Modern Oddities, by P. Pry Esq., Plate 1st

William Heath ('Paul Pry') British
Publisher Thomas McLean British
Subject William Shakespeare British

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During the second quarter of the nineteenth century women’s fashions in Britain shifted away from a Neoclassical silhouette. Tightly corseted bodices returned and were accentuated with exaggerated puffed sleeves and full round skirts ending above the ankles to display feet in flat slippers. Heads were adorned with “salad plate hats”, wide-brimmed and decorated with ribbons and feathers. Heath worked with the publisher Thomas McLean to create a series of popular etchings that exaggerated aspects of the new style to the point of absurdity. For titles, he often borrowed quotations from Shakespeare; this one is derived from a scene in The Taming of the Shrew (4.3.143). From 1827–29 Heath used the image of a little dandy holding an umbrella to sign prints, seen here at lower left, a reference to Paul Pry, a nosy character in an 1825 play by John Poole.

Modern Oddities, by P. Pry Esq., Plate 1st, William Heath ('Paul Pry') (British, Northumbria 1794/95–1840 Hampstead), Hand-colored etching

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