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Augustus Leopold Egg, R.A. (1816-1863)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 2… Read more From the Collection of Edmund J. and Suzanne McCormick (Lots 26 & 31)
Augustus Leopold Egg, R.A. (1816-1863)

"The Toilet", a lady seated at a toilet-table, and her maid - candlelight

Augustus Leopold Egg, R.A. (1816-1863)
"The Toilet", a lady seated at a toilet-table, and her maid - candlelight
oil on canvas
23½ x 19½ in. (59.7 x 48.3 cm.)
Artist's Studio sale; Christie's, London, 18 May 1863, lot 117 (50 gns to Gilbert).
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 15 October 1976, lot 3, as 'He loves me'.
with Jeremy Maas, London.
with Christopher Wood, London, from whom purchased by the present owner in 1980.
C. Forbes, 'McCormick's Victorian Reapings: An American Collection of British Nineteenth-Century Pictures', Nineteenth Century, 6, Summer 1980, p. 40.
H. Faberman, Augustus Leopold Egg, R.A. (1816-1863), Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1983, pp. 89, 367, 436, fig. 27.
London, Jeremy Maas, An Exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite and Romantic Paintings, Drawings, Water-Colours and Prints, 1977, no. 14.
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, The Substance of the Shadow: Images of Victorian Womanhood, 14 April - 13 June 1982, no. 28.
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, The Edmund J. and Suzanne McCormick Collection, 1984, no. 8.
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

At first glance the painting appears to illustrate a charming image of a young girl enjoying the process of dressing, perhaps for a ball. It combines characteristics of seventeenth-century Dutch portrayals of ladies and their maidservants, from which Egg had copied examples, with Victorian Keepsake images of women absorbed in their toilette at dressing tables. On the table in front of the sitter is displayed a wide array of what would have been highly-fashionable and highly-expensive jewellery at the time the painting was executed, such as the serpent bangle around the sitter's arm, and the elaborate and technically-sophisticated looped belt (or bracelet) that sits in the centre of the table between the candlesticks. Towards the far right of the table can be seen a locket set with turquoises. Another necklace, set with rubies, can also be seen in the centre of the table. These prized items correspond with other items of wealth that surround the sitter, such as her ivory-backed brush, a lavish gilt mirror draped by elaborate lace, and the sumptuous pink dress that sits beside her waiting to be put on, for which she is choosing a suitably coordinated flower accessory.

On closer examination, however, certain aspects of the painting hint at a rather more suggestive explanation, initially proposed by the hair piece that is perched on the side of the dressing table implying that perhaps the lady is not so young after all, and that perhaps, as she does not wear a wedding ring, she may not be virtuous. Dressed only in her undergarments, she is seated in a darkened chamber illuminated only by candlelight, further adding to the ambiguous nature of the scene.

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