The Sleepy Eye that spoke the Melting Soul

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The Sleepy Eye that spoke the Melting Soul
The Sleepy Eye that spoke the Melting Soul
The Sleepy Eye that spoke the Melting Soul
The Trustees of the British Museum
title=Credit line
Anonymous after Wilson
The Sleepy Eye that spoke the Melting Soul
Mezzotint with some etching
Metric: 153 x 113 mm
Imperial: 6 x 4 7/16 in.
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
A young lady, sitting three-quarter to the right, in front of a table with a few books, arms folded in her lap. A shawl is drawn from her frilled cap to her lap. She is looking sleepily through the shawl to the left, smiling.
The Hon. Christopher Lennox-Boyd; acquired 2010 with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Friends of the British Museum, the Art Fund, Mrs Charles Wrightsman, the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, and numerous individual donors
Lettered below the image with the title and 'Printed for Robt. Sayer, No. 53 in Fleet Street.'
The subject is derived from Alexander Pope, Imitations of Horace, Book II, Epistle i, (1st edn 1735) lines 147-154, describing the luxury and excess of the Court of Charles II:
'Then Marble, soften'd into Life, grew warm,
And yielding Metal, flow'd to human form:
Lely on animated Canvas stole
The sleepy Eye, that spoke the melting soul.
No wonder then, when all was Love and sport,
The willing Muses were debauch'd at Court:
On each enervate string they taught the note
To pant, or tremble thro' an Eunuch's throat.'
It has been suggested that the model was Wilson's only sister, who lived with him in his early days in London and became attendant to Lady Sundon and later Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Caroline.
Critical commentary
An anonymous reduced copy in reverse after E3. There is another reduced version published by John Bowles in the British Museum (2010,7081.2095). Overall there are at least four versions of the image. Earlier prints name Wilson as the artist from whose painting it derives.