Yale Center for British Art
Henry Walton, 1746–1813, British

A Market Girl
between 1776 and 1777
Oil on canvas
Support (PTG): 22 x 22 inches (55.9 x 55.9 cm)
Inscription out of reach
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
portrait | petticoat | tondo | basket | apron (main garment) | bonnet (hat) | hills | selling | genre subject | cloak | girl | steeple | hens | hay | animals | landscape | market (event)
Currently On View:
Not on view
Curatorial Comment:
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.
Exhibition History:
An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Royal Academy of Arts, 2007-10-20 - 2008-01-27)

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29)

Painting in England 1700-1850 - From The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (Yale University Art Gallery, 1965-04-15 - 1965-06-20)

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)

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)