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Title Alpacas
Collection University of Liverpool Art Gallery
Artist Attributed to Agasse, Jacques Laurent (Swiss artist, 1767-1849)
Previously attributed to Ansdell, Richard (British painter, 1815-1885)
Date Earliest about 1812
Date Latest 1840
Description This work is attributed to the Swiss painter of animals Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767-1849), who lived in London from 1800. Here he painted menagerie animals and received a commission from the Royal College of Surgeons for pictures of wild animals. This painting is an interesting document of local entrepreneurialism. At the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held in Glasgow in 1840, Liverpool businessman Mr. W. Danson tried to drum up support for the wide-scale introduction of Alpacas for use in the textile industry. The painting was part of his promotional material.
Current Accession Number 464
Subject landscape; animal (alpaca)
Measurements 65 x 76 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Transferred from The Liverpool Royal Institution, 1948.
Provenance Mr W. Danson by 1840; Royal Institution Liverpool, after 1859 and before 1946.
Principal Exhibitions The Tenth Meeting of the British Association, Glasgow, 1840.
Publications Walton, W., A Memoir addressed to proprietors of mountain and other waste lands, and agriculturalists of the United Kingdom on the naturalization of the alpaca, London, 1841; University of Liverpool, Recorder, October 1982, p. 40, ill.

Front on frame uc plaque, 'The ALPACAS as first Exhibited at the Tenth Meeting of the British Association. Held at Glasgow, 1840'. Unable to examine reverse.

For the context of the painting see 'Transactions: Zoology and Botany: On the Alpaca By Mr. W. Danson' in Report of the 10th Meeting of the British Assoc. for the Advancement of Science held at Glasgow, August 1840, p.131, a report about the Alpacas present in the UK imported into Liverpool and 'upon the present occasion four of the animals were exhibited in the courtyard of the college at Glasgow, and others at the neighbouring Zoological gardens.' Mr Danson commented on the use of the animals for meat and wool.

Danson was from Liverpool, and showed examples of cloth and wool in Glasgow and Aberdeen in 1840 as he was trying to push for their introduction to this country on a widescale basis: see report by R. Edwards, 'Historical Research into The Alpacas, a painting in the collection of the University of Liverpool Art Gallery' dated 25 October 1998, held in the University Art Gallery picture files.

On the exhibition of the picture in Glasgow, see Edwards. Edwards obtained a copy of alpaca references from the J. L. Agasse, Catalogue autographe de son Oeuvre 1800-1849, Ville de Genève, Musée des Beaux-Arts, a handwritten list of paintings by Agasse; a copy of the pages are in the University Art Gallery picture file. According to this document, Agasse only painted Alpacas in 1812, in June and July a Hunting of the Alpaca, and a copy of this work; in October The Alpaca '3/4 length'. Neither description matches the Liverpool painting.

Edwards speculated that Danson may have known Agasse through their connections with William Cross, proprietor of the Surrey Zoological Gardens. Edwards could find no evidence that Agasse had been in Glasgow, although he had exhibited in Liverpool between 1810-1813.

In the 1841 report by Walton, he claims that Danson paid Ansdell to make a painting of the four animals that Danson exhibited in Glasgow in 1840: 'a picture representing a group of four alpacas, in various positions, painted by Ansdell of Liverpool'. Walton also mentions two other paintings of alpacas given by Danson to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and the Polytechnic Institution, Regent Street. The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society owns a painting of four alpacas given to them by a Mr Dawson [sic], which is remarkably similar to the Liverpool work, ill. in E. Moncrieff, History of Farm Animal Portraits, 1996.

In a letter of 28 October 1998, Ann Compton, curator of the University Art Gallery, responded to Edwards that the painting was very unlike Ansdell in style and technique, and that Agasse may have produced the painting from sketches and memory.

In a copy of a letter from the University of Westminster archivist to Edwards dated 3 November 1998, it is reported that the Polytechnic Institute did have a painting by Ansdell of Liverpool, recorded in the 1844 catalogue as 'first exhibited at the British Association, Glasgow, 1841. Deposited by W. Danson Esq.' They also have three items of alpaca material and wool deposited by W. Walton. In a letter of 9 November 1998, Edwards suggested that Ansdell may have copied Agasse's painting.

The work does not appear in T. W. Rathbone, Descriptive and historical catalogue of the pictures, drawings, & casts in the Gallery of Art of the Royal Institution, Colquitt Street, Liverpool, Liverpool, 1859. It does appear in the 'Inventory of the Furniture, Fixtures, Fittings and Pictures on the premises of the Royal Institution, Colquitt Street, Liverpool', May 1946, under 'Pictures in Basement' as 'Framed oil painting '§The Alpacks§', a copy of this Inventory is held at the Art Gallery.

Rights Owner University of Liverpool Art Gallery and Collections
Author Dr Phillippa Plock



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