SMITH, John Raphael after Rev. Matthew William PETERS
The Fortune Teller
London: Published by J. R. Smith, No. 83 Oxford Street, May 22, 1786. Coloured mezzotint. In good condition with the exception of some faint soiling in upper margin. Bottom margin outside platemark is coated with white paint. Water stains on verso of sheet, not noticeable on front of sheet. Image size: 14 3/4 x 17 inches. Plate size: 17 7/8 x 19 5/8 inches. Sheet size: 19 5/8 x 20 inches.
A wonderful mezzotint after Rev. Matthew William Peters, by one of the finest eighteenth century engravers.
This charming print is engraved after a painting by Rev. Matthew William Peters, and is a fascinating example of this period in British printmaking. Matthew Peters was trained in London under the portraitist Thomas Hudson. He quickly became a prominent member of the Society of Artists, exhibiting portraits in oil and pastel, and attracting a number of prominent aristocratic patrons, including the Duke of Manchester, the Marquess of Granby, and Lord Grosvenor, for whom he painted some of his most controversial pictures. Urged by his patrons, Peters painted a series of quasi-erotic character studies of courtesans, which at that time were quite unusual in Britain. These controversial pictures were eagerly reproduced by industrious printmaker/publishers such as Smith, and caused a flurry of curious customers to hurry to London print-shops. Following his ordination in 1781, Peters quickly denounced his early erotic pictures as immoral. Upon being appointed Honorary Chaplain to the Royal Academy, Peters expressed a profound regret "that he ever devoted his talents to such subjects". With this in mind, this picture becomes extremely interesting. In this work, Peters continues to observe and appreciate charming subjects in fancy costumes, but eliminates the erotic overtones present in his earlier works. Instead he has chosen to depict an age-old moral subject, fortune-telling, an institution in western art since the Renaissance. This print, which is expertly engraved by one of the finest eighteenth century printmakers, is a fascinating view into a turbulent period in Peters' life, when he struggled to produce images that would appeal to his viewers while remaining true to his moral beliefs.
D'Oench, Copper into Gold: Prints by John Raphael Smith 1751-1812 p. 224, No. 274; Smith Catalogue No. 135 & 136; Ackermann 1802, p. 9 , described as companion prints; Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits [Ward], 97, [Smith], 186; Frankau, An 18th Century Artist and Engraver: John Raphael Smith 146.