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Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, 1733–1794, Swiss

The English Lady at Paris

Gray wash with black ink over graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Sheet: 12 1/2 x 9 5/8 inches (31.8 x 24.4 cm)

Inscribed in gray ink, lower left: "S H Grimm fecit 1771"; in gray ink, center right: "To Alderman | Paris"; in brown ink, verso, upper center: "The English lady at Paris - No. 8."

Signed and dated in gray ink, lower left: "S H Grimm fecit 1771"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
caricature | dog (animal) | genre subject | men | mirrors | ruffle | sconces | sunsuits | tables (support furniture) | women
Associated Places:
France | Paris
View by request in the Study Room
IIIF Manifest:

Anxieties that affluence and luxury were corrupting the nation were commonplace throughout the eighteenth century in Britain and deepened during times of national crisis. The Issue was often characterized as a debate between doughty old-fashioned (masculine) British values and subversive (effeminate) Continental notions of refinement. French hairdressers, valets, and dancing-masters were often singled out for particular opprobrium; a character in one of Samuel Foote's popular anti-French plays of the 1750s claimed
The importation of these puppies makes a part of the politics of your old friends, the French; unable to resist you, whilst you retain your ancient roughness, they have recourse to these minions, who would first , by unmanly means, sap and often soften all your native spirit, and then deliver you an easy prey to their employers.
The pervasive influence of French culture was an especially pressing concern for British artists striving to establish the concept of an authentic and indigenous art in the face of connoisseurship that favored the work of the Continental counterparts and the Old Masters. The contrast between over-refined and mannered French mores and robustly British ones was frequently articulated in the work of artists such as Thomas Rowlandson (see cat. 86) and William Hogarth and was a popular subject for caricature.
Samuel Hieronymus Grimm's pair of drawings [B1977.1.4.6037 and B1977.1.4.6038] , which were published as engravings in 1771, satirize the vogue for French fashions in Britain. A Frenchwoman with a terrifyingly over-elaborate hairstyle is compared with her dowdy English counterpart, whose risible attempts to imitate French finesse are parodied by the image of the bear walking a tightrope in the painting on wall behind her. Contemporary accounts indicate that the extraordinary height of the Frenchwoman's hair in Grimm's parody may only be slightly exaggerated. Such hairstyles were created by a costly and laborious process. Hair was padded using a variety of materials, including horsehair and cotton wool, and then powdered and ornamented, sometimes using large and plaster in 1768, a Dublin hairdresser advertised his skills in "stuccowing"). One commentator patriotically noted that "Parisian ladies wear high towers with an extraordinary number of flowers, pads and ribbons. The English find such boundless display extremely ill-bred, and if any such lady comes to London, people hiss and throw mudd at her." Despite their apparently hostile reception, these extraordinary hairstyles became extremely fashionable in England.
Another opponent of sartorial excess ingeniously invoked Hogarth's concept of the "Line of Beauty" to support his argument. In his Treatise on the Principles of Hair-Dressing, in which the Deformities of Modern Hair-dressing are pointed out, and elegant and natural plan recommended, upon Hogarth's immortal System of Beauty (c. 1785), William Barker advocated straight lines should be avoided in dress as well as in hairstyles, where the "oval is lengthened to a risible stretch," and recommended that his readers should study Hogarth's "admirable 'Analysis of Beauty' if they mean to attain elegance of dress and deportment."

Gillian Forrester

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 102 cat. no. 83

William Hauptman, Samuel Hieronymus Grimm (1733-1794) : a very English Swiss, 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2014, pp. 90-91, 93, cat. no. 19, NJ18.G81 H38 2014 (YCBA)

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