In an earlier post I discussed the two pictures of John Louis Petit shown above, and attempted to identify both the subject and the location from which they were painted. The title of the left hand picture, from the 1830s, suggests it shows mines in Wolverhampton, possibly on the basis of the two church towers in the background. I argued however, on the basis of the orientation of the towers and the location of the coal field that this was unlikely and that another location should be sought – perhaps to the west of Dudley, although this was very conjectural. The right hand picture from the 1850s is entitled Spring Vale Iron Works, and after examination I have no reason to doubt that attribution, and on the basis of the tithe map of the area, was able to identify a location from which it was painted, on the edge of John Louis Petit’s Ettingshall estate in Sedgley. Wherever they were painted however it does seem to me that their main significance lies in the fact that they are early representations of Black Country coal mines and ironworks and are of historical importance in that sense.
Since wring that post however, two other industrial scenes by Petit have been sent to me and they are shown below. Thanks to Philip Modiano of the Petit Society for permission to use these here. They are both believed to come from the 1830s. The first shows an ironworks in the distance, framed by a much more rural location. My best guess for this is that it is again a representation of the Spring Vale Iron Works, or perhaps the nearby Parkfield works seen from the western side of the Ettingshall estate at a location on the headwaters of the Penn brook (which leads into the Wom brook, and then into the River Smestow).
The second picture shows another ironworks, but this time with four furnaces rather than the three of Spring Vale. The position of the two churches in the background, the one with the spire and the one without, again matches St Peter’s and St John’s in Wolverhampton and their relative position suggest that the picture was painted from the south east in the Bilston area. The level of details it shows is remarkable. The furnaces themselves can be clearly seen, together with quite detailed depictions of ancillary buildings in the foreground. It would be interesting to know what was the function of these buildings. There are perhaps impressionistic indications of tram tracks and a canal basin in the right foreground, although this is very conjectural.
One of the many things that intrigue me about the work of Petit is its breadth that ranges from the type of scene in these pictures to his more usual output of sometimes quite idyllic churches. I wonder if he saw, in the size and functional architecture of blast furnaces, the same grandeur that he perceived in may of the churches that he drew, an, in his mind at least, the stark differences between churches and blast furnaces were not as significant as the similarities.
2 thoughts on “More Black Country pictures of John Louis Petit”
The brick buildings in front of the furnaces are the casthouses. These contain the sand flooring in which the molten iron was run into a pattern of grooves known as sows and pigs, which once cooled were broken up with hammers for transport and use elsewhere. They also house the tuyeres and arrangements for tapping the furnace. These paintings are really fascinating, and from an interesting artist.
Thanks for this – it fills in the rather obvious gap in my knowledge. You may be interested in a slightly different version of this blog on the Black Country Society web site at https://www.blackcountrysociety.com/post/john-louis-petit-and-the-black-country-by-chris-baker