The specific subject of this painting, if there is one, has not been identified. While the shape of the canvas, which is somewhat abraded, suggests that it may have been intended as an inset or sketch for a ceiling, there is no other evidence to support either this supposition or the fanciful title, The Wood Nymph’s Family, supplied by the donor to the Museum.
Lord Leverhulme was much interested in Etty, whose paintings decorated the stair hall of his London house, The Hill, on Hampstead Heath. Farr (1960) has dated this work to 1827–35, the artist’s most important period, after his return from a long stay in Italy. Neither the drawing of the secondary figures, which is awkward and lacking in Etty’s usual gravitas, nor the rather finicky handling of the landscape is typical.
[2012; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Arthur Kay, Tregortha, Glasgow (by 1904–11; his sale, Christie's, London, May 11–12, 1911, no. 262, as "An Allegory of Plenty", for £21 to Gooden & Fox); [Gooden & Fox, London, 1911; sold to Lever]; Sir William Hesketh Lever, Baronet, later Baron Leverhulme, still later 1st Viscount Leverhulme, Thornton Manor, Thornton Hough, Wirral, Cheshire, and The Hill, Hampstead (1911–d. 1925; his estate sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, February 17, 1926, no. 79, for $400 to Hawkins); J. T. Hawkins (from 1926); [Martin Birnbaum, New York, by 1958–59; as "The Wood Nymph's Family, the project for a Palace Ceiling"]
Bradford, England. Cartwright Memorial Hall. "Works of Art in the Cartwright Memorial Hall," 1904, no. 18 (as "Allegory," lent by Arthur Kay, Esq.).
Ernest Radford. "English Art at Bradford." Art-Journal 66 (August 1904), p. 249, mentions the three Etty pictures in the exhibition, and without specifying titles, calls two "his very best" and the third "feebly-conceived".
"Ninetieth Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year 1959–1960." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 19 (October 1960), p. 57, as "Nymph and Children" by Etty; dates it about 1830.
Dennis Farr. Letter to Elizabeth E. Gardner. January 6, 1960, accepts the attribution to Etty and dates the picture about 1827–35.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 252–53, no. 121, ill. (color).