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Creator:
Henry Walton, 1746–1813, British
Title:

A Market Girl

Former Title(s):

The Silver Age

Date:
between 1776 and 1777
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Support (PTG): 22 x 22 inches (55.9 x 55.9 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Inscription out of reach

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1981.25.650
Classification:
Paintings
Collection:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
animals | apron (main garment) | basket | bonnet (hat) | cloak | genre subject | girl | hay | hens | hills | landscape | market (event) | petticoat | portrait | selling | steeple | tondo
Access:
Not on view
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:1113
Export:
XML
IIIF Manifest:
JSON

Henry Walton exhibited this painting at the Royal Academy in 1777 as A Market Girl. A wearied girl rests all alone by the wayside, bundled up against the cold and carrying her basket of chickens either to or from market. The public exhibitions helped spread the popularity of small paintings such as this, pictures of everyday life with a moralizing subtext, which were called “fancy pictures.” By the 1770s there was a vogue for fancy pictures of country people, often children, and Walton’s Market Girl achieved popularity when reproduced in mezzotint by John Raphael Smith and retitled The Silver Age. Smith’s new title alluded to the fallen state of humanity and the need for work to sustain life. Here, life’s travails and hardships are seen expressed in the young girl’s pensive face.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016
Although this painting is more commonly known as “The Silver Age”, it was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1777 as “The Market Girl”. It has been suggested that in his travels to Paris Walton may have become acquainted with Chardin, whose influence can be perceived in the scale, composition, and tranquil mood of the scene. The genre paintings that Walton exhibited in the mid-1770s certainly constituted a shift away from his early portraits in style and subject matter. The model may be one of Walton’s nieces, who posed for several of his genre scenes.

The publisher Valentine Green assigned the alternate title when he published an engraving after this work paired with another, after a painting by Benjamin West (probably “A Domestic Scene”, RA 1776, no. 321), as “The Silver Age” and “The Golden Age”, respectively. In Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, the Golden Age was one of “immortal spring” during which the earth

“. . . yet guiltless of the plough,
And unprovok’d, did fruitful stores allow.
During the Silver Age, spring “was but a season of
the year”:
Then ploughs, for seed, the fruitful
furrows broke,
And oxen labour'd first beneath the yoke.”
(Ovid, “Metamorphoses”, p. 5)

The classical metaphor is not entirely apt, not least because “The Golden Age” depicts a view, through a doorway, of a man plowing a field. Green, however, may have intended a more general association concerning the passage of time and innocence. The sleeping baby in the foreground of West’s composition, blissfully unaware of the world’s travails, could be taken as a younger incarnation of the market girl, bundled against the cold, whose basket of chickens signals her participation in an agricultural economy.

Eleanor Hughes

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 266, no. 52, pl. 52, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 266, no. 52, pl. 52, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Evelyne Bell, The Life and Work of Henry Walton, Gainsborough's House Review, , 1998/99, pp. 42,75,80,82, no. 189, N1494 G25 1998/99 (YCBA)

Cyril Connolly, English Conquest in the Old Dominion, ART News, vol. 62, Summer 1963, pp. 30-33, N1 A6 OVERSIZE (HAAS)

Malcolm Cormack, A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 232-233, N590.2 A83 (YCBA)

Exhibition Catalogue. 1777. 9th, Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, no. 9, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1777, p. 27, no. 360, N5054 A53 v. 1:1 (YCBA)

Painting in England 1700-1850 from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition 1964-65., , Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 1964, pp. 61-2 (v.1), no. 223, pl. 69, ND466 R68 1964/65 (YCBA) Also available on Microfiche: Fiche B214 (YCBA)

Painting in England 1700-1850, collection of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon. , Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 1963, p. 138 (v. 1), no. 263, pl. 197, ND466 V57 v.1-2 (YCBA)

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 3, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA)

Sotheby's sale catalogue : Catalogue of Modern Drawings and Paintings : 9 October 1949, Sotheby's, London, October 19, 1949, p. 13, Lot 109, Film B12, Part IV, reel 12 of 164 (YCBA)

Yale University Art Gallery, Painting in England, 1700-1850, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, [exhibition at] Yale University Art Gallery, April 15-June 20, 1965. , vol. 1, W. Clowes and sons, New Haven, 1965, p. 56 (v. 1), no. 207, pl. 69, ND466 Y35 (YCBA)


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