Four Beatrix Potter watercolour Christmas cards, recently discovered in a Wiltshire attic, will be sold by Highworth, Swindon auctioneers Kidson-Trigg on September 20. The cards have been consigned by descendants of the original recipients, Elizabeth (1888-1977) and Elinor (1886-1979) Lupton.
'The Misses Luptons' (neither ever married) shared great grandparents with Beatrix Potter (1866-1943). Tied by family and the chapel community, the artist was also drawn to their poignant story. The two sisters, part of an influential family who at one stage owned five mills in Leeds, had lost their mother Harriet in childbirth and were raised by their governess, Miss Corfield, 'Corfie' until their late teens.
The four cards from this early Potter correspondence that have survived were literally an attic find - discovered in a brown envelope in a trunk among boxes hoarded by descendants of the Lupton sisters. They are, say the auctioneers, superbly preserved.
The earliest, depicting a mouse opening a larder door, dates from 1890, when a 24-year-old Beatrix Potter had received her first commission and a cheque for £6 from the greeting card publishers Hildesheimer and Faulkner. Another of mice eating Christmas pudding at a table is signed With best wishes for Christmas from Beatrix Potter. Dec.93, the year Potter famously began to write the first adventures of a rabbit called Peter and a hedgehog called Mrs Tiggy-Winkle in a series of letters to Noel Moors, the sickly child of a governess. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was not published until December 1901 in an edition of 250 copies.
Rabbits feature in the two other discoveries: rabbits playing in the snow with a sledge, signed in ink HBP 94 and rabbits and bunnies (kittens) on bicycles, signed H.B.P. Christmas 1895.
The cards are expected to fetch £10,000-15,000 each.
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