William Derby, Edwin & Angelina - Early 19th-century watercolour painting


An original early 19th-century watercolour painting, William Derby Edwin & Angelina.

This affecting painting is the work of William Derby (1786–1847), a miniature painter and copyist of astonishing skill. The figures depicted, Edwin and Angelina (from the ballad of the same name by 18th-century novelist Oliver Goldsmith), are painted with a tenderness and elegance that are a testament to this skill—shining out almost luminously from the sepia gloom of the hermit's cave.

The painting captures an exchange full of promise: Angelina on the right is disguised as a male pilgrim on a journey of repentance, believing that her rebuffed suiter Edwin has died of a broken heart. A hermit she meets advises the concealed Angelina to renounce women altogether, but upon revealing her true identity, the hermit in turn declares himself to be Edwin and the lovers are reunited.

The ballad was published in Goldsmith's novel The Vicar of Wakefield in 1766, which was one of the most popular and widely read 18th-century novels among Victorians. As you peel back the obfuscating layers of disguise and esoteric reference, this is an image which speaks of universal love, Victorian romantic nostalgia, and—as Goldsmith's novel has ultimately come to be understood—a satire on excessive sentiment.

Edwin and Angelia is a subject that has been treated by various artists including John Martin, Thomas Stothard, Walter Stephens Lethbridge, Robert Pollard and Charles Taylor.

Brown watercolour on wove paper, laid down on backing paper. Overlap of paint onto the backing indicates that the paper was laid down by the artist.

Inscribed on the verso of the backing paper, including 'Edwin & Angelina W. Derby delt', likely in the artist's hand.

Overall in good condition for its age. There are some slight rubbed marks in the dark areas above the figures, and there is slight wear towards the outer edges of the paper, including a short repaired tear to the right edge. Please see photos for detail.
20cm x 15.5cm.

William Derby (1786–1847) was born in Birmingham, where he was taught drawing by Joseph Barber. He moved to London in 1808, where his work as a copyist began, drawing reduced drawings for the plates of the Marquess of Stafford's 'Stafford Gallery' engravings published in 1818. His career continued as a portrait and miniature painter until 1825, when he succeeded William Hilton RA in making the drawings for Lodge's Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great Britain, completed in 1834. Throughout the course of this work, he obtained useful introductions, including securing the patronage of the Earl of Derby. In 1838 he was struck by a severe attack of paralysis, leaving him deprived him of speech and the use of one side of his body, but in a few months he had recovered sufficiently to continue his work, which he did with the assistance of his son, Alfred Thomas Derby. Between 1811 and 1842 he exhibited 49 works at the Royal Academy, 16 at the British Institution and 15 at the Society of British Artists.

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Product code: JP-382

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