The Trustees of the British Museum
title=Credit line
Richard Houston after Wilson
c.1766-79 (undated)
Hand-coloured mezzotint with some etching
Metric: 356 x 253 mm
Imperial: 14 x 10 in.
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
A young woman is shown three-quarter length sitting to the left with a gauzy veil draped over her cap and falling down her left side. She is glancing sleepily through it to right, her hands folded in her lap and three books on the polished table beside her. There is a fire in the grate to the left, a mirror and sconces above and a clock standing at 11.18 on the wall behind.
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 'Richd Houston [sic] Pinxt. / Richd,, Houston fecit. / Printed for John Bowles at the Black Horse in Cornhill, and Carington Bowles in St. Pauls Church Yard London'
The subject is derived from Alexander Pope, Imitations of Horace, Book II, (Epistles i, pp. 147-49, 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 debacuh'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
A coloured copy in reverse after E3, apparently adapted to form part of a set of the times of day
Chaloner Smith, vol. 1, p. 459, under cat. 418