Beatrix Potter's 1895 Christmas design sent to Elinor and Elizabeth Lupton. The Lupton sisters' great aunt was Beatrix Potter's grandmother and the artist is known to have sent Christmas designs to her relations in 1890, 1893 (see Sotheby’s, 14 July 2011, lot 142), 1894 (see Sotheby’s, 14 July 2011, lot 143) and 1895. Relatives of Elinor Lupton (1886-1979) and Elizabeth ("Bessie") Lupton (1888-1977) first sold these designs at auction in 2006.
This composition is known in two other versions: one in the Leslie Linder Collection (Linder Trust, catalogue reference 6.4) which is dated Xmas 1895 and shows a rabbit advancing towards a group of three rabbits, and the other, from the collection of Caroline Halpin (née Hutton) (Sotheby’s, 17 December 2008, lot 194), which is dated January 1896 and shows a rabbit in front of a group of three other rabbits and cycling in the same direction as the other rabbits. In all three variants the rabbits wear the same colours of coats (although the colour of the coat of the largest rabbit changes).
This is the earlier of the two examples of the composition with all rabbits moving from right to left. The date of this piece is extremely important. It was in September 1893 that Beatrix Potter sent a letter to Noel Moore in which she told 'a story about four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter'. This watercolour is therefore drawn just over two years after the original story of Peter Rabbit was written (and six years before the first privately printed edition of the famous book).
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