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View of Melbourne, Port Phillip (1845)

View of Melbourne, Port Phillip (1845) by LIARDET, Wilbraham Frederick Evelyn (1799 - 1878); LOWRY, Joseph Wilson (1803 - 1879)

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Seller: Douglas Stewart Fine Books
View of Melbourne, Port Phillip (1845)
LIARDET, Wilbraham Frederick Evelyn (1799 - 1878); LOWRY, Joseph Wilson (1803 - 1879)
Douglas Stewart Fine Books (Australia)
Dedicated by permission to His Honor C. J. La Trobe the Superintendent. Published under the Patronage of the Mayor, Burgesses, Merchants & Gentlemen Settlers of the District by their Humble Servant W. E. Evelyn Liardet. Painted by W.F.E. Liardet, Engraved by J.W. Lowry. Engraved Proof lower left. London : Smith, Elder & Co., [1845, and before the addition of the publisher's imprint]. Engraving, 22 x 51 cms, a few areas of light silver fishing to the surface with associated retouching, housed in an antique birdseye maple frame with gilt slip; a very good example. Not only one of the earliest views of Melbourne, but a rare proof printing, being one of the first batch of impressions sent from London to Melbourne subscribers late in 1845.  A fine and rare early panoramic view of Melbourne shown as it was in 1843. This is an optimistic view of the city which in reality was in the grip of an economic slump. A group of indigenous inhabitants is placed in the foreground at a mia-mia, and to the right, on horseback, are three figures: Magistrate Major St John in police uniform, the Governor, Charles La Trobe, and the Mayor, Henry Condell. In the foreground to the lower left is a bounteous field of wheat, with the River Yarra across the background, filled with passenger and trading vessels and many newly constructed buildings, projecting the air of prosperity. In reality, 'by mid-1843 hundreds of houses were empty and many more were occupied by anyone who would care to take them' (Weston Bate, Liardet's views of early Melbourne, 1972, p. 5). The painting by Liardet was taken back to England by Sir John Franklin to be engraved by Lowry. An advertisement in January 1844 announced that copies could be ordered by subscription for the price of a guinea (ibid.). A notice in the Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser (Tue 30 Dec 1845, p. 2) states that 'The view of Melbourne, taken from Emerald Hill, on the South side of the Yarra, by Mr. Liardet, almost two years since, has been engraved in London by a talented artist, and forwarded to this colony by the Royal George.' The Royal George docked in Melbourne in November 1845, making the engraving available to subscribers at the end of that year. Liardet's constant financial troubles are well documented and it would appear the list of subscribers was small. In December 1843 Liardet 'Begs to announce to those gentlemen who have honored him by their signatures to the subscription, to aid him in having his View of Melbourne engraved ... to solicit that they will pay in their subscriptions as soon as possible' (Port Phillip Gazette, 16 December 1843, p. 1), while the Port Phillip Gazette and Settler's Journal indicated 'just a few copies forwarded here by the Royal George' (31 Dec 1845, p. 2). It would appear that the Proof impressions (such as the present example) were sent to Melbourne as soon as finished for the few subscribers who had paid their dues, with the publisher's imprint of Smith, Elder & Co. added to the plate later, for sale into the London market: 'View of Melbourne.— We have been favoured with a sight of Mr. Liardet's view of Melbourne, which being completed is to be sent to England to be engraved, when subscribers will be furnished with a proof plate. The painting reflects great credit on the artist, because it is executed in such a manner as to leave no doubt of its authenticity. The view is taken from the river, and contains the whole line of the town, bearing east and west. We have no doubt the engraving will meet with ready sale in the Mother Country' - Port Phillip Gazette, 13 Sep 1843, p. 1 An engraved key was issued by the publisher which described the buildings and detail of the view; most likely this was completed for the benefit of the London market, and did not accompany the proofs sent back to Melbourne for the local subscribers. As early as 1913 the Liardet view was considered a rarity: 'Specimens of the resulting plate are now rare, but the curious may see a fine example in the Petherick Collection at the Federal Parliament House.' (The Argus, Melbourne, 13 Sep 1913, p.7). Examples are infrequently offered for sale, the most recent being that auctioned in 2020 (Peter Arnold, The Korju collection of Australiana, Melbourne, November 29, 2020, lot 108, $29,950 IBP)