London: Edward Orme, 1809. First Edition. single sheet. A fine original etching on wove paper, drawn from life and etched by Samuel Howitt, and published and sold by Edward Orme, Printseller to the King [George IV]. Quarto (11.25 x 8.25 inches, 285 x 209 mm). Very light toning to margins otherwise clean.
Samuel Howitt (1756-1822) was a talented self-trained painter and etcher of animals whose work enhanced British animal portraiture and sporting art of the late Georgian Era. As a young man familiar with the ancient woodlands and royal hunting grounds of Epping Forest, Howitt was able to capture the refined essence of the British landscape as a setting in which to render his charming depictions of animals; both wild and tame, foreign and domestic. In addition; inspired by his experiences as a field sportsman, Howitt excelled at the spirited depiction of the hunt.
Although Howitt was a close friend and brother-in-law of the celebrated English artist Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827), Howitt developed and refined his artistic style as a realistic tribute to the animal and nature kingdoms, and remained wholly uninfluenced by the witty, sardonic and bawdy executions of the noted caricaturist Rowlandson.
Howitt's compositions have a singular charm, yet they do reflect a hint of stylistic influence of his esteemed colleague; English wood-engraver Thomas Bewick (1753-1828). Several of Howitt's scenes contain vignettes of common rural life hidden within the composition; a maid feeding hens in the poultry yard, lovely details of staid Georgian cottages and castle ruins in the receding landscape: details which have become hallmarks of Bewick's craft.
It is interesting to note Thomas Bewick began work on his final collection of engravings in 1811 (Fables of Aesop and Others, Pub: 1818) which was the year of publication for this collection of Howitt's etchings of the Fables of Aesop, Gay and Phaedrus. Perhaps a case of mutual inspiration between Bewick and Howitt did exist after all.
Howitt's expressive animal portraits for the fables of Aesop, Phaedrus and Gay are among the finest examples of the earnest personification of animals; with guilt, anger, envy and fear emanating from the incensed Drake, arrogant Baboon and radiant Peacock alike.
From ancient times, the fable was a way of imparting challenging yet well-intentioned advice to your fellow man. If a significant lesson of human vice, virtue or folly was delivered under the guise of an animal action or attribute, it was more likely received, and respected. Even today, Howitt's etchings of these classic fables remain a gentle yet poignant tribute to life's many heartfelt lessons; either anticipated or experienced.
Like much of Howitt's work, these etchings were originally offered both as complete sets and as individual plates without accompanying text, We have nonetheless researched and identified each fable, and here offer the etching and fable complete. (A Hundred Fables of Aesop by Sir Richard L'Estrange. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1922. Siltzer. British Sporting Prints.160-165. Casey Wood, The Literature of Vertebrate Zoology, 392. DNB). Fine Condition. Item #6885
A Wolf came to a Sow that was just preparing to lay down, and very kindly offer'd to take care of her litter. The Sow as civily than'k her for her love, and desir'd she would be please'd to stand off a little, and do her the Good Office at a Distance."
Moral: "There are no snares so dangerous as those that are laid for us under the name of Good Offices."