London: William Holland, 1797. Item #05543
A Medley of Characters
A Wonderful 'Frieze' by John [Colley] Nixon
NIXON, John [Colley] A Medley of Characters. Drawn by J. Nixon, engraved by Ziegler. London: William Holland, [31, January 1797].
Oblong quarto (28 1/2 x 10 7/8 inches; 276 x 723 mm.). Large landscape hand-colored aquatint engraving on four sheets. Total size 10 3/4 x 114 inches; 277 x 2892 mm.
Four numbered sheets, all with "Drawn by J. Nixon Esq.r' / A Medley of Characters / Engraved by Ziegler / London Pub. by Willm. Holland Cockspur Street". Small closed tear to blank margin of first plate not affecting image; neatly repaired 3 1/8 inch tear to lower right hand edge just touching image, otherwise an excellent complete suite of this exceptionally rare panorama showing John Nixon's gentle satire.
This panorama works as a kind of frieze, showing fifty-six characters including "A Whip Seller in Belfast"; "Ascot Heath Races"; "Enfield Races"; "An Irishman coming from Market"; "At a sale of Pictures" and "At a Concert".
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 prints may date to around 1797, as suggested by William A. Gordon in his British Caricature (no. BC-3) his example gives the place of publication as Oxford Street - our example with the place as Cockspur street most likely dates to around 1802, when Holland is documented as being at Cockspur street.
OCLC & KVK locate no examples in libraries and institutions worldwide.
Plate 1. "A Stick & Whip Seller in Belfast/Ascot Heath Races June 1791/Enfield Races Aug. 1791" (5 images) (10 figures)
Plate 2. " (10 images) (25 figures)
Plate 3. "An Irishman coming from Market" (9 images) (11 figures)
Plate 4. " At a sale of Pictures / At a Concert" (9 images) (10 figures)
John Colley Nixon (ca. 1750) - 1818. "Nixon was a wealthy amateur caricaturist who flourished in the 1780s and 1790s. He was a close friend of Thomas Rowlandson, and regularly socialized with his circle, including Henry Angelo, the actor Jack bannister, JohnWolcot (Peter Pindar), and the well-known art collector Matthew Mitchell." He signed 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.
Gordon. British Caricature BC-3. (Oxford Street, 1797).