A detail from View of Llanerch Park, which will be auctioned by Sotheby’s next month.
The earliest known bird’s-eye painting of a British garden is expected to fetch up to £600,000 when goes for auction next month.
The painting of a lost Welsh garden has remained in the same family since the owner commissioned the artwork in 1665 of his fountains, pools, waterfall, avenues, statues, terraced lawns and walled fruit gardens.
The garden was the pride and joy Mutton Davies, who was inspired by his trip to Italy between 1654 and 1658 to create a state of the then art Italian garden around a much older house in north Wales.
Davies commissioned the painting of his creation, meticulously detailed down to the mounting block by the stables and the fountains designed to spurt water from unexpected places and drench the unwary.
A 17th-century poem described the garden in its glory: “Elegantly he diverted streams of cold water into his gardens and, praise be, he can wander in a great garden which he made, in the grounds about his mansion, and costly are his devices.”
The artist is anonymous, but believed to be English.
Julian Gascoigne, a specialist at Sotheby’s, which is auctioning the painting: “There are much more accomplished later views of gardens like Hampton Court, by more sophisticated artists who often came from the continent. This is really very early and a very large and ambitious painting – and the artist is clearly having a few problems with the perspective – but we believe it to be the earliest by a native painter, so it is really quite an important thing.
“Its also completely delightful, there are more details to spot and take pleasure in every time you look at it.”
Parts of the much-altered hall survive, but the garden as lovingly immortalised by the artist has long since gone, with most of the land taken up by later planting, buildings and a golf course, though it is listed as of historic importance to preserve paths and other structures buried under the turf.
The painting will go on display at Sotheby’s in London before the sale on 3 December.