with the circles and yew ornaments has been discarded in order to make room for a title, the author's and publisher's names (which in the English design are only printed on the spine of the wrapper). The cloth binding itself still shows these circles, so mercantile considerations must have prompted this change. Closer examination reveals that the whole design has been redrawn in another hand.

Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse (1922): part of front wrapper
Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse(American edition, 1924): part of front wrapper
The heavy circle at the top of the design (above the triangle) is now a more open circle, the dotted circles next to the roses have become simple circles, and small ornaments have been added:
Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse (1922):
part of front wrapper
Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse(American edition, 1924)
and dots have become circles. The new design lacks a certain subtlety. Another type of cloth has been used and the blind stamped design is less clear on the American volumes.

Apparently, the added ornaments had called for comments, and they were removed the same year. Essays (October 1924) had the adapted design: 


Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Essays(American edition, 1924)
On whose authority?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

173. Ricketts on Moroni

The Royal Academy honours Giovanni Battista Moroni as 'the unsung genius of Renaissance portraiture'. His portrait of a tailor, especially, is seen as the work of an artist whose subject 'prefigured even as far forwards as the nineteenth century avant-garde' (curator Arturio Galansino in an interview).

Would Charles Ricketts have appreciated these accolades for Moroni? In his book on Titian, Ricketts mentions the artist three times.

Ricketts discusses a portrait of Cristoforo Madruzzo, that he does not consider to be a Titian picture:

Documented and dated, this last affects me (in reproduction: the original is unknown to me) as a late picture by Moroni; it is at once gauche in drawing (note the clumsy short thumbs) and design.
(Titian, 1910, p. 100)

Titian, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (Museo di Capodimonte)
Another portrait of a cardinal is also described unfavourably by Ricketts:

We may dismiss the 'Portrait of the Cardinal Alessandro Farnese' at Naples. This picture, with its cold greenish-grey tones and awkward curtain, seems by Moroni.
(Titian, 1910, p. 108) 

This painting was actually examined by Ricketts, as was the case with 'Lady in Rose' which he saw at Dresden:

An attractive picture, the 'Lady in Rose' at Dresden, which has passed, owing to general hesitation, as a possible Titian, is, in the opinion of the present writer, a good canvas by Moroni. The odd, sudden perspective of the table, the shape of the hands, the cold, greenish-grey of the background, and the mechanical rendering of the embroideries seem, to me at least, evidences of his literal and provincial workmanship.
(Titian, 1910, p. 122) 

Gauche, clumsy, cold - these terms do not give the impression of a great admiration for Moroni, who, of course, could not compare to Titian, the father of modern painting according to Ricketts. Ricketts and Shannon owned one drawing by Titian and nothing by Moroni.

However, as an adviser of the National Gallery of Canada, Ricketts proposed a portrait of a man by Moroni for the collection, and it was bought in 1924 for £3100. 

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Portrait of a Man (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada)
Still, the most expensive painting he recommended was Titian's portrait of Daniele Barbaro in 1928.

Initially, this picture was thought to be from Titian's workshop as a copy of another portrait that belongs to the Prado in Madrid. Recent research, using x-rays, show that, actually, the Ottawa portrait is the original Titian. Titian struggled with certain elements in this version: the colour of the clothing, the collar height, and the representation of the nose. Ricketts would have been delighted to hear this.

Titian, Portrait of Daniele Barbaro (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

172. Titian in The Hague

There is only one painting by Titian in a Dutch collection, 'Boy with Dogs in a Landscape' (c. 1570-1576), one of the later paintings by Titian. It belongs to the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.


Titian, 'Boy with Dogs in a Landscape' (Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) 
The painting was acquired by the museum in 1958 with the collection of D.G. van Beuningen (1877-1955). This painting was unknown to Ricketts when he compiled his notes for a monograph on Titian (1910). It was not in Rotterdam, when Ricketts visited Holland in 1911. Van Beuningen bought the painting in 1930 from the Amsterdam art dealer J. Goudstikker (paying fl. 240.000).

Another Titian painting is temporarily on display at the Prince William V Gallery in The Hague. 'Venus Rising from the Sea' is on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland. 


Titian, 'Venus Rising from the Sea' (c. 1520-1525)
When Ricketts saw this painting, it was in a private collection in London, at Bridgewater House. He noted:

A work allied to this last ['Laura Dianti'] in character, the 'Venus and the Shell' at Bridgewater House (Plate xxxv.), has fared rather better, but it is also falsified and given a later appearance by retouching and the deepening of the shadows.'
(Titian, 1910, page 53)


A footnote explained:

Since this was written this picture has been cleaned.

In Chapter X of his book, Ricketts continued:

The first record of Titian's journey to the court of Ferrara belongs to the year 1516, when he lodged at the Castello; we even know that salt, meal, oil, salad, chestnuts, oranges, tallow candles, cheese, and five measures of wine were allowed him and his two assistants weekly from the 13th of February till March 22nd. His letter to the Duke, dated February of the following year, makes mention of a picture of 'A Bath,' which we can identify with some measure of certainty with the beautiful, but damaged, 'Venus with the Shell,' in the Bridgewater collection. I think that we may assume that the same model who does duty for the Venus figures also as a nymph in the 'Garden of Loves,' and if we can trust an old copy of the last picture made in the early seventeenth century, and once in the possession of G.F. Watts, the same model was employed for the statue of Venus in that picture, before statue and attribute had been made unrecognisable by some restorer. In the copy the statue holds a recognisable shell done from nature, at Madrid the shell has become a sort of utensil or vase which looks like a sauce-boat; at one time the statue was a fair Venetian, both the statue and the 'Venus' at Bridgewater House have been 'founded,' in the pose of the torso at least, upon some Praxitelean statue of the type of the 'Venus of Ostia'; these details connect the two works, and they are further related to each other by a common classical origin. The 'Venus' in the Bridgewater collection manifestly emulates the description of the masterpiece of Apelles, while 'The Garden of Loves' is an illustration of one of the word-pictures in the Eikonon of Philostratus; these two works, the famous 'Bacchanal' and the better known 'Baccus and Ariadne' form a sequence in Titian's career; they add the evidence of richer resources and a profounder sensuousness to the secular mood which Titian had inherited from Giorgione, which he had intensified in the 'Three Ages of Man' and in the 'Sacred and Profane Love.' These paintings form a climax; in them the poetic impulse has become stronger and more conscious, the pictorial resources richer and more varied, they are the supreme expression of a temperament and vision which have remained unrivalled. We owe Titian's finest and most typical works to his relations with the house of Ferrara.

(Titian, 1910, pages 55-56)

The damage, mentioned by Ricketts, is not recorded in modern descriptions of this painting. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

171. Titian in Urbino

On Wednesday 8 October a bus brought us from Pesaro to Urbino, the city that is well-known for its Renaissance buildings and steep roads and alleys. The Palazzo Ducale (its origins go back to the fifteenth century) became a centre for the arts during the reign of Federico da Montefeltro (1422-1482). Nowadays, it houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche. There are two paintings by Titian who occasionally visited Urbino.
Wall in Urbino (October 2014) [© Ton Leenhouts]
Ricketts, in his book on Titian lists both works, and briefly describes one of them. He did not visit Urbino and probably saw photographs of 'Resurrection' ['Resurrezione', according to the museum's caption] and 'Last Supper' ['Ultima Cena']; both are reproduced in his book.

Room with paintings by Titian, Palazzo Ducale, Urbino (October 2014)
Ricketts wrote:

Between the years 1542 and 1544 Titian executed the two pictures, the 'Resurrection' and the 'Last Supper,' which still remain at Urbino, The 'Resurrection' (Plate LXXXIX) shows elements of affinity with the great 'Ecce Homo' now at Vienna, the shield-bearer in both pictures being similar in pose.
(Titian, 1910, page 102).

Titian, 'Last Supper' and 'Resurrection' (Urbino) 
More famous than the Titians that are now in Urbino are the paintings that were moved to other cities, especially Florence. In the Uffizi one finds the 'Venus of Urbino', a reclining nude woman. This work was commissioned by Guidobaldo II della Rovere, the Duke of Urbino. Ricketts gave a long description of this painting of a woman 'dressed only in a bracelet', but he found that 'To me there is something tiresome in the arrangement of this stately and famous nude, in the "ornate simplicity" and the sumptuous realism of the background' (page 92). 

At the time Ricketts saw it, it was hanging too high in the Uffizi, and 'If we can trust our eyesight, the magic the painting may have once possessed has left it'. To him it is a 'rather academic' picture: 'This Venus or courtesan seems to have taken off her clothes in a mood of boring ostentation, and it has pleased the public to detect purity, or maybe 'Lascivia,' in a work which remains a handsome and magisterial performance, or exercise in the fine arts'.

Titian, 'Venus of Urbino' (Florence)
Next week, another Venus by Titian.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

170. Titian in Ancona

A stay along the Adriatic Coast in Italy allowed us to visit a couple of places that could have been inspected by Charles Ricketts. But they were not. He might have, though, for his work on the painter Titian. Ricketts's Titian was published by Methuen in 1910.

The 'List of Works' at the end of this monograph mentions fourteen Italian cities where Titian's paintings were held at the time, of which we visited two on this trip: Urbino and Ancona. 

In Ancona, the 'List of Works' discloses, two paintings by Titian can be seen: the 'Altar-Piece of the Madonna and Child, with St. Francis, St. Blaise, and Donor', dated 1520, in the Church of San Domenico (plate XLV in Titian), and the 'Christ on the Cross, with the Virgin, St. John, and St. Dominic', or 'Crucifixion', at the Pinacoteca (plate CXLVI).


Titian, Crucifixion, or 'Christ on the Cross'
If I say that these paintings can be seen, I should add that we did not see them. The Church of San Domenico on the Piazza del Plebiscito was closed the Sunday afternoon that we walked from the Cathedral, past the amphitheatre and the archaeological museum to the new town centre. On our tour we also came past the Pinacoteca Comunale "Francesco Podesti" e Galleria d'Arte Moderna. It was 'chiuso per ristrutturazione'.


Announcement near the door of the Art Gallery of Ancona (October 2014)
In October, many art galleries in this region, the holiday season being over, are closed, or only open by appointment, but the art gallery was closed for an undetermined period.

The information board on the facade showed what we could not see: the Titian painting among other masterpieces.


Reading the information on the collection of the Art Gallery of Ancona (October 2014)
Refurbishment, or restoration, or whatever went on inside the building (the website was not clear on the matter), should probably be welcomed.


The Ancona Art Gallery in the via Pizzecolli (October 2014)
Ricketts did not see the painting either, he did not visit Ancona for his research, and based his opinion on a photograph:

The altar-piece at Ancona is known to me only by photographyit would seem to be one of Titian's most enchanting works (Plate XLV.). Something of the abruptness of pose and freshness of design of the work done in the first decade of the century is preserved in this picture, which benefits by the more subtle surfaces belonging to a period when Titian had nothing more to master. It has doubtless the frankness of execution which belongs to all his paintings on panel. I feel a certain hesitation in confessing that to me at least there is in this picture, and in 'The Entombment' (finished or delivered in 1523), a survival of something almost Giorgionesque, to use a vague and often abused expression. True, the Madonna at Ancona is dissimilar in facial type to any other of Titian's Virgins. She leans forward in the gracious pose which Titian often affects, but she strikes one as a portrait of some winning but not beautiful woman. She is not the matronly goddess of the 'Assunta' - she seems also nearer nature than the sedate or gracious Madonnas he has painted hitherto, whose placid beauty ranks them after all as the more dignified sisters of the lovely 'Vanitas.' The sky on which the Virgin rests, breaks into the billowy masses and the large white strata of cloud which Titian paints in the 'Bacchus and Ariadne.' In the two fig leaves against the sky the painter reverts to a scheme of things which was in vogue when Bellini was still alive, and in the design of the donor and the ardent figure of St. Blaise we are reminded at once of the 'St. Mark' in the Salute [in Venice], and even of the 'Baffo.' We are all the more conscious of this when we glance at the Pesaro family where the Bishop of Paphos kneels as an older man, and the singular freshness or abruptness in gesture in the picture at Ancona is forced upon us. (page 63)

Titian, Gozzi Altarpiece, or 'Madonna and Child' 
We didn't see the Titian paintings in Ancona - a city we enjoyed on a very hot October day, - however, we were luckier in Urbino.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

169. Four Shelves of Books at Auction

Nadeau's Auction Gallery, in Windsor, Connecticut, announced its 'Important Annual Fall Antiques and Fine Art Auction' that will take place on 25 October.

Nadeau's Auction Gallery, 25 October 2014, lot no. 437
The sale includes antique tables, chests, pianos, paintings, and also four shelves of books. The description of lot no. 437 - the last lot - is short:

Four shelves of books, some leather bound, to include Ivan Turgenieff, Edgar Allen Poe, Works of Longfellow, First Numbered Addition and Vale Press Hacon, Charles Ricketts Shakespear set.

Nadeau's Auction Gallery, 25 October 2014, lot no. 437
('Addition' must be a typo for 'Edition'; and Shakespeare's name lacks a final 'e' in the website description.)

The estimated price is $200-$400, starting bid is $100. The spines show heavy wear and serious damage to some of them. The Vale Press edition of Shakespeare seems to be almost complete - I can count 38 (out of 39) volumes, but I am not sure which volumes are included. Some spines look rather browned. Of course, one should also be able to smell the volumes to ascertain their provenance, as the contents of these shelves might be taken from a library that was also used as a smoking room...

[Note, 1 November 2014: Price realised: US$ 322.]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

168. Antonio Cippico on Ricketts and Shannon

In 1929 Antonio Cippico (1877-1935) showed Ricketts around Rome. They had been friends for a long time. 

Bookplate of Antonio Cippico
Born in Zadar (on the Adriatic coast in Croatia), Cippico studied law, and graduated in Vienna in 1901. In 1906 he moved to London to teach at the University, and between 1911 and 1928 he was a professor of English literature at the University of London. He was a member of the Royal Society of Literature. In 1923 he was appointed senator at the Senato della Repubblica; and he represented Italy in the League of Nations (1925-1928). In 1925 he co-founded the magazine Archivio storico per la Dalmazia that later remembered him as a poet, an orator, advocate, and a great connoisseur of Dalmatia. He translated works of Shakespeare and Nietzsche. He was an early supporter of Italian fascism (and died long before the outcome of that choice became visible).

Antonio Cippico in 1925
Cippico travelled a lot between Rome, London and Venice. He came to dinner in Ricketts's and Shannon's house in London, visited D'Annunzio in Paris, received letters from Ricketts in Venice or Vienna, and showed Ricketts around Rome. Ricketts dedicated his book of imaginary conversations Beyond the Threshold (1929) 'To the Poet Antonio Cippico'.

Ricketts and Cippico exchanged letters as early as 1912 (see Self-Portrait, 1939, p. 179), and Cippico had written an essay about Charles Shannon in an Italian magazine, Vita d'Arte, in March 1910. 


The essay 'Charles Shannon' was published as part of a series on 'Pittori Rappresentativi'.


Antonio Cippico, 'Charles Shannon' (1910)
The article introduced Shannon's paintings to the Italian audience and contained no less than thirteen reproductions, which was the article's greatest merit. The text, similar to most art criticism of the day, contained rather idealistic and general observations on art, before discussing more acute details.


Antonio Cippico
Cippico wrote about Shannon's portrait of Mrs Patrick Campbell, and then analysed the portrait of 'another famous actress' (p. 101), who was depicted in a costume designed by Ricketts for the role of Dona Anna; this was Lillah McCarthy, playing the Mozart figure in a play by George Bernard Shaw, 'Don Juan in Hell', a part of Man and Superman (performed in 1907).

Cippico argued that the portrait was not a romantic painting, but the depiction of an actress in her costume that was designed to be reminiscent of the paintings of Velazquez. The costume of rose silk, black lace, with silver trimmings, was described by Cippico as of rose and blue brocade; a costume that looked richer than that of the princesses painted by Velazques. It was, he claimed, full of suggestions of antique beauty and nostalgia.

Cippico praised Shannon's idealism and his decorative paintings, and he announced a sequel to the article in which he would also write about his illustrations, the lithographs, and his 'most beloved comrade', Charles Ricketts - he also described Ricketts as Shannon's 'intimate brother'.

His conclusion was that Shannon decorated the beauteous body, and that Ricketts's imagination gave it its soul (l'anima di esse).

The second article was never published.

[Thanks are due to my friend Lia de Wolf, who translated parts of the Cippico essay for me.]


Antonio Cippico, 'Charles Shannon' (1910)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

167. The Late H.A. Warmelink, Notary at Amsterdam

Recently I received a booklet on Benjamin Franklin as a printer. It was published (posthumously) to honour a Dutch book collector from Amsterdam, H.A. Warmelink. After reading it, I consulted the catalogue of his auction that was issued by Menno Hertzberger (1897-1982), the well-known Dutch antiquarian book dealer and one of the founders of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.


Auction catalogue H.A. Warmelink (1960)
The Auction-Sale of the Important Collection of Books of the Late H.A. Warmelink Notary at Amsterdam was published in two parts. The second part contained his collection of 'Modern Fine Printing'.

Hendrik Adolf (Henk) Warmelink (13 April 1890-14 November 1959), born in Deventer, was appointed as a notary in Amsterdam in 1932. One of the founders of the Dutch typography society 'Non Pareil', he was a connoisseur of typefaces, calligraphy and printing. 

His collection of fine printing contained examples of almost all modern private presses, such as the Ashendene Press, the Doves Press, the Eragny Press, the Essex House Press, the Golden Cockerell Press, the Golden Hind Press, the Merrymount Press, the Roycroft Press, Seven Acres Press, and the Tintern Press. His sale records five Kelmscott Press books: The Tale of King Florus and the Fair Jehane (1893, Peterson A21), Atalanta in Calydon (1894, Peterson A25), Hand and Soul (1895, Peterson A36) Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis (1896, Peterson A42), and The Story of Sigurd the Volsung (1898, Peterson A50).  

He also owned five Vale Press books that were listed under the heading 'Ballantyne Press'.


Apuleius, De Cupidines et Psyches Amoribus (Vale Press, 1901)
Warmelink's sale mentioned the two Apuleius editions of the Vale Press, one in Latin and one in English: The Excellent Narration of the Marriage of Cupide and Psyches (1897), De Cupinides et Psyches Amoribus (1901). Two other VP editions were: Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1901), and A Bibliography of the Books issued by Hacon & Ricketts (1904). One pre-Vale publication was listed: Hero and Leander (1894).

It might be difficult to identify his books, as he probably did not use a bookplate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

166. A Ricketts-Style Binding?

In 1909 John Lane published a play by the German writer and journalist Hermann Sudermann (1857-1928): Johannes was first performed in 1898 and had been reprinted many times. The English translation was published as John the Baptist.  

Hermann Sudermann, John the Baptist (1909): title page
Recently, the green cloth binding with gilt decorations and lettering, was called 'attractive' by a book dealer. Another copy was priced as a 'Ricketts-style binding'.

The lettering on the front cover is not in Ricketts's style, but the flame-like ornament is close to his mode of design, which is self-evident if one knows that the ornament was designed by Charles Shannon.

Hermann Sudermann, John the Baptist (1909): front cover
The design of the front cover of John the Baptist, however is not at all reminiscent of Shannon's careful designs for Oscar Wilde's plays, nor of Ricketts's balanced cover designs. 

 
Ornament for Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan (top)
and Hermann Sudermann, John the Baptist
However, it is clear that the original ornament was re-used for the Sudermann binding. Shannon had designed it for the first edition of Oscar Wilde's play Lady Windermere's Fan that was published by John Lane in 1893. The design was repeated three times on the front and back cover.

Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan (1893) (a copy on E-Bay 2014)
Shannon designed the ornament for a horizontal use, pointing to the left or right, and used a mirrored image to reach (with a minimum of expense) a lively and pleasing effect. For John the Baptist the ornament was used (certainly without Shannon's knowledge) vertically only, without the subtle variation in the repetition, and placing the designs too close to the title and author's name.

Hermann Sudermann, John the Baptist (1909): front cover (detail)
The circled dots were used as a separate stamp to decorate the spine title of John the Baptist. Shannon had not made use of these dots as a separate ornament. And the spine decoration was not a replica, as we can deduct from the central dot, which was as large as the others, while in Shannon's design it had been a very small and subtle central dot.
Hermann Sudermann, John the Baptist (1909): spine (detail)
Without the assistance of the original artist, most re-used book designs are employed in a less subtle, usually cheap, arbitrary, and less convincing way. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

165. The Great War, an Exhibition in Wales

In 1919, the National Museum Wales (Amgueddfa Cymry) was presented with a set of sixty-six lithographs that had been issued by the Bureau of Propaganda in 1917: The Great War. Britain's Efforts and Ideals. From 2 August 2014 to 7 January 2015 the Cardiff museum shows the whole series. A catalogue has been issued in English and in Welsh.


The Great War: Britain's Efforts and Ideals (catalogue issued by National Museum of Wales, 2014)
The catalogue has a (rather short) introduction on this war time publication, however, all sixty-six prints have been reproduced. The price is only £5.

Ricketts and Shannon were invited to contribute a colour lithograph for the series of 'Ideals', as were Frank Brangwyn, Augustus John, Edmund Dulac, and others. The project was carried out under the direction of Shannon's and Ricketts's friend F. Ernest Jackson (1872-1945), and the lithographs were printed by Avenue Press in London.


Charles Ricketts, 'Italia Redenta' (1917)
The artists were paid handsomely for their prints, each receiving £210. The subjects were selected by the project management and the images had to pass censorship regulations. The complete series was first exhibited in July 1917, in the Fine Art Society of London, and toured the country afterwards. The prints were also on exhibition in France and in the United States.

Charles Shannon, 'The Re-birth of the Arts' (1917)
All prints are reproduced on the website of the National Museum of Wales. The site also contains more background information than the catalogue. Although the prints were shown all over the place, sales were not as hoped for, and in the end a loss was made on the project. 

The museum's set of prints had been in its original mounts for over a hundred years, but now they have been taken out, and restored. Research established that the lithographs were printed on paper with a 'Holbein' watermark. This paper was produced by Spalding and Hodge in Kent.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

164. Only A Picture

Charles Shannon, 'A Portrait of the Artist' (1905): lithograph (Dallas Museum of Art)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

163. A New Biography of Oscar Wilde's Bibliographer

Recently a second biographical sketch of Oscar Wilde's bibliographer, Christopher Sclater Millard (also known as Stuart Mason), appeared. It is written and self-published by Maria Roberts through FeedARead.com Publishing: Yours Loyally


Maria Roberts, Yours Loyally. A Life of Christopher Sclater Millard (2014)
Frankly, the book has all the faults of self-published books: darkly reproduced and mostly unnecessary photographs of buildings (not people), page numbers on title page and blank pages, occasional lapses in the outlining of paragraphs, the absence of a proof reader who might have corrected the misspelling of (Dutch) names (such as Gerrit Groenewergen), and the more annoying references to people's given names, in many places forcing the reader to go back ten or more pages to find out that Charley, Charles, and Alfred, are in fact Charles Garrett, Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff, and Lord Alfred Douglas. Robert Ross, of course, is called Robbie all the time.

Anyway, the only reason to talk about the book is that it includes new information about Millard, who not only compiled Wilde's bibliography, and worked for the Burlington Magazine, acted as Ross's secretary, and became an antiquarian book dealer out of necessity, but pursued the life of a Catholic, a Jacobite, and a homosexual. He was convicted twice for homosexual conduct, and spent six, and later twelve, months in jail.


H. Montgomery Hyde, Christopher Sclater Millard (Stuart Mason). Bibliographer & Antiquarian Book Dealer (1989)
H. Montgomery Hyde's earlier, brief biography concentrated on the bookish side of Millard's life, while Roberts does not seem to know a lot about bibliography, Wilde, or the 1890s in general. She quotes extensively from two sources: letters from Millard to the Wilde collector Walter Ledger, and the correspondence and statements of the Metropolitan Police Officer. These new sources portray the ongoings of Millard in a gay literary circle in London, and are most welcome for the study of the period - I enjoyed reading these gossipy pages. However, they take much more space than Millard's other activities, distorting the picture of a man whose chief merit was his bibliography and other publications about Oscar Wilde. Also, 'could have' and 'perhaps' occur too many times in the book that despite a lack of information fills in the blanks.


Stuart Mason (C.S. Millard), Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (1914)
Roberts talks about 'Charles de Soury [for Soucy] Ricketts on page 106 [and in the index], but seven lines later shortens it to 'Charles'. Charles Ricketts's and Charles Shannon's names are listed among the acknowledgements in Millard's bibliography. Millard visited Ricketts in order to find out more about Wilde's books that he and Shannon had designed for Wilde. On 15 November 1912 Millard wrote to Walter Ledger: 'I am going to see him one day soon [...] And will let you know if I can get any information out of him.' Millard thought that he knew more about Ricketts's drawings 'than he knows himself!' (p. 105-106). The outcome of the meeting remains unrecorded, although the bibliography contains details that Millard could only have heard from Ricketts and Shannon. 

On 2 January 1919 Millard wrote to Ledger that the bibliography should have been produced in a limited edition of five hundred copies, as the publisher - after selling most copies - used the unsold gatherings as packing paper. For the binding Millard reproduced the three roundels that Ricketts had designed for Wilde's collected works that were published in 1908. Roberts does not mention this. She seems to think that only 80 copies of these works were published (page 88); of course, besides 80 deluxe copies in vellum bindings, 1000 copies in buckram were issued.

The information on the personalities from the nineties is shallow and full of mistakes. It is suggested, for instance, that Alexander Teixeiro de Mattos was introduced into a circle of former friends of Oscar Wilde after his 1900 marriage to Lily Wilde. Of course, he had known them as early as 1891 (when he co-translated with John Gray a novel by the Dutch writer Louis Couperus, Ecstasy), and Wilde himself wrote him a letter in May 1893 (see The Complete Letters). 

Roberts later suggests that John Gray and AndrĂ© Raffalovich were living together in Edinburgh in 1916 when Millard attended mass at Gray's church, but Gray only lived with Raffalovich at No. 9, Whitehouse Terrace in Edinburgh while, nearby, St. Peter's Church and his house were built for him (1905-1907). Another nineties personality, the actor and stage manager Jack Thomas Grein is misnamed John. This kind of errors in a book always makes me nervous: can we trust the quotations from the Ledger letters or the police reports that Maria Roberts presents us in her biography of Millard? Surely, they are revealing and entertaining and absolutely need to be quoted - even though the police reports must be full of biased views and outright lies, - as we now have been presented with a more rounded picture of Wilde's bibliographer. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

162. Ricketts's and Shannon's Collector's Mark

The art historian Frits Lugt (1884-1970) compiled an overview of collector's marks of public and private art collectors, dealers, and printers. The 1956 Supplement to his reference work Les Marques de collections contains two marks for Ricketts and Shannon. A digitized version is available on Delpher, a Dutch website that also contains hundreds of newspapers, and magazines.


Collector's mark of Ricketts and Shannon
One collector's mark of Ricketts and Shannon was used for drawings by Tiepolo, Rubens, Van Dijck, Delacroix, and others left to the Fitzwilliam Museum - these names were mentioned by Frits Lugt who had personally seen the mark on them. The design is of two interlocked 'C's, referring to Ricketts's and Shannon's identical Christian names. The design is similar to that of the binding of Hero and Leander (1894), although the intertwined initials for this book probably stood for the initials of the authors Christopher Marlowe and George Chapman: 'C' and 'G'.


Intertwined 'C' and 'G' on the binding of Hero and Leander (1894)
Another collector's mark - an R and S in a circle - was used for the drawings that were left to the British Museum. This mark was designed by Laurence Binyon when the drawings arrived there.


Laurence Binyon, Collector's mark designed for Ricketts and Shannon

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

161. From the Collection of Messrs Ricketts and Shannon

An advertisement for Old Master Drawings. A Quarterly Magazine for Students and Collectors mentioned that Charles Ricketts was among the collaborators. 


 The Print Collectors's Quarterly, October 1926
Ricketts never wrote an essay for the magazine. However, some of the old master drawings from the collection of Ricketts and Shannon were reproduced in it, and although this must have been the sort of contributions that the magazine solicited from certain collectors, the editor probably expected more from Ricketts's and Shannon's well-known art collection, and may have hoped for a critical essay by Ricketts. Several art works from their collection were reproduced in Old Master Drawings, but the comments were written by other art connoisseurs.


Peter Paul Rubens, 'A Path Bordered by Trees' (from the collection of Ricketts and Shannon)
Plate 12 in volume 2 (June 1927-March 1928) reproduced a drawing by the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) with a commentary by Campbell Dodgson:

The path, bordered by trees and bushes, divides two plots of ground enclosed by a fence loosely built of branches of trees. Narrower paths, opening out of it to left and right, admit to an enclosure which the elaborately pruned fruit-tree on the extreme left proves to be an orchard, and to a corresponding space on the right which is left much more vague. A fresh and charming sketch from nature, masterly in perspective and in the suggestion of atmosphere.

The drawing was on show during an exhibition of Flemish and Belgian Art at the Royal Academy in 1927. Before it came to Ricketts and Shannon, it had been owned by the reverend Thomas Kerrich (1748-1828). In their wills, the artists left the Rubens drawing to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

The catalogue of the Ricketts and Shannon collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, All for Art (1979), written by Joseph Darracott, suggests on the authority of Michael Jaffé, that Rubens may have been inspired for this drawing by Federico Barocci [Il Baroccio] (c. 1526-1612). Rubens owned drawings by Barocci which he had acquired around 1616.

The collection of Ricketts and Shannon contained two Barocci drawings, both figure studies. They owned five drawings and studies by Rubens, all now at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Darracott remarked (in The World of Charles Ricketts, 1980) that their collection contained almost no landscapes, but that the Rubens drawing was a beautiful exception.