London: William Holland, 1802. Item #04930
Exceptionally Rare and Complete Hand-Colored Panorama/Frieze
Depicting thirty-eight clumsy, ill-matched pairs dancing with as much aplomb as they can manage…
NIXON, John [Colley] A Country Dance. [Designed by John Nixon, Esqr. Lately published]. London: William Holland, [ca. 1802].
Large landscape etching in four pieces with stipple, hand-colored (total size 10 3/4 x 95 inches; 277 x 2420 mm.).
Four sheets 277 x 710, 277 x 418, 277 x 580, 277 x 712 mm.
Folded and backed onto canvas, housed in a gray cloth folder with a gray printed paper label on upper board.
Lettered with the title in open capitals and 'Design'd by John Nixon Esq.r // Lately Published Old Maids of Quality at a Cat's Funeral, 6.0. Grand Procession to St. Paul's, 7,,6,, Pulpit Extravaganzas 7,,6,, Meeting an Old Friend with a new Face 13,, 6,, The Prince's Bow, 13,, 6. English Slavery,, 13,, 6,, A Tale of English Beauties in the East Indies, 6.0 All the Prints, in the Irish Embassy, Sixty three Beauties of Fashion, 7.0. A Grand Cavalcade of French Cuckolds, 2.0. R-l Dipping 3.0. The Amorous Traveller 2.6, &c. &c. // London, Pub.d by W,,m Holland, No. 11 Cockspur Street // [pointing hand] In Holland's Exhibition Rooms may be seen the largest Collection in Europe of Humorous Prints, to which is just added all the Caricatures published in Paris since the Revolution [torn] (1) Shill [torn]'.
An exceptionally rare panorama showing John Nixon's gentle satire. This panorama works as a kind of frieze, showing thirty-eight characters including clumsy, ill-matched pairs dancing with as much aplomb as they can manage, to the dismay of a couple at the far right, whose fashionable taste and breeding is appalled at the spectacle. The viewer, meanwhile, is delighted by the artist's keen observation and subtle mischief: many traditional veins are tapped, such as the artless, grinning youth, the pairing of short and fat with tall and thin and the injured nursing a trampled foot; but types include also the man who cannot enjoy himself and dances down-at-the-mouth, one gamely struggling on despite a sore hip, and the impossibly ungainly but indefatigably enthusiastic women.
This is a rare survival of such material, particularly given that the large landscape format would not have lent it readily to being stored in an album or chest, options for smaller varieties of popular prints, but instead to immediate display. The form was an innovation by Henry Bunbury, whose landscape satire Long Minuet of 1787 proved very popular; this print is one of several which derives directly from it. Bunbury himself must have thought the print significant, since he is pictured completing it in his portrait by Lawrence.
Although the print may date to around 1790, as suggested by Dorothy George in reference to another print published by Holland in 1790 which lists 'Country Dance' among others 'lately published' (1768,0808.5976); yet it could date to more like 1802, when Holland is documented as being at Cockspur street and given the ambiguity of another indication: he advertises a show of all caricatures published 'Since the Revolution', which could conceivably refer to the Peace of Amiens concluded that year.
John Colley Nixon (ca. 1750) - 1818. Nixon signs himself 'Esq.r', signaling his claim to middle-class gentility. He was a merchant, of successful Irish mercantile stock, yet with strong links to artistic and fashionable circles. His brothers Robert and James also dabbled in art and he exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1781-1813. His friends included the topographer and satirist Captain Francis Grose, who accompanied him on one of the frequent trips to Ireland in which he combined business and the pleasures of sketching as he traveled. Like Grose, he turned his hand also to a variety of genres, illustrating Sterne's Tristram Shandy and turning particularly to topography, informed by extensive travels in Britain and on the Continent. His work features in the series Seats of the Nobility and Gentry and he illustrated travel books such as Thomas Pennant's Journey from London to the Isle of Wight. He developed strong ties with that island and would eventually die in Ryde.
William Holland (fl. c. 1759-1815) published many of Nixon's satirical prints. Like other publishers such as Boydell, Holland publicized his wares by mounting them as a kind of exhibition at his premises. Though this is a very innocent print, Holland was not averse to taking risks: he was briefly imprisoned in 1793 for publishing a pamphlet by Thomas Paine, and it has been suggested that he also published under the pseudonyms Paddy Whack and Jacob Douce. The prints listed below A Country Dance appear to fall more within a similarly harmless genre and designed to appeal to that kind of taste, although they include one that cocks a snook at royalty, 'R-l Dipping'. They also include others in this novel landscape format.
OCLC locates just one example - but with only two of the sheets - the first two parts with just the first 23 of the 38 characters (total size 10 1/4 x 54 1/3 inches; 260 x 1380 mm.) at the New York Public Library, NY, USA).