Three detailed bird's-eye view battle scenes from a larger series illustrating the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the English fleet in 1588 in the English Channel near Calais. They were engraved after a set of patriotic tapestries that hung for almost 200 years in the House of Lords. Clement Lemprière made the drawings for the prints, which were engraved and published by John Pine, who was admired in Britain as the foremost heraldic and decorative engraver of his generation. The views incorporate the British coat of arms superimposed in the sky. The borders incorporate portraits of British officers involved in the battles, including Drake, Raleigh, Grenville and Frobisher, and decorative allegorical figures. The central views were engraved and printed separately from the outer baroque border. The engravings were enhanced with mezzotint shading in blue-green ink.
According to the Royal Museums at Greenwich, Pine considered this work important enough to obtain exclusive rights to produce copies of the engravings under the 1735 Engraving Copyright Act. In addition to battle scenes, the set also included maps showing the locations of the ships during different stages of the fight. Lettered on the title page accompanying the original set was the following description:
The tapestry hangings of the House of Lords: representing the several engagements between the English and Spanish fleets, in the ever memorable year MDLXXXVIII, with the portraits of the Lord High-Admiral, and the other noble commanders, taken from the life. To which are added, from a book entitled, Expeditionis Hispanorum in Angliam Vera Descriptio, A.D. 1588, done, as is supposed, for the said tapestry to be work'd after, ten charts of the sea-coasts of England, and a general one of England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Holland, &c. shewing the places of action between the two fleets; ornaments with medals struck upon the occasion, and other suitable devices. Also an historical account of each day's action, collected from the most authentic manuscripts and writers. By John Pine, engraver. London, MDCCXXXIX. Sold by J. Pine in Old Bond Street near Picadilly.
The prints have their origins in a set of drawings by the British artist Robert Adams completed by 1590, illustrating the stages of the battle. These were the source material for Hendrik Cornelius Vroom (c. 1563-1640), who produced the designs for a set of fine tapestries made for Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral of England, who had led the English navy against the Armada. Howard sold the tapestries to King James I in 1616. They hung in the House of Lords until they were destroyed in a fire in 1834. Writing on the Library of Congress web site, scholar Hans P. Kraus noted that Pine's 1739 engravings after the tapestries are important historical documents of the stages of the battle, "as we may be sure that the designs had been examined and approved by Howard."
C. Lempriere was a French draftsman. A ship captain, and apparently a self-taught artist, he drew views of Jersey (in Britain) and Lisbon which were published as engravings. He also collaborated with Hubert-François Gravelot on the drawings for the 16 plates published by John Pine as The Tapestry Hangings of the House of Lords (1739), depicting a 16th-century battle between the British fleet and the Spanish Armada. In addition, he illustrated another series of naval battles engraved by W.H. Toms.
Hubert-François Gravelot, a French illustrator, engraver, painter and draftsman was born Bourguignon and adopted the name Gravelot as a young man. The first 30 years of his life were unpromising, marked by episodes of irresponsible behavior and a failed business venture in what is now the Dominican Republic. Returning to Paris around 1729, he took an assortment of designing jobs. His turning point came in 1733, when he was invited to London to assist in the engraving of plates after Bernard Picart for Cérémonies Religeuses. He established himself in London, publishing a treatise on perspective, opening a school of design on the Strand, and becoming a leading caricaturist and a successful illustrator. He became a close friend of William Hogarth and helped him engrave his first plates. He was also the first to recognize Thomas Gainsborough's talent. When war broke out between France and England, the political situation forced him to return to Paris. From 1754 on, he remained there. Gravelot's works include illustrations for The Churches and Antiquities of the Earl of Gloucester, Theobold's Shakespeare, Rousseau's Nouvelle Héloise, editions of Boccaccio, Corneille, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Racine, and many more.
John Pine was born in London and spent his life there. Described as a cheerful, heavy-set man, he achieved remarkable success and recognition both in his career and socially, becoming London's finest heraldic and decorative engraver and producing numerous book illustrations, including his masterpiece -- an edition of the works of Horace (1733-37) in which he engraved both the text and the exquisite illustrations. It has been said that Pine was the first black man in England to join the Masons. According to Dr. Andrew Prescott, a Masonic scholar at Sheffield University in the U.K., while some, including Pine's descendants, believe he was of Moorish ancestry, there is no clearcut evidence available at this time. However, Pine was indeed active as a freemason, responsible for engraving the annual List of Lodges from 1725 to 1741 as well as The Book of Constitutions, and the social connections resulting from his association with Freemansonry brought him important commissions which advanced his career, as well as subscriptions from prominent men to underwrite his Horace project. Among his close friends was the painter William Hogarth. According to Dr. Prescott, "one of John Pine's greatest qualities was the way in which he was able to blend the artistic skills, the business sense and the sheer social networking which was necessary to be a successful artist in eighteenth-century London." Pine is listed in the British Dictionary of National Biography.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual light overall toning and wear. Creases from vertical center folds, as issued. Margins slightly soiled. Later color, but apparently with good age.
Arrington, Keith. "The First Black Mason." Phylaxis Society: c. 1974-75.The Dr. Charles H. Wesley Masonic Research Society.http://www.phaohio.org/chwmrs/fbm.html (21 March 2002).
Bénézit, E.Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs.France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 5, p. 508 (Lempriere).
Kraus, Hans P. "The 'Invincible' Armada, 1588." fromSir Francis Drake: A Pictorial Biography.Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.25 October 2005.
http://www.loc.gov/rr/rarebook/catalog/drake/drake-8-invincible.html (11 January 2006).
Prescott, Andrew. "John Pine (1690-1756): Engraver and Freemason." Presented at the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre 2001 Conference: The Visual Arts and Freemasonry. Canonbury Tower, Islington, London: November 3-4, 2001.
Prescott, Andrew. "Re: Question about John Pine, Mason and Engraver." E-mail to Helen Glazer. (21 March, 2002).
"The tapestry hangings of the House of Lords" British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1637474&partId=1&people=5012&peoA=5012-1-2&page=1 (23 June 2015).
"The 'Tapestry Hangings of the House of Lords.'" Royal Museums Greenwich. http://www.rmg.co.uk/researchers/collections/by-type/archive-and-library/item-of-the-month/previous/the-'tapestry-hangings-of-the-house-of-lords' (23 June 2015).