Attrib. Marmaduke Cradock, Studies of Poultry - 17th-century pen & ink drawing


An original 17th-century pen & ink drawing, Attrib. Marmaduke Cradock Studies of Poultry.

An intriguing sheet of studies in graphite and black ink attributed to the 17th-century English painter of birds and animals Marmaduke Cradock (1660–1716). This is one of a pair of works attributed to Cradock that we have for sale with the provenance of William Drummond (Covent Garden Gallery, London), the renowned British drawings and watercolours dealer. The card mount bears Drummond's stock number on the verso, whilst its pair bears the inscription 'give to BM' (British Museum) (see our stock number JP-873). There are to date only four known drawings by Cradock, three of which are in the British Museum. All are studies of fowl, relatively small in scale and similarly composed to the present study (see BM 1863,0110.234, 1863,0110.232 and 1863,0110.233, all thought to be Ex. Collection of John Henderson).

Marmaduke Cradock (1660–1716) was born in Somerton, Somerset and moved to London, where he was apprenticed to a house-painter. He was, however, self-taught as an artist, specialising in bird and animal subjects. He depicted individual birds with great accuracy, and studies such as this—likely related to his oil paintings—indicate that he did observe directly from nature. Such authenticity is common in bird paintings of this date, a reflection of an increasing interest in the natural world, and a scientific drive to observe and classify different species. Cradock's work, however, is notable and distinct from many of his contemporaries in that he chose to depict humble native or farmyard species rather than the exotic birds favoured by artists painting for wealthy, courtly patrons. He preferred to work for those who paid him a daily rate, or for dealers, and—according to the antiquarian George Vertue—shunning the direct patronage of ‘Noblemen or Quality … supposing they wou’d confine his genius to their fancy’. As a result, Cradock's work has an accessible and humble appeal, despite his high accomplishment in oil.

Cradock was unlikely to have had access to the private menageries which, for other bird painters, were valuable sources of exotic foreign species. His subjects, such as the chickens in the present drawing, were common in England at the time and easily available to sketch, whether outside London or within the capital. It is also thought that Cradock had mounted stuffed specimens from which to paint, or kept patterns on paper in his studio for re-use, given the recurrence of certain birds and postures in his paintings. Birds mounted with their heads turned back was a common taxidermic device of the period—a posture seen in the studies on the verso of this sheet.

Cradock died in London in 1717. Soon afterwards some of his works were sold at three or four times the price he had received for them in his lifetime. His oil paintings are now found in a number of public collections, including Tate; Dulwich Picture Gallery; National Trust; Museums Sheffield; and Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.

Pen and ink over graphite on laid paper. Sketches recto and verso, as shown. Mounted onto thin backing card with window cut verso.

Inscribed at left edge of backing card and with William Drummond stock number on card verso.
Scattered brown stains to the paper as shown. Please see photos for detail.
11.5cm x 14cm.

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Product code: JP-920

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