'Mirate che bel visino' [Look, what a beautiful little face!]

Watercolour on ivory. Acquired as French school, about 1820, with the received title 'Her Mistress's Clothes', as part of the collection of Michael Graham-Stewart. He subsequently (2008) informed the Museum of a French-published hand-coloured engraving of 1803 related to it and bearing the Italian title above. This item appears to be a copy after the print (engraved by 'Mecou') rather than the original for it: in the print, the mirror held by the black girl is part of a wooden dressing table or desk and hinged to it at the bottom, her belt and necklace are more refined and bear white-on-blue cameo head profiles (two in the belt, as hook-fastenings), the earrings are oval pearl or glass (no orange colour being used, or in the necklace) and her arm-band is gold. Sicard (b. Avignon 1743 - d. Paris 1825) was a good French miniaturist who also did subjects of a humorous/ erotic nature. Another example is a print of a black page boy presenting a white girl, apparently a slave, for his master's inspection (see ZBA2645 and ZBA2732, a drawing which relates to it). He often called himself 'Sicardi', as on both the prints mentioned - that with the black boy being published in Italy. Another version of the present image, dated 1845 and by Harriet Cany Peale (1800-69), is discussed at length in 'At Beck and Call: The Representation of Domestic Servants in Nineteenth-Century American Painting' by Elizabeth O'Leary (Washington D.C., 1996) pp.140-43). The Peale version has the title 'Her Mistress's Clothes', which is probably how it was first applied to this one. The Italian title is colloquial: 'viso' means 'face', 'visione' is 'sight' but 'visino' (not in a standard modern Italian dictionary) is probably, given the context, a diminutive form for addressing children or those being treated as such: i.e., here with cruel humour, as translated above.

Object Details

ID: ZBA2436
Collection: Special collections
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: French School, 19th century; Sicardi, Louis Marie Sicard, Louis Marie
Date made: circa 1803-20; circa 1820
People: French School, 19th century
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Michael Graham-Stewart Slavery Collection. Acquired with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund
Measurements: sheet: 91 x 78 mm; frame: 122 x 110 mm

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.