When painter Thomas Uwins exhibited this work at the Royal Academy in 1842 it was accompanied by a quote from the celebrated comic novel ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’ (published 1759-67) by writer and Church of England clergyman Laurence Sterne (1713-1768):
‘Poor Maria is sitting upon a bank, playing her vespers upon her pipe, with her little goat beside her.’
Later that year, Uwins exhibited the work again at the Liverpool Academy. A review of the exhibition, published in both the ‘Art Journal’ and ‘The Art-Union’, declared:
‘This beautiful little picture, a gem of the purest water, was one of the sweetest, though most unpresuming, of the works in the recent exhibition of the Royal Academy.’
Thomas Uwins was born in London; the son of a bank clerk. From 1797 he was apprenticed to engraver Benjamin Smith and entered the Royal Academy Schools the following year. Uwins initially exhibited miniatures but later concentrated on book illustrations, including several for publisher Rudolph Ackermann. He lived in Rome from 1824-32, where he became a successful portraitist and also painted Italian peasant scenes. Uwins was elected to the Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1821, having been Secretary for the Society (1813-14 and 1816-18), and became a Royal Academician in 1838, serving as the Academy's Librarian from 1844. In 1845 he was appointed Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures and, two years later, Keeper of the National Gallery.
Signed, dated and inscribed on verso: T. Unwins, R. A. 1841[?] / Maria / Tristram Shandy
Sold through Phillip's, London, on 19 May 1981 (Lot 128); 'The Property of a Lady'; by whom sold through Sotheby's, London, 'British Paintings 1500 - 1850' sale, on 19 February 1986 (Lot 310); from which sale purchased by the Government Picture Collection
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