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Throughout his life Morland painted 'fancy subjects' of servant maids, ballad-singers and oyster-girls, all very similar to this pair. They are derived in large from Mercier's earlier fancy pictures of scenes of domestic occupation, which he produced with an eye to the print market. The tradition that these pictures are actually portraits of famous contemporary society beauties is simply a sentimental notion, and in fact Morland exhibited at least five similar pairs of pictures between 1768 and 1782.

August 2004