Francis Hayman was one of the leading history painters of the mid-eighteenth century, he also had a flourishing portrait practice and a successful career as an illustrator working for the London book trade.
Working in a fashionable rococo style, Hayman produced nearly two hundred designs for book illustrations in the course of his career with almost half of them being engraved by Charles Grignon. Hayman was an active teacher and instructor at the second St. Martin’s Lane Academy and would become instrumental in the establishment of the Society of Artists, the first of London’s exhibiting societies which held its first exhibition in 1760. This attractive pen, ink and wash drawing appears to be an unrealised design for an illustration to Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. While it does not seem to have been engraved, Hayman did execute an illustration for Pope's Dunciad, engraved by Charles Grignion in William Warburton's 1760 Collected Edition of Pope. Hayman has depicted the pivotal moment of the story: Belinda comforted by her maid, while the Baron holds the lock of her hair he has cut aloft. Pope's mock-heroic narrative poem was hugely popular throughout the eighteenth-century, and its imagery would have been well-known.