The Achievement of the Right Honourable William Lord Fitzwilliam of Liffer in the Kingdom of Ireland.
A LAVISH, METER-WIDE ‘ACHIEVEMENT’ ON VELLUM FOR AN IRISH LORD, CA. 1715. FROM THE DUPONT FAMILY COLLECTION. Gouache heightened in gold on vellum, 106 x 67 cm [nearly 3.5 x 2 ft], with large central armorial flanked by the coats of arms and quarterings of William Fitz-William of Lincoln and William Fitz-William of Clixby. Framed under glass, in a relatively early gilt and painted wood frame, 128 x 90 cm overall. Occasional abrasions to gouache; frame rubbed; but mainly a well-preserved item withal. Elaborately-conceived, richly decorated heraldic ‘achievement’ on vellum, depicting in enormous scale the holdings of the already-ennobled Fitzwilliam family, whose primary seat lay in Lifford, County Donegal. The work of a talented artist, the splendid central crest is flanked by two naked, tree-wielding savages – also found on several other Irish and Scottish armorials, and perhaps referring to the valor of the indigenous inhabitants of those regions. The attention to artistic detail is truly astonishing, from the ornate borders of the document heightened with a delicate light blue, to the garlands of flowers and elaborately-rolled cartouches surrounding each armorial, incorporating fish and birds. William Fitzwilliam (d. 1643) had raised the family to the peerage in 1620 as Baron of Liffer/Lifford, and outside of Ireland the Fitzwilliams eventually acquired large tracts of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Northamptonshire. The present manuscript was evidently prepared at the behest of the 3rd Baron Fitzwilliam (1643–1719) in order to support his creation as Earl in 1716; such documents were intended not only to be visually impressive, but also to record each ‘quartering’ or economic district of the lands owned by the family – in Ireland, Lincoln, and Clixby. The last Earl Fitzwilliam died in 1979, upon which the family seat of Wentworth Woodhouse was sold – presumably including the present item. * cf Burke, Encyclopedia of Heraldry (3rd ed.), s.v. ‘Fitzwilliam’; and cf a modern account of the family, Catherine Bailey’s Black Diamonds: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years that Changed England (2007). [Provenance: Mallett, New York, 2014, #SII3063, purchased for $26,000.00; du Pont Family Collection].