A Lady and Her Children Relieving a Cottager

A Lady and Her Children Relieving a Cottager

1784
John Raphael Smith
1752-1812
Mezzotint and line engraving on medium, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Sheet: 17 5/16 × 21 3/4 inches (44 × 55.3 cm) Image (trimmed to plate): 16 5/8 × 21 3/4 inches (42.2 × 55.2 cm)
     John Raphael Smith’s print, engraved after a painting by William Redmore Bigg, shows a wealthy mother instructing her two children in the practice of charity. Her young son
(wearing a dress, as was common for boys under the age of eight) clings to his mother’s skirts, as she directs him to give a coin to a poor cottager and infant child living on their estate. This scene is observed by a young turbaned servant, who carries the lady’s parasol and cloak and seems to look on with sympathy. It is unclear whether his presence as a conspicuous marker of the lady’s wealth was intended by Bigg, or would have been received by his viewers, as problematic or morally objectionable. When Bigg exhibited his painting in 1781, an anonymous reviewer praised it simply as “A sweet picture—Nature pursued with taste and real sentiment.”
B1977.14.9648
Lettered, below image, lower left: "Painted by W,, Bigg."; below image, lower center: "A LADY and her CHILDREN relieving a COTTAGER. | London. Publish'd March 1 1781. by I. Birchell. No 473. Strand"; below image, lower right: "Engrav'd by J.R. Smith."
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection