Thomas Watson (British, 17431781) after Henry Robert Morland (British, 1716?1797)
Mezzotint; 12 3/4 x 9 in. (32.4 x 22.9 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1953 (53.600.1892)
With her right hand, a young woman raises a candle shielded by a white paper wrapper, illuminating the stack of printed sheets in her left hand. Considering the scene's explicit subjecta street vendor advertising the popular (bawdy) lyrics sold for boisterous communal song in taverns and coffeehousesthe mood is hushed, and remarkably still. The paper lantern silences the figure's mouth, revealing only the slightest glimpse of a sensuous, curving lip, and layers of clothing hide her body (which, given her profession, would have seemed an object of dubious virtue). Ultimately, a single eye remains for the viewer's delectation, its elegant, almond form positioned in the center of the sheet; beneath it, the glowing white lantern appears equally iconic. Reduced to its essential elementsan eye that sees, a lantern that illuminates a textthis scene of music becomes an allegory of sight.