POWNALL, After Thomas (1722-1805)
A view in Hudson's River of the Entrance of what is called the Topan Sea. Vue sur la Riviere d'Hudson, de l'entree counue sous le nom de Mer de Topan. Sketch'd on the SPOT by his Excellency Governor Pownal, Painted by Paul Sandby, Engraved by Peter Benazech
London: printed for John Bowles, Robert Sayer, Thos. Jefferys, Carington Bowles and Henry Parker, n.d. . Copper engraving by Peter Benazech, after Pownall. Sheet size: 16 x 22 1/4 inches.
This fine print from the famously rare Scenographia Americana series is after a drawing by Governor Pownall, colonial governor of Massachusetts.
This idyllic scene depicts a portion of the Hudson known as the Tappan Zee, a long widening of the river that occurs about ten miles north of Manhattan. The artist, from a rather high elevation, looks north with the Palisades on his left and the rolling hills of Westchester on his right, where tiny farmhouses are just visible. The contrast between this place as it was and as it is now is, to say the least, astonishing. Published following the conclusion of the French and Indian War, and in a period of great public interest in the American colonies, the Scenographia Americana was the first book dedicated to a large-scale artistic depiction of the American landscape. From the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the West indies, the scenes include locations of battles, views of strategic provincial capitals, and newly secured areas of commercial importance. Just as clear is the celebration of nature's 'astonishingly great' expanse, to cite Pownall, great in width and in height. Here are harbors and rivers, cascades, forests and skies" (Hood). "The Scenographia Americana begins with views from Canada: Quebec City, the Montmorency Falls, Cape Rouge, the Gaspé, Rock Percé, the Miramichi Valley, Montreal, and Louisbourg ... Then follow four views of cities in long-settled British North America: New York (twice), Boston, and Charleston. Next are four views of dramatic river landscapes in New York and New Jersey: the Jersey Palisades, the Catskills as seen from the Hudson, the Great Cohoes Falls on the Mohawk River, and the Passaic River Falls ... The next two prints show the Moravian settlement at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and an imaginary scene of an American farm ... The rest of the series shifts to the Caribbean, with four views of the harbor and city of Havana, two street scenes of Havana, one view of the British attack on Roseau, Dominique, and three scenes around Guadeloupe (one of a battle and two of the British occupation forces) ...." (Crowley). "The work is more than neatly done. All the prints are exceptionally well executed with respect to the original topographic projections as well as in the engraving of the plates. Five print publishers ... were involved in promoting the series" (Deak). "These views are second in quantity only to those that appeared in the Atlantic Neptune ... In quality they are second to none of the eighteenth century productions" (Fowble).