Heneage Finch, 5th Earl of Aylesford (Biographical details)

Heneage Finch, 5th Earl of Aylesford (collector; British; Male; 1786 - 1859)

Also known as

Finch, Heneage; Aylesford

Biography

Son of Heneage Finch, 4th Earl of Aylesford (q.v.). Inherited his father's distinguished collections of prints and drawings. Sold important Rembrandt prints to Samuel Woodburn (q.v.) in 1846 (see Lugt 58 for details of later owners of these prints). Other important prints and drawings from the collection sold at Christie's, 17-18.vii.1893.

Information from Nicholas Stogdon:
Succeeded his father, the 4th Earl (q.v.), in 1812; seat in Packington Hall, Warwickshire. In 1821 married Lady Augusta Sophia Greville (d.1845), whose brother, the 2nd Earl of Warwick, was an accomplished amateur painter, and patron, while her aunt Lady Louisa was one of the best amateur etchers of her generation and her uncle, the Hon. Charles Francis Greville, was instrumental in the introduction and development of aquatint in England. The 4th Earl of Aylesford was a gifted draughtsman and prolific etcher and had been a pupil of Malchair, the Oxford drawing master. He seems also to have been a collector; at least, his name appears as a buyer of Rembrandts in the Hibbert sale, 1809, when his successor was still styled Lord Guernsey, acquiring, for instance, an impression of 'Old' Haaringh on 'India' paper, 14th day, lot 231, for £9.0.0 (this was the fourth Barnard impression, lot 323, £4.14.6 to John Woodhouse, and in Woodhouse’s sale, 3rd day lot 88, £7.7.0 to or for Hibbert).
The 5th Earl’s collection was amongst the finest ever assembled; indeed, in his letter about the possible purchase of Woodburn's stock (Landmarks in Print Collecting, p.300), Carpenter, the Keeper, writes that 'The Aylesford collection I believe has always been considered by collectors on the whole as the finest as regards condition and extent in the world.' His first great block acquisition was the purchase from Christian Josi of a comprehensive collection, the core of which was assembled before his death in 1739 by Valerius Rover. This collection was sold in 1761 by Rover’s widow to the dealer Hendrik de Leth, who sold it to Cornelis Ploos van Amstel (see L.2034), who added to it. Catalogued by Josi for sales in 1800 and 1810 but not sold, the collection was then bought by him from Ploos’s heirs. Josi added further sheets, for completeness, such as the third state (post 1742) of the 'Young' Haaringh in the Josefowitz collection, as one can tell from a comparison of the printed 1810 catalogue and the manuscript catalogue drawn up by Josi of the group as sold to Aylesford (this catalogue is in the British Museum which also contains the only known copy of the printed advertisement of the sale of Rembrandt's goods). We do not know the exact date of this transaction. However, on the reverse of many Aylesford sheets one finds the pencil annotation 'J1815' (L.1404a), and a working hypothesis is that, for the most part, it indicates sheets from the purchase of the Rover/Ploos collection from Josi and probably gives us the correct date of this sale, or at least a date at which an inventory was made (the caveat is due to a sheet like an impression of Bartsch 165.III in the Ashmolean, which had belonged to John Barnard). Later, Aylesford was able to benefit from the breakup of the Denon collection; Denon’s heirs sold his Rembrandts to the dealer Samuel Woodburn in 1829, either all or in part for Thomas Wilson -Wilson's account is slightly ambiguous (see the partial -in both senses- letter in the Buccleuch sale catalogue), and Middleton recounts that the shipment containing the purchase was 'first opened in the presence of Sir Thomas Lawrence and Mr. Thomas Wilson, who lost no time in acquiring some of their contents. The rest, and by far the larger part, were disposed of by Woodburn….' Wilson, in debt, relinquished his remaining collection, before emigrating to Australia in 1837. The Denon group was that part of the relatively complete ensemble formed by J.P. Zomer (some of it came from Rembrandt's heirs) which subsequently belonged to Count A. M. Zanetti, who bought it in 1721 in London (according to Mariette), and which had been retained by Zanetti's family. Zanetti had clearly ceded a further part to the British Consul in Venice, Joseph Smith, and this latter division later belonged to the Marquess of Donegal (there is no reason why Aylesford should not have owned some of this group too, as it was broken up and sold in 1800). The Aylesford collection was acquired en bloc for £3,000 in 1846 by Woodburn, who sold some thirteen (or seventeen according to Lugt) Rembrandt sheets to R. S. Holford for £3,500 (Holford bought others later on), and many others to Hawkins. In 1847 Messrs W. & G. Smith of Lisle Street bought Woodburn's remaining print stock, including all the remaining Aylesford Rembrandts; of these a significant group was offered to the British Museum, and acquired in 1848. When the Smiths decided to retire from business their own remarkable stock was sold at auction, in four parts; the bulk of the Rembrandts, including the remaining Aylesford sheets, is to be found in part I, London, Sotheby’s, 7.v.1849 et seq. There were few Rembrandts plates that were not represented at least once, deriving from the best past and contemporary collections.

Bibliography

Lugt 58
N. Stogdon, 'A descriptive catalogue of the etchings by Rembrandt in a private collection, Switzerland', s.l., 2011, p.350.