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drawing - 'What are you at, my fine little Men?'
  • 'What are you at, my fine little Men?'
    Potter, Beatrix, born 1866 - died 1943
  • Enlarge image

'What are you at, my fine little Men?'

  • Object:

    drawing

  • Date:

    ca. 1892 (drawn)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Potter, Beatrix, born 1866 - died 1943 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    watercolour and pen and ink on paper

  • Museum number:

    BP.634(10)

  • Gallery location:

    Leighton, Room 102, case CA9

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) is one of the world's best-loved children's authors and illustrators. She wrote the majority of the twenty-three Original Peter Rabbit Books between 1901 and 1913. The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Frederick Warne, 1902) is her most famous and best-loved tale.

A number of Beatrix Potter’s narrative sequences of drawings were inspired by nursery rhymes. She explored the rhyme ‘Three little mice sat down to spin’ in around 1892, envisaging an illustrated booklet, possibly in a concertina format. She made detailed pen and ink studies and six finished watercolours: one for each line of the nursery rhyme (she omitted the last two lines of the usually eight-line rhyme). Potter also made a title-page and six decorated text pages. However, although the booklet reached this advanced stage of preparation it was never published. The fourth design, however, ‘Making coats for Gentlemen’, was adapted for her later book, The Tailor of Gloucester (1903).

The nursery rhyme, as she used it, reads:

Three little Mice sat down to spin
Pussy passed by, and she peeped in
‘What are you at, my fine little Men?’
‘Making coats for Gentlemen’
‘Shall I come in, and cut off your threads?’
‘Oh no! Miss Pussy, you’d bite off our heads’

This finished watercolour illustrates the line, ‘What are you at, my fine little Men?’ For a related pen and ink study, see museum number BP.634(4).

Physical description

Watercolour and pen and ink drawing showing three mice in disarray, rushing from the window, where a cat looks in, with their spinning wheels.

Date

ca. 1892 (drawn)

Artist/maker

Potter, Beatrix, born 1866 - died 1943 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

watercolour and pen and ink on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'H.B.P'
Inscribed in pencil by the artist, lower right.

Dimensions

Height: 98 mm sheet, Width: 138 mm sheet

Object history note

Drawn by Beatrix Potter, ca. 1892. Acquired by the V&A from Leslie Linder (1904-1973) in 1973 as part of the Linder Bequest, a collection of ca. 2150 watercolours, drawings, literary manuscripts, correspondence, books, photographs, and other memorabilia associated with Beatrix Potter and her family.

Descriptive line

Watercolour showing three mice rushing from a window, illustrating the rhyme 'Three little mice sat down to spin', drawn by Beatrix Potter, ca.1892; Linder Bequest cat. no. LB.1068.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Hobbs, Anne Stevenson, and Joyce Irene Whalley, eds. Beatrix Potter: the V & A collection: the Leslie Linder bequest of Beatrix Potter material: watercolours, drawings, manuscripts, books, photographs and memorabilia. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1985. p.122; no.1068
p.122; no.1068
Hobbs, Anne Stevenson, and Joyce Irene Whalley, eds. Beatrix Potter: the V & A collection : the Leslie Linder bequest of Beatrix Potter material : watercolours, drawings, manuscripts, books, photographs and memorabilia. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1985.
Taylor, Judy, Joyce Irene Whalley, Anne Stevenson Hobbs, Elizabeth M Battrick. Beatrix Potter 1866-1943: the Artist and Her World. 1987. London: Frederick Warne & Co. pp.55-6 (discussion of the series of drawings)
pp.55-6 (discussion of the series of drawings)
Taylor, Judy, Joyce Irene Whalley, Anne Stevenson Hobbs, Elizabeth M Battrick. Beatrix Potter 1866-1943: the Artist and Her World. 1987. London: Frederick Warne & Co.
Anne Stevenson Hobbs, Beatrix Potter: artist & illustrator, Frederick Warne & Co Ltd, 2005, p.93 (reproduced)
p.93 (reproduced)
Beatrix Potter: artist & illustrator Frederick Warne & Co Ltd, 2005

Materials

Ink; Paper; Watercolour

Techniques

Watercolour

Subjects depicted

Cats; Wheels; Mouse; Animals; Anthropomorphism; Spinning; Illustrations; Nursery rhymes; Interiors; Mice; Windows

Categories

Drawings; Illustration

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Archive of Art and Design

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