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Attrib. Sir William Charles Ross RA - Mid 19th Century Watercolour, Grey Wagtail



A very fine and highly accomplished ornithological study from a collection of studies, attributed to the renowned Victorian miniaturist Sir William Charles Ross RA. This particular study shoes a Grey Wagtail standing on a rock. The study is inscribed with the birds name in common English and Latin.

The watercolor is smartly presented in a gilt effect frame with glazing and an off-white, marbled wash-line mount.

On wove.


The watercolour has some discoloration where the paper has been pasted to the mount but is in otherwise fine condition. The frame has general scuffing to the gilt but is in otherwise fine condition.


10.6 x 8.6cm (4.2" x 3.4")
Framed Size: 32.9 x 29cm (13" x 11.4")

Collection Information

Maria Smith, sister of the engraver Anker Smith ARA (1759-1817), married the Scottish miniaturist William Ross. She died in 1836. Their children were the miniaturists Sir William Charles Ross (1794-1857), Hugh Ross and Mrs Edward Dalton.

These watercolours came from an album compiled at the Ross family house in Scotland between 1822 and 1836. They have been attributed to the elder, Sir William Charles Ross RA, due to the form of cursive handwriting used in labeling the birds and the style of painting.

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Artist Biography

Ross was born in London and descended from a Scottish family who had settled at Tain in Ross Shire.
At an early age young Ross showed great ability in art, and in 1807 received an award from the Society of Arts. In 1808 he was admitted into the schools of the Royal Academy, where he received from Benjamin West much kind advice, and in 1810 gained a silver medal for a drawing from life. The Society of Arts also, in 1808, awarded him a silver medal for an original drawing of the "Judgment of Solomon", and in 1809 the larger silver palette for an original miniature of "Venus and Cupid", which he exhibited with two other works, "Mordecai Rewarded" and "The Judgment of Solomon", at the Royal Academy in the same year.

At the age of twenty he became an assistant to Andrew Robertson (1777–1845), the eminent Scottish miniature-painter, and, although his first ambition was to excel in historical painting, he thought it advisable to concentrate on the more lucrative speciality of miniature-painting. He soon acquired a sizeable and elite clientele. In 1837 Queen Victoria and the Duchess of Kent sat for him, and in succeeding years Queen Adelaide, the Prince Consort, the royal children, and various members of the royal families of France, Belgium, Portugal, and Saxe-Coburg. He is known to have produced more than 2,200 miniatures, of which about 300 were exhibited at the Royal Academy. Those of Queen Victoria and of the Prince Consort were engraved by Henry Thomas Ryall; that of the Duchess of Nemours by Charles Heath, for the "Keepsake" of 1843 (a short-lived art annual); that of Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, by F. J. Joubert; and those of Charlotte, Duchess of Marlborough, and of James, 3rd Marquis of Ormonde, by W. J. Edwards.

He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1838, and in 1843 a royal academician, and was knighted on 1 June 1842. The Westminster Hall competition of 1843 led him to turn his hand once more to historical composition, and he sent a cartoon of "The Angel Raphael discoursing with Adam", which was awarded an extra premium of £100.

He continued to hold a preeminent position amongst miniature-painters until 1857, when he was struck down by paralysis while engaged on portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Aumale, with their two sons. He never entirely recovered, and died unmarried at his home at 38 Fitzroy Square, London, on 20 January 1860. He was buried in Highgate cemetery.

More Information
Code qi119
Artist Attrib. Sir William Charles Ross RA
Date Mid 19th Century
Dimensions 10.6 x 8.6cm
Medium Watercolour
Style Realism
Subject Birds
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