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Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, 1733–1794

The French Lady in London

ca. 1771
Materials & Techniques:
Gray wash black ink and gouache over graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Sheet: 11 1/2 x 9 inches (29.2 x 22.9 cm)

Inscribed in black ink, lower left: "S.H. Grimm fecit."; upper left: "the Geese watching the Capitole"; center: "Representation of the Pic of Teneriffe"; lower center: "Lecture | upon | Heads"; in brown ink, verso, upper center: "The French Lady in London. N. 9."

Collector's mark: Thomas Esmond Lowinsky (Lugt 2420a)

Signed in black ink, lower left: "S.H. Grimm fecit."

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
caricature | cat (Felidae) | chairs | dogs (animals) | draperies | dresses | fans (costume accessories) | French | genre subject | hats | interior | men | parrots | ruffle | sunsuits | tables (support furniture) | wigs | windows | women
Associated Places:
London | United Kingdom
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
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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. 103 cat. no. 84

Samuel Hieronymus Grimm (1733-1794) (Kunstmuseum Bern, 2014-01-17 - 2014-04-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

British Comic Art 1730 - 1830 (Museum of Art and Archaelogy, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1988-10-14 - 1988-12-04) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

English Caricature - 1620 to the Present (Yale Center for British Art, 1985-09-01 - 1985-11-13) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

English Caricature - 1620 to the Present (Victoria and Albert Museum, 1985-06-04 - 1985-09-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

English Caricature - 1620 to the Present (National Gallery of Canada, 1985-02-26 - 1985-05-10) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

English Caricature - 1620 to the Present (The Library of Congress, 1984-11-13 - 1985-02-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Rotha Mary Clay, Samuel Hieronymus Grimm of Burgdorf in Switzerland With a foreword by His Excellency Monsieur Charles Rudolph Paravicini and a chapter contributed by Paul Girardin., Faber & Faber, London, 1941, opposite p. 37-, pl.42, NJ18 G81 C53 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Richard T. Godfrey, English caricature, 1620 to the present : caricaturists and satirists, their art, their purpose and influence, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1984, p. 61, no. 58, NC1477 .G63 E54 [ORBIS]

William Hauptman, Samuel Hieronymus Grimm (1733-1794) : a very English Swiss, 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2014, pp. 26-27, 90-92, cat. not. 18, NJ18.G81 H38 2014 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, pp. 102-3, no. 84, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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