A girl carrying a child on her arm, with a detail of feet above right. Used in the etchings of The Old College House, Conway, published 1811, and The West Front of Castle Rising Church, published 1813. Called 'Study of three figures'.
|Artist:||John Sell Cotman, British, 1782 - 1842|
|Title:||A girl carrying a child on her arm, with a detail of feet above right. Used in the etchings of The Old College House, Conway, published 1811, and The West Front of Castle Rising Church, published 1813. Called 'Study of three figures'.|
|Medium:||Graphite on wove paper|
|Support:||Heavyweight, wove etching paper|
Sight size: 121 mm x 89 mm
Mount: 274 mm x 195 mm
|Credit Line:||Bequeathed by Sydney Decimus Kitson, 1949|
This is a firm and careful study of a young woman seen from the left, facing left, carrying a little girl, possibly no more than a few months old, held up on her left arm at face level. The girl is bare-headed, with a mop of dark hair, and wears a dark blouse and full-length white apron. The infant is dressed in a striped dress with a white pinafore over, and a white underskirt. Above right is a detail study of the girl's feet, concentrating particularly on the shading around the ankles and the pleats at the back of her dress.
Kitson 1926 noticed that the study formed the basis of a figure in Cotman's etching of the 'West front of Castle Rising Church' published in his series of 'Antiquities of Norfolk' in 1813. The etching is based on a pencil and watercolour study at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, where (despite Kitson's remark in his 1937 catalogue) the figure forms part of the composition.
Kitson's 1937 catalogue noticed that Cotman had also used the figure (reversed) in an earlier etching of 'The Old College House, Conway', published in his series of 'Architectural Antiquities' in 1811. The figure also appears in a watercolour version of the Conway composition sold at Christie's, London, 10 July 2012 no.109 and in a pencil version sold at Sotheby's, London, 4 July 2001, no.213.
In each of the treatments the dress is varied in tone and pattern, and interpreted in colour in the Conway watercolour.
The tousled bob of the young girl is quite distinctive. A similar figure appears in another drawing at Leeds (LEEAG.1949.0009.0369). In that drawing she carries a new-born infant, and it is tempting to wonder if this might not be the same mother and child, just a few months apart.
This drawing is one of six mounted on one large sheet ('F') as acquired by Sydney Kitson in 1926. They were all of boats except for one figure study, and the individual drawings probably derived from a several different campaigns and sketchbooks. Sometime between 1926 and 1937, Kitson mounted them all individually and gave them new numbers for the catalogue drawn up in the latter year. The drawings were widely dispersed in the 1937 numeration, thus obscuring the previous sheet relationship of the drawings.
David Hill, October 2017