NORTHCOTE, After James, R.A. (1746-1831)
A Visit to the Grandmother
London: published by J.R. Smith, 14 May 1785. Mezzotint and roulette, printed in colours and finished by hand, by John Raphael Smith. Image size (including text): 20 3/8 x 15 3/4 inches. Sheet size: 23 x 17 1/2 inches approx. Gold leaf frame.
A charming image of a family duty and pleasure, ably engraved by one of the greatest mezzotinters of his day.
Northcote, who worked as pupil and assistant to Sir Joshua Reynolds for five years from 1771, produced works in a number of genres: portraits, historical and subject pictures, animal painting and morally instructive scenes. The present image shows two young fashionably-dressed young ladies sitting with their grandmother. One completes some sewing that her grandmother's fingers are no longer nibble enough to complete, while her sister reads aloud. Their grandmother, content to have her granddaughters near, sits and quietly knits, listening to the reading. Her cat looks watchfully out at the viewer from the arm of her mistress' chair, an emblem of the peacefulness of the group John Raphael Smith (1752-1812) came to London in about 1767, "and, while still serving as a shopman, devoted his leisure to the practice of miniature-painting. He also attempted engraving, and his earliest plate, a portrait of Pascal Paoli, after Henry Bembridge, is dated 1769. He made rapid progress in this art, and soon gained a high position. Many of his plates from the works of Reynolds, Romney, and others, as well as from his own designs, are among the masterpieces of mezzotint engraving... Smith likewise carried on an extensive business as a publisher of engravings, and employed Girtin and Turner to colour prints. Desirous of himself becoming a painter, he neglected engraving when at the zenith of his fame, and turned his attention to drawing crayon portraits, which he executed with great rapidity and success... He also painted some fancy subjects in a style resembling those of Morland and of Wheatley. His works appeared at the exhibitions of the Incorporated Society of Artists, the Free Society of Artists, and the Royal Academy between 1773 and 1805... He possessed great artistic talent, combined with a humorous and convivial temperament..." (DNB).
Le Blanc III, p.546, no.227.