Edward Lear, View over San Remo from Villa Congreve

Over at the Edward Lear Society website an article appeared on 12 October showing a watercolour picture by Edward Lear of a San Remo view which also includes two figures in the foreground:


It was shown during BBC One’s Antiques Roadshow, season 37 episode 9, originally broadcast on 23 November 2014 ― you can see the program on YouTube (the Lear picture is presented from 36:15), unfortunately in very low resolution, that’s why the picture with the detail below is so bad.

Michael Montgomery, the author of the Society article states that the people portrayed are Walter Congreve and his second wife, who died in November 1870, so that is the year he thinks the picture was made.

I am quite sure that this identification is wrong: in the video clip Walter Congreve’s descendant clearly implies that the two figures are his “grandfather and great-uncle” (while pointing at the picture). Moreover, if you compare this picture:


with the one sold at Bonhams on 24 November, which I had reproduced in a previous post of 3 November, when I did not yet know of the Lear Society article:


it is easy to see that the children are even dressed the same way, the one with the blue jacket presumably being Arnold, the cat-lover. The Antiques Raoadshow picture also includes a dog (bottom right in the detail above) which is not mentioned in the article.

Given the similarities between the two images I would suggest a slightly later date for the watercolour, June-July 1871. After reading Edward Lear’s diary entry for 27 June 1871, I suspect the “sketch of the 2 boys & the Well” is the one that was sold at Bonhams in which an elaborate covered well is represented, while the one that appeared in the TV show was begun on that day:

Rose at 5.30. Wonderfully lovely morning ― clear & fresh.

Marked out more bits of paper for the 120 AT illustrations, & at 8. went to Congreves, & made a sketch of the 2 boys & the Well, for their Aunt, “No doubt” ― (as the Tines say ―) that garden is a wonderful delight ― but I have known no man but Congreve who could have made it such. Bkft. Hubert’s lesson.

Times of 21st. No letters. Can any earthly colors be lovelier than those of sea sky & earth to day? Nor is the sky “Italian blue” ― only, but full of the most exquisite clouds, as indeed for 3 months it has generally been. Worked at the sketch of this morning, & finished ruling & making my 120 ATs. ― At 3― went with Giorgio, to the view I am trying to do for Miss Congreve, but could do but little in watercolor, owing to flies & other bothers. So I shall do a pencil drawing, & a colored one therefrom.

Lear mentions Miss Congreve’s drawing for the next few days, on 1 July “The Congreve drawing prospers,” but he is still working on it on 4 July, and on 5 July he writes “finished ― as I think, Miss Congreve’s drawing.” Then on 7 July he “packed Miss Congreve’s drawing, & later, gave it to her brother.” The next day he “wrote a long letter to Miss Congreve

It would therefore appear that the picture that Congreve’s descendant brought to Antiques Roadshow was made for his ancestor’s sister (this one shows a landscape) and remained in the family, while the other (which has a well but very little landscape) was perhaps kept by Lear and entered the market with the bulk of the other pictures.

[Note, the post initially stated that the article on the Edward Lear Society website was anonymous; thanks to Stephen Duckworth for correcting me – MG]

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2 Responses to Edward Lear, View over San Remo from Villa Congreve

  1. Pingback: J.R. Green on Edward Lear in 1871 | A Blog of Bosh

  2. Pingback: Not by Edward Lear | A Blog of Bosh

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