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John Varley (1778-1842) - Hythe Church, Kent
  • John Varley (1778-1842) - Hythe Church, Kent

    The ancient parish church of Hythe, St Leonard's has overlooked the historic Cinque Ports Town in for nearly a thousand years. It clearly fascinated Varley on a trip to Kent in August 1825 as he produced at least one other watercolour of the church. St Leonard's is one of only two churches in England to contain a surviving ossuary and it has 'the largest and best-preserved collection of ancient human skulls and bones in Britain'. [1] This may have also intrigued the artist. Our watercolour depicts the back of the church and Varley has focused particularly on the colours of the sky.


    There was a work titled 'Hythe Church' sold at Bonhams in 2008 (11/3/2008, lot 36) that is drawn from a different perspective to our work. It is a smaller watercolour and painted at sunset. Our watercolour appears to be painted at dusk just before the sun fully set. The Bonhams watercolour was sold for £900.


    Medium: watercolour on paper, inscribed l.r. 'Augst 9th 1825', 16.5 x 23 cm, framed.


    Provenance: Doig, Wilson & Wheatley, Fine Art dealers, 90 George Street Edinburgh (label verso); Anonymous sale (possibly Sotheby's) 18/10/1963 (inscription verso); Theobald Percey Collection (inscription recto l.r. on mount); Lyon & Turnbell auction sale, 24/2/2022, lot 495; Private collection U.K.




    [1] Website:, visited 24/1/23.


    Condition report: there's a small vertical tear of about 1cm at the bottom of the watercolour (please see photgraphs). The watercolour itself is in excellent condition for its age with some very small time staining. The frame has a few small chips but these are not obvious.

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