Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Lost Peacock

Not news but worth sharing: the four drawings by Philip Webb made for a tapestry woven by Morris & Co in 1887.  As he often declared, Morris's own talent was for pattern-making, borders and overall arrangement - of windows, pages, tapestries.  Burne-Jones typically drew the figures and Philip Webb's specialty was animals and birds, particularly birds.   He drew splendidly vigorous  cocks, ducks, geese, hens, herons for Morris & Co tiles and glass quarries -  some  for example at Red House.    

Four drawings - of a hare, a lion, a fox and a raven - by Webb made as animal studies for  a tapestry called  The Forest, produced by Morris & Co in 1887 are now in the National Trust's collection at Wightwick Manor outside Wolverhampton.   Four and a half metres wide, and woven at Merton Abbey by William Knight, John Martin and William Sleath, the tapestry is now in the V&A collection but is currently on display at Wightwick also.
The Forest, tapestry, woven wool and silk on a cotton warp, designed by William Morris, Philip Webb and John Henry Dearle, woven at Merton Abbey by William Knight, John Martin and William Sleath, 1887, 121.9 by 452 cm. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London, purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund

The watercolours were originally owned by Laurence W. Hodson, a neighbouring Wolverhampton industrialist t who lived at Compton Hall, which like Wightwick was furnished with Morris & Co. textiles and wallpapers.  The most striking of then is the Raven [top] 

But the Forest shows five creatures - including a peacock which sits at the far left edge opposite the raven, and it is assumed that Webb drew a study for this too.  Now drawings of peacocks were fairly common in the 1880s and 1890s  [I've just seen an Italianate scene by Marie Spartali Stillman that includes three of them]   so Webb's lost peacock may be hiding unrecognised somewhere....  Let's hope so.

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