Sir Walden Hanmer's monument in Simpson Church, Buckinghamshire
Charles Heathcote Tatham (1772-1842)
Pen and ink with traces of pencil on wove paper, 247 x 322 mm (drawing), 358 x 522 mm (sheet), mounted on larger sheet 454 x 644 mm. Unframed.
Higher res images available on request.
WHAT'S THE STORY?
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Charles Heathcote Tatham’s volumes of published etchings in his distinctive outline style were among the most influential publications of Regency England, used by leading architects, designers and craftsmen. This newly-identified drawing is a preparatory drawing for an etched plate of a funerary monument sculpted by John Bacon, RA in 1789. No other such drawings are known to have survived, and its discovery implies that Tatham was preparing a further volume for publication, one which never came to fruition, but was intended to showcase the neoclassical sculpture of his contemporaries.
Tatham achieved moderate success as an architect, training initially (but unhappily) under Samuel Pepys Cockerell, and later (successfully) in the office of Henry Holland, with whom he worked on Carlton House, Woburn Abbey, and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, among other prestigious commissions. His later solo commissions included sculpture and picture galleries at Castle Howard, Yorkshire and Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire and various small buildings, mausolea and alterations for wealthy and aristocratic clients.
However, it was through his published engravings of antique fragments and neoclassical designs that Tatham achieved his most lasting impact. In 1794, Holland encouraged the nineteen-year-old Tatham to travel to Rome to complete his architectural education (while also sourcing and dispatching designs, casts and original pieces back to his master in England). Tatham spent two years in Rome, drawing the architecture and antiquities he encountered. On his return, they were published as Etchings of Ancient Ornamental Architecture (London, 1799-1800). An impressive list of subscribers supported its publication, of whom nearly a third were architects, designers and craftsmen, including many of the leading names of the day. Other subscribers included artists Angelica Kaufmann, Antonio Canova (a close friend of Tatham’s), Joseph Nollekens and William Blake, and many important patrons, among whom were several dukes, earls, and the collector William Beckford.
Etchings of Ancient Ornamental Architecture introduced the linear style in which this drawing is executed. In employing strong contours with minimal shading, Tatham aimed to reproduce ‘a true picture of the original’, using ‘chaste outline’ to communicate ‘an accurate delineation of the best approved specimens’ of antique ornament. This style had been pioneered by William Tischbein in his illustrations for the published catalogue of William Hamilton’s second Greek vase collection; Tatham had met both men during his stay in Naples in the winter of 1795/6. Thanks to this clarity and simplicity, Tatham’s drawings could be easily adapted by architects and craftsmen seeking to reproduce authentic antique ornament in interiors and furnishings. Tatham’s brother Thomas, of the cabinet-makers Marsh and Tatham (later Tatham, Bailey and Saunders) drew on his designs for the furnishings they supplied to the Prince Regent at Carlton House and Brighton Pavilion, but they were also widely utilised by and influential on a great many craftsmen and designers, including Benjamin Vulliamy and leading designer Thomas Hope, who adopted the outline style for his own publication, Household Furniture (1807). Tatham’s drawing thus helped to pioneer and disseminate the Regency style.
As well as new editions of Etchings, Tatham published Fragments of Grecian and Roman Architectural Ornaments (1806) and Designs for Ornamental Plate (1806), which included his original designs for candelabra, tripods and other metalwork. The rediscovery of this preparatory drawing for an etching suggests that he was planning another volume which showcased the work of his contemporaries. Given Tatham’s close friendship with Antonio Canova and links with other sculptors, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the focus of this volume was to be neoclassical sculpture.
Sir Walden Hanmer’s monument is in the parish church of St Thomas in the village of Simpson, in north Buckinghamshire. Hanmer was a barrister, who left the bar to concentrate on his political career, serving as MP for Sudbury from 1768 to 1780. He was created a baronet in 1774. Hanmer died in 1783, and in 1789 his family commissioned a sculpted roundel for his funerary monument from John Bacon, RA, a prominent neoclassical sculptor. Bacon’s roundel shows the dejected figure of Justice, her scales hanging useless at her side. Tatham has captured her outlines with elegant economy, delineating the shape and size of the monument but omitting the inscription.
Tatham evidently made a first sketch on a visit to the church, since the drawing shows the monument in situ, with the adjacent arch, railings and floor tiles included to show its scale and position. The caption, in the graceful cursive characteristic of Tatham’s etchings, completes the drawing. It is ready to be transferred to the etching plate, but this final act, it appears, never took place. This drawing is a tantalising glimpse of a volume that, had it been published, may have made a significant contribution to the knowledge of neoclassical sculpture in Britain.
 Etchings of Ancient Ornamental Architecture (1799-1800), cited in Richard Riddell, ‘Tatham, Charles Heathcote (1772–1842), architect and designer’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004, revised 2014).