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This is a sketch for a satirical painting which caused one of the greatest art scandals in eighteenth-century Britain. The ‘conjuror’ is Joshua Reynolds, president of the Royal Academy, magically creating new paintings from old master prints. He’s shown here in the character of his favourite model, the beggar George White.Hone’s finished painting was rejected from the Royal Academy’s 1775 exhibition, ostensibly because it shows the artist Angelica Kauffman dancing naked in the group of artists at the top left. But Hone’s real offence was to accuse Reynolds of stealing ideas and poses from old master paintings.

May 2007