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Slippers

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    London (Made)

  • Date:

    1804 (Made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Craig, William Marshall (Artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour and pen and ink on paper

  • Museum number:

    8040:10

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case PD, shelf 174, box B

This watercolour shows an Ottoman Turk selling slippers outside Somerset House in the Strand, London. The drawing was reproduced as an aquatint in the book Modern London, a guide book published in 1804 by Richard Phillips of St. Paul's Churchyard, City of London. In that book the following Description of the Plate was offered: -
'SLIPPERS-
THE Turk in the annexed Plate is a portrait. Habited in the costume of his nation, he has sold Morocco Slippers in the Strand, Cheapside, and Cornhill (during the hours of Exchange) for a great number of years. To these principal streets he generally confines his walks. There are other sellers of Slippers, particularly about the Royal Exchange, who are Jews, and are very importunate for custom, while the venerable Turk uses no solicitation beyond showing his Slippers. They are sold at one shilling and sixpence and two shillings per pair, and are of all colours and sizes.'

There then follows a note about Somerset House, the location of the itinerant trader in this plate. This watercolour is one of ten by William Marshall Craig, acquired by the V&A in 1874. The group is entitled London Street Cries and shows various traders selling their wares on the streets of London.

The Turk was no ordinary street-vendor and seems to have been an astute businessman. He was exploiting his own oriental appearance, even maintaining in the face of active competition a grave and ‘venerable’ demeanour, popularly thought to be the characteristic of Turkish merchants. It almost certainly was his own habit, but it seems he was not tempted to change it. However, he was actually selling expensive Morocco slippers [a type of leather, not slippers from Morocco] presumably imported from Turkey, directly to wealthy bankers and traders at two shillings a time, without the overheads normally associated with a shop. (A labourer might earn as little as one shilling a day in 1804.) Whatever reveries the customers indulged in as they finally donned their slippers and relaxed at home, perhaps while smoking, they had been reinforced by the knowledge that these Turkish accessories of comfort had been purchased from an authentic Turk.
Craig was mainly a book illustrator and an engraver, though he seems to have been able to turn his hand to anything, including designing decorations for snuff boxes and painting miniature portraits. His carefully-drawn series of ‘London street cries’, showing real characters selling a fascinating and sometimes unexpected range of goods in front of London landmarks, rivals the familiar series of London street cries by Francis Wheatley painted in the previous decade.

Physical description

Watercolour showing a Turk in a turban walking along a street carrying a stack of brightly coloured slippers

Place of Origin

London (Made)

Date

1804 (Made)

Artist/maker

Craig, William Marshall (Artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and pen and ink on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Slippers
picture title; Margin: above centre; Handwriting; Pen and ink

W M CRAIG. 1804,
1) Signature; Margin: below centre; Handwriting; Pen and Ink

Somerset House
Textual information; Margin: below right

Dimensions

Height: 15.4 cm This watercolour was made on a sheet of paper that was first folded into two halves - these dimensions reflect the visible top half only, Width: 11.5 cm

Object history note

Purchased along with 8040.1-9 from W. Headlam, November 10 1874. The purchase price below is for the group.

Descriptive line

Watercolour by William Marshall Craig showing a Turk selling slippers outside Somerset House, The Strand, London, 1804. Reproduced as an aquatint in Richard Phillips' 'Modern London' of 1804.

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

Celina Fox, 'Londoners', Thames & Hudson, 1987, pp.124, 144, 146, 163-4
Richard Phillips, 'Modern London', 1804/5

Production Note

An aquatint after this watercolour bears a publication date of 25 August 1804.

Attribution note: Intended to be engraved as a book illustration

Materials

Watercolour; Paper; Pen and ink

Techniques

Painting

Subjects depicted

Turban; Slippers; Working class; Robes; Trade; Occupations, trading; Orientalism; Costume

Categories

Watercolours

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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