Edward Lear, View of the Castello Caetani and the hill-town of Sermoneta (1872)

Edward Lear, View of the Castello Caetani and the hill-town of Sermoneta, Lazio, Italy.
Signed and dated ‘Edward Lear. del. 1872./(Feb 3. 1840)’ (lower left). Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour, heightened with touches of bodycolour. 6 1⁄2 x 10 1⁄8 in. (16.5 x 25.7 cm.)

Provenance
Anonymous sale; Bonhams, London, 7 June 2005, lot 75.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 5 June 2007, lot 133, where purchased by the present owner.

This view through the olive groves shows the 13th century castle which was built by the Caetani family to cement their hold over the surrounding countryside. Dominating the medieval hill-town of Sermoneta, the castle was taken from the Caetani in 1500 by Pope Alexander VI, who had it fortified by his son Cesare Borgia, and gave it to his daughter Lucrezia. The composition of a fortified building seen through trees from afar, with figures in the foreground, was also used by Lear for his depiction of the Citadel of Corfu.
With financial backing from Lord Derby, Lear set out for Italy in the summer of 1837. For most of the next ten years Lear wintered in Rome and toured other parts of Italy in the summer.

Christie’s.

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Letters to the Caetani Family (2)

[This is part of a series of previously-unpublished letters to Margaret Knight, who was married to Michelangelo Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta, and to Ada Bootle-Wilbraham, married to Onorato Caetani, Michelangelo’s son, Prince of Teano and then Duke of Sermoneta.
The letters are in the Caetani Archive, Palazzo Caetani, via delle Botteghe Oscure 32, Roma.
An Italian version will appear as an Appendix to my essay “Prima di Gregorovius: Edward Lear, i Caetani, e Ninfa” in a forthcoming volume: Michael Matheus (ed.) Ninfa: Percezioni nella scienza, letteratura e belle arti nel XIX e all’inizio del XX secolo. Regensburg: Schnell & Steiner.
See the main page for the collection.]

Villa Emily.     San Remo

12. May.1871
(which I am 59 years old today.)

 

Dear Duchess of Sermoneta,
I meant to have written more than I now can do in answer to your’s of the 30 April ― but I have just now heard from Guidi the Photographer here that he is sending a Copy fo his very beautiful Photograph Flora of San Remo to some public Institution at Florence, & that he will kindly get my little book Conveyed to you.
So I sent it, addressed to the Duke; & beg you will write to poor Charley, ― or send it to him when you can. As this opportunity has occurred suddenly, I have thought it best to avail myself of it at once, ― rather than wait till you send me Charley’s address. I shall be very glad to hear where he is: what sad trouble they have ―― all besides his dreadful state of health. I trust his little girl is better, & shall be much obliged by your letting me know.
Thank you for Miss Helen’s address.
I dare say you were quite right about Mrs. Caldwell. If one had to live over again, (let me be thankful ― one hasn’t!) one would try to see into more amiable eyes.
Don Michele is of very great use to his country. Blind, & no longer young, he sets an example to those who have youth & all their faculties, who may learn that position in social life is not without its duties, nor can they be put aside without damage occurring to the whole machinery.
I suppose the little boy you speak of is son of P. Teano & Miss Wilbraham that used to be ― or you mean Mme Lovatelli’s son.[1]
I delight in the [the] R.C. deputation’s disappointment at no stones being thrown at them![2] Why didn’t they hire some gamins to pelt them right & left & then say it was our sods did it?
We (we agriculturists!) here discuss what you are to plant all over the Campagna.

Pepper trees ―

Castor oil ―

Wheat ―

beans ―

Tobacco ―

Rice ―

(& for ought I know gooseberries.)

Please let me know, where do you pass the summer? Have you rooms at the V. Taverna now? I wish Charles could come & join you.
I write in gt. hurry: & must go & work at Lord Derby’s picture.
Besides, the door has been opened, & a blue-bottle-fly has come in, which obliges me to sign myself,

Your’s sincerely
Edward Lear.

Please read all my book: & read what you like of it to the Duke if he has time to hear nonsense.
Please let me know (as the Irishman said,) if you don’t get the book or this letter.

(exact proportions of blue-bottle-flies at San Remo.)

_____

[1] Mme Lovatelli was Michelangelo Caetani’s daughter, Ersilia Caetani, married to Count Giacomo Lovatelli.
[2] Probably a deputation sent by the Curia Romana to discuss the “legge delle garentigie” (Law of Guarantees: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Guarantees regulating the relations between State and Church) that would be passed by the Italian State on 13 May 1871.

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Letters to the Caetani Family (1)

[This is part of a series of previously-unpublished letters to Margaret Knight, who was married to Michelangelo Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta, and to Ada Bootle-Wilbraham, married to Onorato Caetani, Michelangelo’s son, Prince of Teano and then Duke of Sermoneta.
The letters are in the Caetani Archive, Palazzo Caetani, via delle Botteghe Oscure 32, Roma.
An Italian version will appear as an Appendix to my essay “Prima di Gregorovius: Edward Lear, i Caetani, e Ninfa” in a forthcoming volume: Michael Matheus (ed.) Ninfa: Percezioni nella scienza, letteratura e belle arti nel XIX e all’inizio del XX secolo. Regensburg: Schnell & Steiner.
See the main page for the collection.]

Margaret Knight drawn by Franz Nadorp (on p. 55 of Isabella Knight’s commonplace book, British Museum, Prints and Drawings, 1938,0514.1.1– 41).

Answered.[1]
Villa Emily.     San Remo.
[The “Emily” is my sister Sarah’s grand-daughter ― my grand=niece.]

16. April. 1871.

Dear Duchess of Sermoneta,
Your letter of January 13 ought, I well know, to have been answered before now, but I don’t think it is worth making a lot of apologies to one who maybe saw my not writing I am sure would not attribute my non-writing to neglect. Yet I may say that ― (as people say ― of the season at Watering places,) “this has been an exceptional year” ― & I seem to have ^[had] nothing to do but to write letters, 408 of wh. I actually stamped with Italian Franco-bolli last year, ― whereby am I not a good Italian subject? (Bye the bye a German Lady or Gerwoman came into the Tobacconist’s where I buy mine yesterday & said, “Datemi un Franco bollito e subito!” ―) Then, the constant going to & fro from S. Remo lodgings to my new house here, & 3dly my waiting for a book I want to send to Charley[2] ―― all this, added to hard work in painting to keep my head above water, ― makes a sufficient bunch of apology, even if you needed any. (And I have left out the move up into & “fixing” in my new house.)
Charles wrote me a letter, dated January 2, which was a great pleasure to me: ― I had no idea till I received it how terribly ill he still was. And now I want you kindly to write & tell me if he is still at Geneva, & also his exact address ― for, bless the boy, he hasn’t put it in his letter at all. The copy of my “Nonsense Prose, poetry, & Alphabets”[3] has only just come out, & I want his children to have it. But I do not feel sure that he is still at Geneva; nor, if I learn he is, am I at all sure of how I can send it. I wish I could send you a copy, but I have none, nor does the book bring me any profit, so that I should have copies of my own ― for although it has gone to a sale of 3000 in 3 months, & has been reviewed in all sorts of ways, the expense of getting it up, woodcuts &c., swallows all the profit, & I am lucky in not having any debt over & above. (One reviewer calls me, “a pure benefactor of the human race,” another says ― “for true fun, Mr. Lear stands at the summit of humanity.” ― (Appropriate proverb, ― “fine words butter no parsnips.”) ― Will you, if you write to Charley, say that I have not answered his letter for these 2 reasons; first, it contained no address & I had lost or mislaid that you gave me: 2dly I waited for the book. And give my kind regards to him & Mrs. Charles. I will write to him, directly I hear from you. ― Another old Roman friend I see is gone: Mrs. Caldwell. I believe you & Isabella liked her ― & possibly she was a kind-hearted person: but she always seemed cold & antipatica to me. I pity poor Col. Caldwell: & after all, I could hardly judge much of Mrs. C., & moreover was always a crotchety cross-grained brute myself, so I don’t see why she should have been pleasant to me if she could have avoided being so. I suppose they are very Papaline: but I cannot fancy your not seeing much of them if they are still there, for they were always fond of you all, & particularly of Miss Isabella, whose death even now I cannot thoroughly realize, ― so vivid an impression did her character leave on the minds of those who knew her. When I begin to write to you, so much “crops up” as to memory (to use a geological expression,) that I go on without stopping, & possibly leave out all I most want to say. I should like to see you & Don Michele again. His exertions ― at his age, & afflicted as he is, will endear his memory to Italians: I suppose his ^[general] health generally is pretty good, or he could not do so much. I am sorry to know from your letter that your own health is always so comfortless. It has however this bright side, that such constitutions live frequently to gt. old age ― which if you do, it will be all the better for those who are around you, ― always ^[supposing] if you suffer less rather than more in years to come. I should like to know where Mme Kanitz is ― wh. was Miss Helen.[4] It’s odious to think how lonely & scattered the friends of earlier days become ―: you, I think are among the happiest, ― having so many you care for. I hope Charley’s children will be a comfort to him. As for me I am like a Pelican in the wilderness or an Owl in the desert,[5] ― or, as I really once heard a Devonshire parish clerk say, ― “I am become as a Pilgrim in the wilderness, with Oil for his Dessert.” ―― Have you met with a Mr. Montrith at Rome? He came to me here from Professor Lushington, & is a friend of many of mine, A. Tennyson &c. &c. But he is pro=papal to an indefinite amount, so tho’ well known in certain circles in Rome, you may know him not after all. I cannot but hope that all this downfall of French power will work well for Italy in the long run. And anyhow, even their enemies must (or should) allow that the Italians have acted well & wisely throughout this wretched year, or half year past. I am much more sensible than I was, of the difficulties of Italo=Roman politics, & confess that I rushed in where angels &c. I have left little space for myself or my doings ― the less the better. I have moved into my new house, wh. is beautiful to behold, & really well built, though large for what I want, ― but I had to think of what would sell if I couldn’t manage to live in it. My painting room is perfect & I suppose unique, & painting is really fun in it, so good the light ― so large the space. Besides doing a painting of Corfù for Lord Derby, & one smaller for Lushington, I am at work on one of the Campagna from Cervara, & am daily carried away to those places; ― on the hill sides I make the Villas of Poli ― the heights of Guadagnolo, the slopes & incidents of Tivoli; ― on the plain, the towers by the Anio, Lunghezza &c. &c. I must really try & do a small work on the Campagna before I exit ― for none living or dead have collected such material. I am also going on with 112 (!!!) illustrations of A. Tennyson’s poems ― all landscapes descriptive & poetical. So you see at nearly 59 I have a deal of energy if not of common sense, left me.
Meanwhile, the old servant who has come with me going on 16 years makes me very decently comfortable, & as yet I have not begun to eat the mice & snails. Later I trust to get somewhere southward in Italy ― but all is more or less uncertain. Please give my best remembrances to the Duke, ― and hoping to hear from you very soon with Charley’s address, ― believe me,

Dear Duchess of Sermoneta,
Your’s sincerely,
Edward Lear.

One would like to live in Rome if the climate weren’t so beastly. Yes I say, Beastly: for it is so. Here, except 2 months bad weather, we have been always fine.

Michelangelo Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta, Margaret’s husband from 1854.

_____

[1] In a different handwriting, probably by Margaret Knight.
[2] Charles Knight, brother of Margaret. He travelled with Lear in the Abruzzi in 1842.
[3] Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets, 1871.
[4] The youngest of the Knight sisters, who in 1860 had married Karl Friederich Ernst von Canitz und Dallwitz, Prussian envoy in Naples.
[5] Psalm 102.6: “I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert” (KJV).

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Edward Lear, Philae (1854)

Edward Lear, Philae, Egypt, 1854.
Pen and brown ink and watercolour. 294 by 492 mm.

Mutualart.

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Edward Lear, Mt. Etna (1847)

Edward Lear, Mount Etna, Sicily.
June 1847. Pen and brown ink and wash over pencil; 243 by 403 mm.

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Edward Lear, On the Nile, opposite El Ouasta (1867)

Edward Lear, On the Nile, opposite El Ouasta, Egypt
January 1867. Pen and brown ink and watercolour, heightened with white; 62 by 206 mm.

Mutualart.

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Edward Lear, Flora (1831)

Edward Lear, Flora.
Watercolour over pencil on paper; signed lower left: E Lear., dated lower right: 1831., inscribed with title lower centre. 264 by 212 mm.

Provenance
With Davis Galleries, New York;
sale, London, Christie’s, 25 April 1995, lot 131,
where acquired by the late owners

During the early 1830s Lear was much preoccupied with the study of animals and birds. His most celebrated work in this area was his Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots which contained forty-two hand coloured lithographs after his watercolours.
For a similar watercolour of the same scale, date and style of inscription see Lear’s Javanese Peacock, now held in the Houghton Library, Harvard University.1

1. V. Noakes, The Painter Edward Lear, London 1991, p. 33.

Sotheby’s.

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Edward Lear, Karnak (1854)

Edward Lear, Eygpt; ‘Karnak’.
Pen, ink and watercolour. Signed, inscribed and dated, ‘Feb 15 1854’. 6×19.5 inches. Framed: 27.5×14.5 inches.

Provenance
Sir Eric Maclagan and by descent; A and H, 2013; a private collection.

Abbott and Holder.

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R. Gaetano’s Books on Edward Lear’s Calabria

Raffaele Gaetano has just published his third book on Edward Lear, Cronache di un viaggio a piedi nella Calabria del 1847. After his Per la Calabria selvaggia: 109 disegni inediti di Edward Lear. Dalla Collezione della Central Library di Liverpool, in which appeared the previously unpublished Calabrian sketches preserved at the Liverpool Central Library, this one in part takes up the discourse begun with Senza ombre di cerimonie. Sull’ospitalità nei «Diari di viaggio in Calabria» di Edward Lear, which presented several of the people Lear stayed with during his tour, and expands it to include many more people and places, as well as reproductions of sketches and paintings from the Houghton Library archives and present-day photographs of the places he visited. Gaetano follows Lear’s narrative day by day and provides a wealth of information on all aspects of life in the Calabria of the mid Nineteenth century.

Per la Calabria selvaggia, which was originally released in a limited edition has now been republished by Laruffa and, along with this latest volume, will soon be available on Amazon Italy.

Raffaele will be  presenting his books in Reggio Calabria on 20 July and in Palmi on 11 August.

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Edward Lear: Wandering Nonsense Man

Join Poet in the City for a night of poetry and discussion as we celebrate and explore the poetry of Edward Lear, hearing from contemporary poets and writers inspired by the lasting legacy of his sparkling wit and absurd imagination.

Edward Lear: Wandering Nonsense Man will take place at Wilton’s Music Hall, Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB on 11th July, 2022 at 7:30pm, featuring Sara Lodge, Michael Rosen and Lisa Dwan. More information and updates.

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