A young, brightly dressed shepherd on a river bank converses with the woman seated in front of him. Beyond them is a river and beyond that an impressive, panoramic view of the city of Leicester, framed at either side by trees.
This view of Leicester is similar to Samuel and Nathaniel Buck’s engraved ‘South Prospect of the Town of Leicester’, published in 1743, and must have been painted at about the same time. However, there are enough differences in the details of individual buildings to suggest that Matthias Read sketched the view himself. As the Buck print records, the views were taken from the ‘station near the Turnpike in ye London Road’.
Matthias Read was born in Clerkenwell, London. In 1690 he assisted Jan Wyck in painting scenes of the Battle of Boyne, Ireland. He left Ireland soon afterwards and moved to Whitehaven, where he met William Gilpin, Recorder of Carlisle. Gilpin probably introduced him to John Lowther, First Viscount Lonsdale. Read’s career in Whitehaven began modestly but he soon became a successful painter and never left the town. Lowther was an important patron and commissioned copies of works in his own collection, a view of his property, frescos and a ‘Birds-Eye-View of Whitehaven’. Read also painted ornament and devotional works for local churches. Many of his works, painted on panels within private houses, are now lost. He died in Whitehaven aged 78.
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