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1857 C. Mottram View of Boston Harbor

Hand Colored Engraving - 28 ½” x 41 ½” (72 cm x105cm) - 3,800.-  (framed)


This panoramic view of Boston Harbor was drawn by J. Hill engraved by Charles Mottram on steel and printed in London. It reveals a busy harbor with ships of all nations and types plying the waters. In the foreground fisherman and dockworkers ply their trade. In the background the Bunker Hill Monument, as well as various church steeples, is clearly visible. This view is dated 1857, but it may have been produced later. Many of Mottram's view plates survived well into the 20th century, including this one, and went through several printings over a long period, often with wide intervals in between. Importantly, the views produce from the various printings are not reproductions, rather they are later restrikes from Mottram's original plates. Since the plate was not modified or updated in any way, determining the exact imprint is all but impossible. None the less this piece is stunning and is in pristine conduction.


Charles Mottram (1807 - August 30, 1876) was an English steel plate, aquatint, and mezzotint engraver active in the 19th century. His work includes a vast corpus of views and illustrations ranging from engraved issues of famous paintings to unique city views. Mottram's work is admired application to steel plates of "sky tints" with the use of a ruling machine. Many of Mottram's plates enjoyed enduring popularity and were reissued well beyond his death into the 20th century.


J.W. Hill (1812–1879) was a British born American artist working in watercolor, gouache, lithography, and engraving. He was the son of British engraver John Hill. He emigrated with his parents from London to the United States in 1819, initially living in Philadelphia. In 1822 the family moved to New York, where Hill apprenticed in engraving in his father's shop. Hill's work focused primarily upon natural subjects including landscapes, still life and ornithological and zoological subjects. In his early twenties Hill began work for the New York State Geological Survey, first creating a series of topographic studies and overhead views of principle American cities and towns. This work was distinct for its accuracy of aerial perspective and recording minute architectural detail. These portraits of urban settlement required frequent travel to observe, sketch, and map before creating finished watercolor studies. The completed watercolors were then recreated as color lithographic art and published by the Smith Brothers, a New York City publisher.





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