Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd

  • Pen and ink and brown and grey wash
  • 8 ⅞ × 12 ¼ inches · 225 × 310 mm
  • Drawn c. 1748-9
  • £8,500

This fascinating record of an English peruke-maker's shop of the mid eighteenth century was intended for engraving as part of a series. Though no impression of the engraving has been identified, Boitard's design is certainly a print study as the date 1733 and lettering HMW on the cistern in the right foreground, and the almanac posted on the wall in the far-left background, all appear backwards, in the expectation that they would be reversed in the printed version.

A related drawing by Boitard, of the same size and medium and set within a similar ornamental cartouche depicting a tailor's shop survives in the Royal Collection.[1] This was engraved by George Bickham who published it on 29 June 1749. It depicts a workshop with tailors sitting crossed-legged by a long window which was added to many attic workshops in London, where a source of natural light was essential. Bickham gave Boitard's design the title The Merchant Taylors and the lettering below the image gives a brief history of the Merchant Taylors' livery company in London. These two designs may have been envisaged as part of a series depicting London trades, or livery companies perhaps - given Bickham's addition of a French version of the title, 'Les Merchands Tailleurs Anglois' - in a publication that would have had a market overseas as well as in England.

London in the mid-eighteenth century exerted huge economic influence nationally, and its retail environment drew comment from overseas. The French writer André Rouquet judged that London's shops gave it: 'an air of wealth and elegance that we do not see in any other city'.[2] There was also a literature on London's trades that, like Robert Campbell's The London Tradesman of 1747, was intended to guide potential apprentices and employees. Campbell explained that the peruke maker 'has his fashions from Paris, like all other tradesmen, and the nearer he can approach to the patterns of that fickle tride, the better chance he has to succeed with his English customers.' Boitard has drawn a customer sitting in a chair and being shaved for as Campbell added, the peruke-maker was 'not only a Wigg-Maker but a Barber. They generally all Shave and Dress.'[3]

The drawing shows many of the graphic conventions of printmakers from Hogarth’s circle: the rococo cartouche, decorated whimsically with emblems of the peruke makers trade (shaving basin, brushes and scissors). In the foreground a dog and cat confront one another, adding a touch of typically Hogarthian humour.

References

  1. A. P. Oppé, English Drawings, Stuart and Georgian Periods, in the Collection of H.M. The King at Windsor Castle, 1950, no. 71. 
  2. André Rouquet, The Present State of the Arts in England, London, 1755, p.120. 
  3. Robert Campbell's The London Tradesman, London, 1747, p.204.