Thursday, January 19, 2012

Uh-oh - Daughter Ann's Really in Trouble Now! c 1775

Thursday, January 19, 2012
Susan reporting:

When we last saw daughter Ann (in this 18th c print), she was proudly displaying her new finery and fantastically fashionable hair to her outraged mother. I wondered exactly how a country girl like Ann had come by such stylish and costly attire in London, and from her mother's expression, I suspected her mother did, too.

Soon after I posted that print and blog, I stumbled across this second print. Different artist, different publisher, but here again is our archetypal country girl Ann, still dressed to the nines (maybe even the tens) and clearly up to no good. From the shape of her breasts, it looks like she's even left off her stays, leaving her a true loose woman. This time her mother has followed her back to the city, and discovered Ann and a gentleman leaving a "house of accommodation," as Fanny Hill would have called it. Just in case there's any doubt, there's the inscription LOVE JOY over the door.

Her gallant is as fashionably/ridiculously dressed as she is, a prime macaroni with his own towering wig and tiny hat perched on the crest. Outraged Mom is again dressed in stodgy country clothes and thick soled-shoes, her hands raised in shock. She's here representing good old-fashioned morality, ready to haul her scandalous daughter back to the clean-living country where there are no men with tiny clown-hats and suggestively-jutting sword-hilts.

At least that's how it appears to us in the 21st c, with intervening Victorian morality muddling things further.

But the caption at the bottom of the print tells a different story:

   Is this my Daughter Ann
   The Matron thus Surpprised exclaims,
   And the deluded Fair One Blames,
   But had the Mother been as Charming,
   She had Thought the Mutual Sport no harm.
   This Moral's an undoubted Truth,
   Age envies Still the Joys of Youth.

In other words, an 18th c viewer would see the scene as a hilarious mockery of withered Mom and her envy of her beautiful daughter. Ann the Fair One isn't in trouble; it's Mom who's displaying her unbecoming jealousy. Maybe we should introduce her to the Old Beau.

I have to admit I'm stymied by the male figure in the background, and whatever it is he's holding. At first I thought it might be a looking-glass for vanity, but now I'm doubting it. The man wouldn't be in the print without a purpose. Any of you more learned folk than I have a guess what that might be?

Above: Is this my daughter Ann by J.H.Grim & James Watson printmaker, published in London by S. Sledge, 1774. Copyright the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

8 comments:

Christine H. said...

It seems to me that there's a limit to how much trouble you could get in with that cumbersome hair. What a fun and interesting post.

Ana said...

It seems to me that he is holding open the door to a carriage for the pair, kind of like a taxi.

Anna Weller said...

I think that the man in the background is next to a sedan chair - one of the poles of it protrudes forward of Mama's skirt. He is lifting the roof to accommodate the towering wigs, but also to allow access to the chair. The roof of a sedan chair may lift so that one can stand up whilst getting in and out. One of the prints from Hogarth's series 'The Rake's Progress' shows a sedan chair with such a roof.

It seems to me that this sedan chair pole man is also having a good oogle at Ann!

Keri said...

Interesting that Ann is so tall (even if you don't take her enormous hair into account). She looks taller than the Macaroni, even. At first I blamed the heels, but nowadays it's considered somewhat emasculating if you're taller than your beau even in heels. I guess they didn't feel the same about height back then.

Anonymous said...

I'm with the modern interpretation. The 18th century one might say it is about the Mama's jealousy of young things='s fun, but that was a rather cynical observation about all those who preached morality,
Ann has departed from the path of virtue, for sure.

Vicky Dreiling said...

Susan,

"Love Joy" - snort. Your comments about the print are hysterical. I really enjoy the daily blog.

Cheers!

Isobel Carr said...

Love that Ann appears to be wearing a knit bed jacket (basically a cardigan). I’ve seen extant examples, but it’s not a garment you see in prints or in books. Must go add one to mine …

And yeah, he’s holding up the lid of a sedan chair.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Congratulations to everyone who spotted the sedan chair. Of course that's what it is - I just didn't "see" it originally, wrongly interpreting the window as an isolated element, and then trying to make it into something it wasn't. (That's what I deserve for trying to resuscitate my ancient art history chops.) Granted, the artist isn't the most accomplished, either - anyone else notice the fun-house distortion of the bricks in the house?

Anyway - here's a link to the Hogarth painting that Anna mentioned: http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/hogarth/images/works/a_rakes_progress_4.jpg

The top opens to permit the passenger to stand up, but also to accommodate those outrageous wigs. (also check out the guy to the right with his hands in a fur muff!)

And yes, Christina, one hopes that at some point, this couple shed their wigs!

Anonymous, it IS a cynical interpretation - but it's good to remember that prints like this one would more likely end up pinned to the wall of a tavern than framed in a drawing room. Georgian England was not a sentimental place, and their ideas of morality were not necessarily the same as ours. Prints like this one often have strong agist and misogynist messages, too - there's nothing more laughable/contemptible than a vain old woman. (And as Loretta and I were discussing, we figure the Mom here is probably only in her 40s!) Different times, indeed.

Isobel, I noticed Ann's bed jacket, too - not something I've ever seen in a print, either.

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