An Album Belonging to Anne McCord

By: Dara Vandor

Lot 50 – Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872), James Duncan (1806-1881), Otto Reinhold Jacobi (1812-1901) and Various Artists, Canadian School, mid-19th century. ALBUM CONTAINING 66 ORIGINAL WATERCOLOURS, OILS AND DRAWINGS. 14 x 11 in — 35.6 x 27.9 cm. Estimate $4,000-$6,000

Coming to Waddington’s from a private collection, lot 50 in our major auction of Canadian and International Fine Art is an exceedingly rare album composed of 66 original watercolours, oils and drawings dated to the 19th century. Rich in historical value, this album tells a story of early Montreal – though it is somewhat of an enigma, a curious artistic puzzle from early Canadian history that perhaps raises more questions than it answers.

The folio was likely assembled by Anne McCord, née Ross (1807-1870). Anne was the daughter of David Ross (1770–1837) the Seigneur of St. Gilles de Beaurivage, who by the mid 1820s was the fifth-largest private property owner in Montreal. Anne married John Samuel McCord (1801–1865), a Judge of the Supreme Court. Together they had several children, the fourth of whom was David Ross McCord (1844-1930), a lawyer and the founder of the McCord Museum in Montreal. In 1919, David donated his extensive holdings of art and artefacts to McGill University , which led to the opening of the McCord Museum, established to house the collection. David’s passion for art was fostered by his parents: his father John was an avid art collector and his mother Anne was an accomplished watercolour painter.


Included in the album are works by noted early Canadian artists including Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872), Otto Reinhold Jacobi (1812-1901), and James Duncan (1806-1881), as well as by less well known artists including Anne McCord and other figures whose accomplishments have not been as well recorded. The earliest dated work in the album, a watercolour of flowers by Anne herself, appears to be dated 1835. A large percentage of the other paintings and sketches date to the following year, though works were added to the album as late as 1878 – some 40 years after the collection was started. Some of the works depict Canadian views, while others appear to have been made abroad.

Anne McCord is known to have studied painting with James Duncan. During the period, watercolour was an encouraged pursuit for ladies of the upper and middle classes, and McCord’s high status would have given her access to some of the best teachers. In A Concise History of Canadian Painting, art historian Dennis Reid quotes scholar George Spendlove as saying of Duncan that “no artist has been more neglected by Canadians… although he was possibly for some years the best water-colourist in Canada.”[1] Four works by Duncan are included in this collection. Also of note are two chalk drawings by Frederick William Lock (1824-1885), who made two portraits of Anne which are currently held in the permanent collection of the McCord Museum.[2]

A work by Cornelius Krieghoff

As for the work by Krieghoff, it is a pencil copy of The Tribute to Caesar by French painter Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), sometimes referenced as Le Valentin.[3] Valentin was best known for his Tenebrist style, heavily influenced by Caravaggio. While the pencil sketch is not dated, it is known that Krieghoff left Canada in 1863, relocating to Europe for seven years, though details of his actual stay in Europe remain unclear. Reid suggests that Krieghoff spent time in Paris and Munich, and very likely in London, and it is possible that Krieghoff encountered Valentin’s painting at this time.[4]

Another interesting link to Krieghoff’s work lies in a sketch by an artist identified as “Bieraccini.” The drawing depicts Cleopatra at the moment of her suicide by asp. Waddington’s recently offered a painting by Krieghoff from the collection of Sir Christopher and Lady Ondaatje that depicts this exact scene, sold November 2023.[5] Krieghoff’s version is after a painting by Guido Reni, which Waddington’s suggested that Krieghoff painted from a photograph, a version of which is presently held in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.[6] Given the wide scope of McCord’s album and the varied examples within it which were painted in both Canada and abroad, it is possible that the version by “Bieraccini” was sketched directly from the Reni original, though equally likely that it was inspired by seeing Krieghoff’s version, or perhaps even his photograph of the Reni painting.


Among the album’s virtues is the impeccable condition of the works collected within. Though painted nearly 200 years ago in watercolour – a medium known for its fugitive pigments – images remain crisp and colours remarkably vibrant.

Many of the paintings are affixed to coloured pages of various pastel shades of blue, green, pink, yellow and cream, while other works are drawn or painted directly onto the sheet. McCord appears to have handed out the album to artists or friends in her circle, requesting that they create an original work specifically for her book. Likely of English manufacture, the binding is of considerable quality and the gilding and embossing speaks to the luxury of creating and maintaining such an album.

Looking at these pages raises questions, like whether or not there were/are other albums like this within similarly well-to-do Montreal libraries. Could this album have functioned as a sort of “baseball card” collection with pages traded back and forth between other connoisseurs? Or perhaps the well-known artists whose work is featured in McCord’s album were “auditioning” for patronage or commissions?

The album includes a reference to the Bank of Montreal Waterloo Place, London, England, which was an important hub for Canadian soldiers to conduct their financial affairs while fighting overseas. The location became a place where Canadians could bank, collect their mail, and socialise with other Canadians.

A watercolour believed to have been painted by Anne McCord.


The album comes to Waddington’s from a private library centred around a range of 19th and 20th century volumes. The present consignor’s son suggests that the album could have entered his family’s collection from either side of his lineage. One branch included Hugh Gerard Hazen Hansard (1905-1985), a Montreal-based lawyer, while another featured Joseph Arthur Barry (1873-1971), a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in insurance. Both families lived in Westmount, close to Temple Grove, the McCord family home on Côte des Neiges Road.

Another interesting detail comes from a typewritten inventory done of the album in the 20th century. The ledger includes a note about an 1828 work titled Arab Horses by H. Aiken that was sold on 17 November 1926 by the order of W.D. Lighthall. W.D. Lighthall surely refers to William Douw Lighthall, a lawyer and the Mayor of Westmount from 1900-1902. Lighthall was close friends with David McCord, and when the McCord collection of some 18,000 artefacts was presented to McGill University in 1919, Lighthall and Charles Henry Gould, McGill’s librarian, oversaw the collection’s transition.

It is very possible that the McCord album entered Lighthall’s personal collection, perhaps as a gift from David McCord. After Anne McCord’s death, it appears that all of the figures with any connection to the album ran in the same Montreal legal circles, which could easily explain its transition between these prominent private collections.

To view all of the pages in the album, please click here.

About the auction

Held online from May 24-29, 2024, our spring auction of Canadian and International Fine Art brings together exceptional work from around the world. This auction features celebrated Canadian artists such as Cornelius Krieghoff, A.Y. Jackson, P.C. Sheppard, A.J. Casson, Bertram Booker, Alexandra Luke, Jean Paul Lemieux and Yves Gaucher as well as important First Nations artists Norval Morrisseau, Roy Thomas and Alex Janvier. International highlights include work by Jules Olitski, Karel Appel, Kwon Young-Woo, Norman Bluhm, Józef Bakoś, Léon Lhermitte and Montague Dawson.

Previews will be available at our Toronto gallery, located at 275 King Street East, Second Floor, Toronto:

 Thursday, May 23 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
 Friday, May 24 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
 Saturday, May 25 from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm
 Sunday, May 26 from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm
 Monday, May 27 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
 Tuesday, May 28 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Or by appointment.

Please contact us to find out more.


[1] Dennis Reid, A Concise History of Canadian Painting (Ontario: Oxford University Press, 2012), 30.
[2] For links to the portraits, please visit and
[3] For a link to the original painting by Valentin de Boulogne, please visit
[4] Dennis Reid, Krieghoff: Images of Canada (Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1999), 94.
[5] To see the painting by Krieghoff, please visit
[6] To see the albumin silver print of Reni’s painting, please visit

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