This is one of a series of eleven sepia watercolours illustrating scenes from ‘The Relapse’; the first play written by architect and playwright Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726). Inscriptions by artist William Powell Frith, which quote relevant lines of text and identify the characters, acts and scenes, are on the reverse of each drawing.
‘The Relapse’ first opened at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, in 1696. It was written as a sequel to the popular play ‘Love’s Last Shift’ by Colley Cibber (1671-1757). In Cibber’s play, a rakish character named Loveless is reformed by his long-suffering, virtuous wife Amanda. Vanburgh’s sequel sees Loveless returning to his old ways, beginning an affair with a spirited young widow called Berinthia, while his wife resists the advances of her persistent admirer, Worthy.
William Powell Frith was born near Ripon in Yorkshire. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools and was elected an Academician in 1852. During the 1840s he was a member of the artists' group 'The Clique'. Although his early subjects were historical or literary, Frith claimed to have been ‘strongly drawn’ to contemporary genre. He first painted the subject following a visit to Ramsgate of 1851, which resulted in ‘Ramsgate Sands’ (exhibited 1854). He went on to paint ‘Derby Day’ (1858), ‘The Railway Station’ (1862) and ‘Private View Day at the Royal Academy’ (1883). His 19 children - twelve with his wife and seven with his mistress - caused considerable financial difficulties. Frith died of pneumonia aged 90, at his home in St John's Wood.
Collection of attorney and antiquary Sir William Richard Drake (1817-1890) of Prince's Gardens and Oatlands Lodge, Webridge; by whose executors sold through Christie's, London, 'Valuable and Extensive Collection of Water-colour Drawings formed by Sir William Richard Drake, F.S.A.' sale, 24 May 1892 (Lots 121-125; with GAC 13823-13825, 13827-13833); collection of designer, editor and amateur painter Ana Inez Astor (née Carcano y Morra; 1918-1992; first wife of Sir John Jacob Astor); by whom sold through Christie's, London, on 25 April 1978 (Lot 201; with GAC 13823-13825, 13827-13833); from which sale purchased by the Department for the Environment
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