K.R. has two pictures of English cows. These, K.R. are not cows, but oxen, The great-celebrated Durham ox, a castrated bull who became universally admired in all Anglophile countries in the early 19th century.
Your mezzotints tell a story of a peculiar English, early Victorian, way of treating people and other animals. This theme is the concept of breeding: pedigree, circa 1804, the year the great ox was carted all over Britain to thousands of agricultural shows. 1804 was also the year Wordsworth wrote I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.
The Durham ox perhaps wished to be lonely as a cloud, but he was painted by scores of artists: in 1801 by George Cuit of Richmond (the ox was five years old), then painted by John Boultbee in 1802, and by George Garrard, from which artist K.R.’s print was copied. The inscription reads, “To the Right Honorable Lord Somerville President of the Board of Agriculture, this plate of a Holderness Cow is respectfully dedicated by the Lordship’s obliged humble servant George Garrard.” In 1802, 2000 prints of this beast sold to the English public, as well as porcelain and stoneware emblazoned with his image. Staffordshire created an entire blue and white table service.
The ox represented the pinnacle of breeding, a new science of the time. Born in 1796, he was the third generation bred for “type,” the Shorthorn. To show the superiority of science over raw nature, the ox was bred for massive proportions. He weighed over 3800 pounds, the weight of an average American car. He had the rectangular silhouette of a boxcar. The “ideal” type lives with us still in such animal venues as the Westminster Dog Show. The Durham ox had the “it” factor so sought after at the aforementioned dog show for each particular breed. In the case of the Durham ox, the “it” factor attracted artists painting his bulky likeness.
As a genre, portraits of stock animals, ad nauseam, were an English passion. This was an era when the gentleman farmer represented the top of the English class system embodying the “scientific” principles of husbandry. The best of all breeds was termed the “improved” breed. Another famous painting of the white ox by William Ward states, “The Imperial Tees Water Breed by John Nesham, Esq. Bred and fed of Houghton Le Spring.” How beasts were sired was important as well as what they imbibed. Nature could be manipulated.
Proof of this manipulation of farm animals was the thousands of English prints from the early 19th century, not photomechanical reproductions from the 20th century, which can be worth a bundle. K.R. has two prints, one, a Holderness Ox, and one, a Durham White Ox by William Ward, both after Garrard, at 23” x 18” each. K.R. writes that The Museum of English Rural Life is interested in acquiring the Holderness Ox print, dedicated to Lord Somerville. He asks about the process.
First, K.R. must look at the paper to establish the age of this print. It should be “laid,” little lines formed by wires of the screen through which the paper is sieved. In good condition and the paper white, Christies sold such a Garrard Ox print for $3,300. Secondly, K.R. has to come up with a price. Let the museum know he's done his research and knows the fair market value around $3000.
They will respond in one of two ways. No, we do not buy, we accept tax-deductible donations only. Or, yes, we buy, but that figure is too much. Then the negotiations can begin. K.R. pays for the shipping, insurance (at $3,000) and is beholden to a museum inspection before he sells. He should ask for a contract of artwork lent “on approval” to the museum and look it over with his attorney carefully. K.R.’s other option is to offer it to Christies which has a record of selling prints after Garrard. Keep in mind museums may not pay at all or as much as an auction for works of this price range and caliber, but museums honor the donor in their acquisition catalogues. Even though a Garrard print of the ox has sold for around $3000 at auction, there may be no reserve (the price at which an auction house will pull the piece). This means it may sell for whatever the day brings, and then K.R. will pay about 20% of the selling price back to the house. Good Luck with your OX!
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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