Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims. Etched by Lewis Schiavonetti and finished by James Heath...
1809. [London: 1809-1817].
925 x 300 mm., with large margins. Recently cleaned, in fine condition.
§ "Much has been written concerning Thomas Stothard’s Pilgrimage to Canterbury and the later, remarkably similar, composition by his one-time engraver, William Blake. This large engraving and the painting upon which it was based were the cause of a permanent rift between William Blake and two of this most important employers, the publisher R.H. Cromek and the artist Thomas Stothard. Indeed, the argument surrounding these men and the subject of the Canterbury Pilgrims has led to lasting academic debate.
Robert Cromek is said to have suggested the subject of the procession of Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims to Thomas Stothard as the subject for a painting in about 1806. In that year Cromek commissioned Thomas Stothard to design a large painting of this subject with the aim of producing the engraving shown here. Thomas Stothard’s painting was completed by 1807 and was an immense popular success. It was exhibited first at Cromek’s house and then went on tour of the British Isles as an advertisement for subscriptions to the projected engraving.
Cromek commissioned Louis Schiavonetti to engrave Thomas Stothard’s composition, but when Schiavonetti died in 1810 he had completed only the etched state of the plate. The copper plate was given to Francis Engleheart to complete, but Cromek’s death in March 1812 again interrupted progress. His widow gave the plate to Niccolo Schiavonetti, Louis’s younger brother, but he too died. The plate was finally completed by James Heath and was published on 1st October 1817." (Campbell Fine Art).
Ref: Shelley M. Bennett, 1988, pp.44-9; R.N. Essick The Separate Plates of William Blake, 1983, p.88. Item #122973