Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Ill Met by Moonlight

The new edition of the Cherryburn Times (Volume 5, number 8) presents a rare scoop: the discovery and identification of a previously unknown watercolour by John Bewick.

"The three main figures are unambiguously villainous. The one on the left is seated on the ground, loading his pistol, ramming a wad down the barrel; on his right on the ground is a gunpowder pouch and on the ground by his knees is a cudgel. His top hat is at a rakish angle on top of unkempt hair. The man standing next to him on his left is holding his right hand to his ear with his left hand on the shoulder of the first figure in a warning gesture, as if he has heard the coach approaching. His head is turned to his left, listening, but his eyes are looking meaningfully down right. Under his left arm is a cudgel and in his left coat pocket the handles of two pistols are seen; his hat is lying on the ground in front of him. The third figure is a one-eyed man with a broad-brimmed hat stooped, perhaps on his knees, rummaging through a long bag, his head turned to his right. The men are footpads rather than highwaymen (who would normally be mounted). The trees in the centre and right are depicted with thick, bunched foliage somewhat like broccoli. The whole scene is suffused with threat and criminal intent – the expressions on the faces of the three main figures are nasty and brutish."

Playfully named "Ill-met by Moonlight" by the editor of the Cherryburn Times, the watercolour measures 158mm x190mm and is owned by a private collector.

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