The modest title of this painting by John Collet – A Scene in a London Street – has to be one of the greatest understatements in art history. There's enough happening in this painting for an entire movie. (Click the image to enlarge, and if you want to see even more detail, here's a link to a larger jpg.) Front and center is The New Bagnio, clearly a dubious establishment where bathing is taking a back seat to more risque shenanigans, and it appears we've just missed witnessing some sort of street fight.
Not to get too "Where's Waldo?", but here are a few things to look for:
• The "loose" lady without stays, stepping from a hired sedan chair
• The bailiff with his tipstaff, and a forlorn debtor newly in captivity
• The Bath Fly, a coach traveling between London and Bath, with partyin' passengers on top
• A monkey, dressed in a mini-turban
• A pet dog dressed in a kerchief
• A chimney-swift peering from a chimney
• The large basket belonging to a strawberry street-vendor, with smaller cone-shaped pottle-baskets (see another strawberry vendor with similar baskets here)
• The irate vendor (or is she the bagnio's madame?) attacking the fallen gentleman (perhaps an officer?) in the street, one of her baskets still on his sword
• The angry folk on the left: thieves, more vendors, sailors, or...what?
• The same hapless gentleman's shaved head, and his wig, complete with bow, knocked to the pavement.
What else can you discover?
Above: A Scene in a London Street, by John Collet, c. 1725-1780, Yale Center for British Art.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.