Look up the slope towards Reynard’s Cave – you can’t miss the large stone arch. Georgian tourists were also enticed here by the natural beauty of the Dove Dale.
Picknickers in Dovedale, was sketched in pencil and ink by John Nixon (c.1750-1818). It shows five figures (one of which is Nixon) enjoying a picnic under the arch of Reynard’s Cave.
The inked inscription in the bottom left reads:
3 Miss Johnsons of Loughborogh, J.N. and Jaspar Atkinson at Dinner in Dove Dale, Derbyshire
To arrive at their picnic spot these five must have climbed the steep scree path up to the cave, no doubt a tricky task in a long dress! They would probably have been accompanied by a guide, who may even have had the unenviable task of lugging up their picnic.
J.N. (John Nixon) depicts himself looking directly at the viewer, with sketch book in his lap. Jaspar Atkinson, the more dapper of the two, is depicting wearing tartan across his shoulder. The three Miss Johnsons sit eating and drinking in their long skirts and the scene in completed by the large flagon which sits in the centre.
We know that Derbyshire was a popular tourist attraction during this period yet we possess very few visual representations of the tradition. Artists to Derbyshire did include figures in their works however these were usually local peasants, shown in agricultural or industrial pursuits. Nixon’s sketch shows us the visitors up close and allows for an insight into the diversions and attire of these tourists.
A version of this ‘Wonder’ first appeared on the Enlightment! blog