I met the most enchanting little girl yesterday. She has cherubic lips, anxious eyes and a demeanour of timid sweetness that makes you want to clasp her to your bosom. Her expression strongly reminds me of my middle daughter at the age of three, just at the point she was discovered trying to flush her dinosaur down the toilet.
She is actually known as ‘The Strawberry girl’ and was painted by Joshua Reynolds in the eighteenth century. This version hangs in London’s Wallace collection. (Apologies my mobile pictures do not do justice to any of these paintings- all the more reason to go and see them in person)
Strawberry girls were a common sight in eighteenth century London, as girls from poor families attempted to make money selling the fruit on street corners. I imagine the sweetness of her face would have made her a successful purveyor of these berries.
The identity of the little girl in the picture is not known, although a Victorian descendant of Reynolds believed that she was the artist’s great-niece Theophila Gwatkin (1782-1844). It doesn’t really matter who she was. It just made me think of all the sweetness of children that have walked the streets of London before us.
The Wallace Collection is a total gem of a museum. Incredibly it is free and open to all who want to explore and enjoy the beauty of the many beautiful works of art collected in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the 4th Marquess.
I enjoyed a graceful waft around the long gallery of the Wallace collection, re-opened at the end of last year after over a year of restoration work. You drift amongst great artworks by artists including Canaletto, Gainsborough and Van Dyck. The collection includes some of the most famous paintings in Britain, from Hals’s The Laughing Cavalier to Poussin’s A Dance to the Music of Time.
The Wallace collection includes painting from one of my favourite artistic era’s, the seventeenth century Dutch Grand tradition of Old Master painting. I love a moody still-life and I’m a sucker for a lobster/pewter tankard combo. (see an earlier post, Still life in a mad mad world)
Here is Dutch painter Jan Davidszoon de Heem’s Still Life with Fruit and Lobster.
This is Jan Weenix | Flowers on a Fountain with a Peacock
‘Still Life With A Monkey,’ by Jan Jansz de Herm (1650 – after 1695)
There is also a great painting that sort of brought to mind the Daily Mail of its day. The Listening Housewife by Nicolas Maes, 1632 to 1693.
This housewife is pictured eavesdropping on conversation in the main dining room while downstairs the maid is getting groped.
Another picture that caught the eye was the ‘Princes in the Tower’ by the French artists Hippolyte (Paul) Delaroche (1831). You get the definite sense that these chaps know that the next visitor to their bedchamber is unlikely to be Father Christmas.