A young mother and child, carrying a jug: Study for the figure in the etching 'Part of East Barsham House' - 1817.
|Artist:||John Sell Cotman, British, 1782 - 1842|
|Title:||A young mother and child, carrying a jug: Study for the figure in the etching 'Part of East Barsham House' - 1817.|
|Medium:||Graphite on wove paper|
|Support:||Dark cream, wove paper|
Sight size: 144 mm x 66 mm
Mount: 272 mm x 190 mm
|Credit Line:||Bequeathed by Sydney Decimus Kitson, 1949|
This is a careful study of a young woman, seen full length from the right side, facing right. She is bare-headed and dressed in a simple, loose-fitting pinafore dress, with 'blue stripes' and a short-sleeved blouse in 'wht', carrying a jug in her right arm, and supporting a baby's head in front with her left. Cotman has inscribed the drawing with a colour key, 'x', 'o' , '3', but the inscription corresponding to 'x' (the girl's under-dress) has been trimmed along the top edge when the drawing was cut down for mounting.
Kitson's 1937 catalogue recognised the connection between the drawing and Cotman's etching of 'Part of East Barsham House', published in 1817 as pl.LVII of his series 'Antiquities of Norfolk'. The figure is reversed in the etching. It seems unlikely, however, that the figure was drawn with the etching in mind. The colour notes would suggest that he was thinking more of a watercolour. The figure is somewhat reworked for the etching. The tonal distribution of the dress and pinafore is revised, and the angle of the neck is rendered with greater pathos, and the youth of the figure emphasised.
Previous commentators do not seem to have noticed the baby. Looking from the etching to the present drawing it becomes more evident from the mother's physique that the child must be a very recent arrival, and that the mother must be of a very tender age.
The tousled hair of the girl is quite distinctive. A similar figure appears in another drawing at Leeds (LEEAG.1949.0009.0381). In that drawing she carries a child a few months old, and it is tempting to wonder if this might not be the same mother and child.
This drawing is one of eleven mounted on one large sheet ('XIV') as acquired by Sydney Kitson in 1928. The group comprises of ten drawings of figure subjects plus one windmill in their midst. Quite what might be the rationale for the exception is as yet unclear. Sometime between 1928 and 1937, Kitson mounted them all individually and gave them new numbers for the catalogue drawn up in the latter year (K364-374).
David Hill, October 2017