A View of the Petrifying Spring, Commonly called the Dropping Well, at Knaresborough, in Yorkshire

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    The image depicts the petrifying spring, known as the Dropping Well, at Knaresborough in Yorkshire. At the time this work was published the area belonged to two neighbouring landowners: the Dropping Well was the property of Sir Henry Slingsby, fifth Baronet (1693-1763), while the ruined castle belonged to Richard Boyle, third Earl of Burlington (1694-1753).

    Almost a century and a half later, in 1888, the still considerable attraction of the spring was explained by an article in the ‘York Herald’:

    Opposite the ruins of Knaresborough Castle, on the south-west bank of the river Nidd, you will observe the petrifying spring of Knaresborough - the celebrated dropping-well - where the peasants and the needy crowd to make their humble fortunes by afterwards retailing small sprigs of trees, such as the elder of ash, or pieces of the elegant geranium, the wild angelica, or the lovely violet, turned into ‘obdurate stone.’ … Twenty gallons are poured forth every minute from the top of the Knaresborough Cliff, and the beauty of the scene can only be appreciated by those who have stood upon the margin of those ‘stony waters’ and beheld the crystal fluid descend from above with metallic fall.

  • About the artist
    Francois Vivares was born near Montpellier, France. He was apprenticed to a tailor but made drawings, etchings and engravings in his spare time. He moved to London, aged 18, to study under French engraver and draughtsman Jean-Baptiste-Claude Chatelain and later under Italian painter Jacopo Amigoni. By 1744 he was publishing prints. He opened a print shop near Leicester Fields (now Leicester Square), producing prints after his own work, that of his pupils and ‘of the best Masters’. He became one of the most renowned landscape engravers of his time and is particularly known for engravings after the works of French painter Claude Lorrain. In 1766, he became a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists. He died in London, aged 71.
    Thomas Smith of Derby was a topographical and picturesque landscape painter who lived in Bridgegate, Derby. He exhibited at the Society of Artists and the Free Society of Artists from 1760 to 1767. Several examples of his work include groups of elegant tourists admiring views of country estates. He took his art sufficiently seriously to name both his sons after great painters, calling them Thomas Correggio Smith and John Raphael Smith (who continued the tradition by naming his son John Rubens Smith). Both of his sons naturally became artists, as did his daughter, Emma. Smith died on 5 September 1767 in Hotwells, a district of Bristol.
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  • Details
    A View of the Petrifying Spring, Commonly called the Dropping Well, at Knaresborough, in Yorkshire
    published 15 January 1746
    Coloured etching
    Purchased from Frank T Sabin, October 1963
    GAC number