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View, Washington, D.C., U.S. Capitol Design, Antique Print, 1825

$5,250

Benjamin H. Latrobe (1764-1820) (after)
Thomas Sutherland (1785-1838) (engraver)
Capitol of the U.S. at Washington. From the Original Design of the Architect. B.H. Latrobe, Esqr.
R. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, London: January 1825
Hand-colored aquatint
Paper watermarked: Whatman Turkey Mill 1824
18.5 x 25.25 inches, image and text
20.5 x 27.5 inches, overall

Rare and important view of architect Benjamin H. Latrobe’s design for the reconstruction of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., published in England in 1825. Horse-drawn carriages make their way along the road and pedestrians stroll on the lawn in front of the building. The engraving is executed in delicate pastel colors, with a neoclassical sensibility. Another example of it is in the collection of the New York Public Library and is featured in Gloria Gilda Déak’s two-volume work Picturing America: 1497-1899.

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Description

The original Capitol was set afire and damaged by the British during the War of 1812. Eventually Latrobe was engaged to produce a plan to restore the building’s exterior, and this engraving is based on his own drawing. Unbeknownst to the engraver, however, the original Latrobe design was never fully actualized. Déak explains:

“[Benjamin H. Latrobe’s] plan for the exterior restoration of the Capitol is what we see in the aquatint executed by Thomas Sutherland. Latrobe resigned in the midst of reconstruction following difficulties he encountered with Washington officials. A good portion of his design was carried out, but the exterior was not rehabilitated as Sutherland had represented it on the plate. Charles Bullfinch, successor to Latrobe as Architect of the Capitol, significantly altered his predecessor’s plans. Sutherland, an English engraver who had not gone to Washington for the execution of his aquatint but had based it on an early Latrobe drawing, was unaware of the extensive changes that had been made.”

Déak, pp. 206-07.

Thomas Sutherland was a prolific English engraver, primarily known for his separately issued sporting prints of horses, coaches and hunting scenes after artists such as Henry Alken, J.F. Herring, and James Pollard; topographical plates; and illustrations for the book trade. By 1804 he was signing his engravings and shortly thereafter was employed by London publisher Rudolph Ackermann, where he engraved plates for Microcosm of London (1808) and Westminster Abbey (1812). He also engraved most of the plates in James Jenkins’ Martial Achievements (1814) and Naval Achievements (1816) and served as the chief engraver on William Henry Pyne’s History of the Royal Residences (1819). During the 1820s he engraved landscape views for a variety of “picturesque tour” books showing diverse locales in Europe, South America and the Caribbean.

Ackermann & Co. was a prominent British publisher and printseller. The firm was founded by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834), publishing as R. Ackermann from 1795 to 1829. Ackermann was born in Germany and came to England in the 1780s. He pioneered lithography in Britain (though frequently working with color-printed etchings and aquatints), and became a leading publisher of fine colorplate books, decorative prints and magazines, as well as sheet music of the Regency period. In 1797, Ackermann relocated the business premises to 101 Strand, which were known by 1798 as “The Repository of Arts,” also the title of a periodical with a large number of prints that he published from 1809 to 1828. As suggested by the full title of the publication, Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, the subject matter of the Repository was wide ranging. Among the most influential and popular images in the series were studies of Regency decorative arts, interior design and fashion, as well as various city and country views. Ackermann was a major patron of British artists and designers, notably the famous caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), whose works were featured in the famous set of London interiors and exteriors entitled Microcosm of London (R. Ackermann, London, 1808-10). Ackermann also manufactured and sold art supplies. In 1829, Rudolph transferred the business to three of his sons, who traded as Ackermann & Co. from 1829 to 1859. The business continued until the end of the 20th Century, last operating as Arthur Ackermann and Son (with offices in the 20th Century in London, Paris, Chicago and New York).

The Whatman paper company began in Kent, England, in 1740, when James Whatman married Ann Harris, a widow who had inherited Turkey Mill, a paper mill begun by her deceased husband. Whatman perceived an opportunity to produce fine paper for the British market, which at the time imported its high-quality paper from France and Holland. By the early 1750s, he built a thriving business and in 1756 introduced the major technical innovation of “wove” paper, which remained the smoothest available sheet for the next 30 years. After Whatman’s death in 1759, his son, also named James, took over and expanded the business with a similar ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. In 1794, he sold the business, which continues to manufacture paper today, although during the 20th century the Whatman company shifted its emphasis from fine art papers to producing paper filters for scientific and industrial applications.

Full publication information: R. Ackermann’s, 101 Strand, London.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual light overall toning and wear. Tear to right center extending a few inches into image is professionally restored, and not noticeable under ordinary inspection.

References:

Deák, Gloria Gilda. Picturing America. Princeton University Press: 1989. Item 306.

“History.” Whatman. 2005. http://www.whatman.com/about/?pageID=2.3.133 (21 December 2005).

Mackenzie, Ian. British Prints: Dictionary and Price Guide. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors Club, 1987. pp. 308-309 (Sutherland).

Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. U.K.: Devon Library and Information Services. 24 January 2005. http://www.devon.gov.uk/etched?_IXP_=1&_IXR=111144 (4 May 2007).

“Rudolph Ackermann.” National Portrait Gallery. May 2007. http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?LinkID=mp06540 (4 May 2007).”Thomas Sutherland.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/08/0824/T082474.asp (21 December 2005).

Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol. 5, p. 145.

Additional information

Century

19th Century