STONE, Sarah (1761-1844)
London: (ca. 1777-1806). Watercolour on laid paper. Signed "Sarah Stone" at the bottom left corner. Annotated, "La. Syn. 4 p.614" along the top edge. Sheet size: 9 5/8 x 10 3/8 inches.
A fine watercolour of a beautiful specimen of the ‘Turner Pigeon’ by one of the most important British natural history illustrators.
Sarah Stone was a prolific natural history painter who was active in London from 1777 to 1806, known for her exquisite brushwork, adept use of color, and mastery across a diverse array of subjects. Her primary patron was Sir Ashton Lever, for whom she diligently documented an extensive collection of ornithological, zoological, and ethnographical specimens. Ornithological subjects held a special place in Stone's oeuvre, constituting the majority of her known works, with her initial studies dating back to 1777 when she was just seventeen. Stone's meticulous attention to detail is evident in her preference for sized paper, an unconventional practice in British painting at the time, and her use of exceptionally fine brush strokes, sometimes employing brushes with only one or two hairs for the lightest feathers. Her association with the Leverian Museum, which changed ownership in 1786, persisted through the 1780s under James Parkinson. Stone's reputation soared, leading to her pivotal role in illustrating John White's Journal of a Voyage to NSW (1790), establishing her as one of the era's premier natural history painters. Despite limited records after her marriage in 1789, evidence suggests that Stone continued to contribute to prestigious projects, including bespoke artworks for affluent private collectors. Her work is celebrated today for its grace, precision, and significant contributions to the understanding of 18th-century natural history. The contemporary notations on Stone's ornithological drawings contain important information about each subject. The annotations, in many cases, include a citation corresponding to the volume and page number in John Latham's General Synopsis (published between 1781 and 1785). The present image of the "Turner Pigeon" bears the annotation "La. Syn. 4 p.614." Latham does not include the Linnaean classification in his entry of the "Turner Pigeon" neither did Willoughby in his Ornithology with both authors giving similar descriptions of this variant of the pigeon as having a tuft of feathers hanging down backward from the top of the head like the mane of a horse, a feature noticeable in Stone's delicate depiction.
Christine E. Jackson Dictionary of Bird Painters (Woodbridge: 1999); Christine E. Jackson Sarah Stone Natural Curiosities from the New Worlds (London, 1998).