Thursday, March 22, 2018

Researching 18th Century Looks: Mezzotints and Genre Paintings

The Enraged Macaroni, 1773
by Philip Dawe
While dressing up in silk gowns and portraying the aristocrat is a ton of fun, most often, reenactment events call for middle, and lower class impressions.  While there are a ton of beautiful portraits by European painters to reference for aristocratic European impressions, finding inspiration (and documentation) for more regular folks is quite a challenge.

All the advice from the reenacting community when researching one's impression says to "reference period images", but it's not always obvious where to look.  Portraits in oil on canvas of lords and ladies from England aren't always helpful when portraying a middle or working class person in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.  Museum collections of extant pieces often aren't helpful either, as they usually belonged to the wealthy, (and the European).

Some of the Best Places to Look

The British Museum Collections Search

The Yale Lewis Walpole Library Collections Search

You can use the names of the creators and publishers of popular prints from the period as search terms.

In no particular order, some of those names include: William DoughtyDaniel Gardner, Carington Bowles, Matthew Darly, R. Sayer and J. Bennet, John Raphael Smith, James Birchall, James Bretherton, John Boydell, P. Stee, and Philip Dawe.

The fruit barrow painted by H. Walton
engraved by J.R. Smith.
Mezzotints: More than you probably wanted to know. French manière noire; German schabkunst)

"A manner of engraving on copper or steel by scraping or burnishing a roughened surface to produce light and shade." - Miriam Webster

Period mezzotints are a great source for visual references for everyday folks.  They feature satires, scenes of street life, political cartoons, and such.  The images were etched backwards into softish metal, and then inked like a stamp.  They were used in newspapers, magazines, and what passed for "mass produced" images in the 1770s.  The National Portrait Gallery has a lengthy article on the origins, and the specifics if you're interested. 

There is a great article on mezzotint print-making at The Drawing Studio.  It details the process of burnishing a copper plate, applying ink, and making a print.

Christ Church, one of the colleges at Oxford University in the UK has a special collection of printmaking stuff, and they've got an article on the process here - Printmakers and Publishing in the 18th Century
Contemporary 21st century artist, Jim Hubbman's article on mezzotint printmaking, The Mezzotint Process

 I have assembled here a few resources, and search terms that will help a newcomer to the hobby, or the documentation process.  A few databases through which I have found several period mezzotint images include:
John Raphael Smith
Self Portrait in colors chalk, c. 1807
National Portrait Gallery

When looking for these mezzotints, helpful search terms include the publishers of popular

When searching for these names, click the "advanced search" button, and limit your date range from 1760-1780, or so.

The artists who made the original drawings from which the prints were made include:

John Raphael Smith

There is a lengthy article on the function, use, and significance of this uniquely British art form from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Timeline of Art entitled The Printed Image in the West: Mezzotint.

In this article, Elizabeth Barker tells us that Mezzotints circulated widely and were sold cheaply like posters in a variety of sizes (including "royal" 24x19 inches, "large" 18x24 inches, "posture" 14x10, and "small" 6x4)  Collectors of these popular images assembled portfolios or albums of leading figures of the day, or displayed "genre" scenes on their walls.  Such "furniture prints" might be framed, mounted on stretchers, or passed directly on the walls of people's houses, and public spaces.

Plucking the Turkey
by Henry Walton, 1776
Genre Painting The term genre painting refers to paintings which depict scenes of everyday life.  The painting included here was exhibited in London in 1776, and may have been a coded, pro-British political message regarding the hostilities with the rebellious colonies...

British Artists who worked in this style during the 1770s include:

As always, consider context.  Most of these images are from Europe, and not the North American colonies, and what's suitable for London in 1776 isn't necessarily suitable for Boston, or rural New England in the same year, but there will be certain constants.  Mezzotints and genre paintings are definitely not the only sources, but they are some of the best visuals for non-aristocrats from the Revolutionary War period.  Runaway ads, probate records, and other print sources are some of the best for specifics of middle and working class women's dress, but don't tend to involve visuals. Happy Researching.


  1. افضل الخدمات المنزليه المقدمة بمدينة الخبر وسيهات وبقيق من تنظيف للمجالس والكنب والموكيت والسجاد وافضل شركة تنظيف
    منازل ببقيق وسيهات وراس تنورة 0551844053 ومن الخدمات المقدمة ايضا بمدينة سيهات وبقيق وراس تنورة

    شركة تنظيف كنب بالخبر
    شركة تنظيف مجالس بالخبر
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالاحساء
    شركة تنظيف موكيت بالخبر
    شركة رش مبيدات بالخبر
    شركة مكافحة النمل الابيض بالخبر
    شركة مكافحة النمل الابيض بسيهات
    شركة مكافحة النمل الابيض ببقيق
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه ببقيق
    شركة تنظيف منازل ببقيق


  2. الخدمات المنزلية بمدينة الخبر من شركة تاج 0551844053 شركة تسليك مجارى بالخبر
    تسليك المجارى من اكبر الشركات التى تقوم باعمال الكشف عن تسليك المجارى مثل شركة طيوب لتسليك المجارى بالدمام بالاعتماد على افضل ما لديها من امكانيات فنحن لدينا افضل الاجهزه والالات المتواجدة فى الاسواق والتى تساعد فى اعمال التسليك على اكمل وجه فلا داعى للقلق من شان الاجهزه فالجهاز يعمل عن طريق ضخ المياه بشده مما يساعد على ازاله الاوساخ والاتربه والمواد الصلبه والعوالق واى مادة غير مالوف وجودها فى المجارى
    ومن الخدمات المقدمة بمدينة الخبر ومنها :
    شركة تنظيف بالخبر
    شركة تنظيف بيوت بالخبر
    شركة تنظيف سجاد بالخبر
    شركة تنظيف شقق بالخبر
    شركة تنظيف فلل بالخبر
    شركة تنظيف منازل بالخبر
    شركة عزل اسطح بالخبر
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالخبر
    شركة مكافحة حشرات بالخبر