A group of six fashionably-dressed women are here arranged with their backs to the viewer to showcase a spectacular display of bustles, trains and skirts in the latest styles.
The signature of the artist, Emile Préval, can be seen at the left of this composition. The engraver has also signed the plate to the right but this signature has yet to be deciphered.
This engraving was published in November 1870 as an illustration to the 19th-century fashion magazine ‘The Milliner and Dressmaker’. Text below the image tells us that the garments were created using the ‘Lock Stitch Silent Sewing Machine of Messrs Pollack Schmidt & Co., 210, Regent Street.’ The company of Pollack Schmidt & Co. was founded by Heinrich Pollack and Albert Edwin Schmidt in Hamburg. The company opened depots in Germany, America and the UK, including the branch on Regent Street, in central London. An 1870 advertisement for their Lock-Stitch Sewing Machine states: ‘From the introduction of this Machine into the British Market, the Silent Working principle has become established as indispensable in a Family Sewing Machine.’
Pollack Schmidt & Co. was later taken over and renamed the Hamburg-American Sewing Machine Company.
French illustrator Emile Préval is thought to have been born in c.1845 and was almost certainly based in Paris. He produced drawings for the French fashion periodicals: ‘Le Moniteur De la Mode’ and ‘Le Journal des Dames et Damoiselles’. He also illustrated French writer and art critic Charles Blanc’s book ‘Art in Ornament and Dress’ (1877). An original watercolour for ‘Children’s Day Dress Fashions’ by Préval was sold through Sotheby’s, Billingshurst, in 1995. In his book on ‘Les Petits Maitre de la Peinture’ (‘Minor Masters of Painting’; 1981) Gerald Schurr argues that Préval was considered ‘the best fashion illustrator of his period’. However, French fashion illustrator Jules David (1808-1892) might now be considered a rival to the title.
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