back to works by this artist go to previous work   go to next work

William Blake

1757 – 1827

Mrs. Q by William Blake

Mrs. Q   1820

  Stipple engraving, with etching and mezzotint – printed in colours and coloured by hand.
With Blake’s name in the plate.
Ref: Essick XLII ii/ii
S 356 x 259 mm; P 351 x 250 mm; I 295 x 230 mm
Stipple engraving by William Blake, with etching and mezzotint.

Unique impression printed in black ink and colours, and finished by hand - unrecorded by Essick. Essick has not traced any other impression in which the principal image is printed in black ink in this manner. This superb example is one of only three known impressions to have been shaded with hand-painted brown wash.

Mrs.Q is probably the best known decorative print executed by William Blake, primarily due to the large number of facsimile reproduction impressions which were printed of this image in 1906. William Blake’s engraving is based upon a portrait by Francois Huet Villiers. The subject of Mrs.Q is Harriet Quentin, the wife of colonel Quentin and mistress to George IV when Prince Regent. The view in the background is thought to be the Thames at Eton, with the college chapel beyond. The miniature portraitist Villiers had died in 1813, thus this portrait must have had been drawn or painted at least seven years prior to the publication of this plate.

Essick states that “All recorded impressions of Mrs.Q are printed in shades, probably of the same ink, ranging from dark sepia to medium brown. All are color printed on the hair, face, and neck (extending to the bosom) in shades of brown, flesh tones, and rose red. In the better impressions the colour printing has been expertly managed with subtle blending between colors. Many impressions may also have been hand tinted in the hair and on the lips and eyes, but this is difficult to distinguish from the fine color printing. All impressions are tinted on the waist ribbon in blue-green, gray-green, green, or olive.” He notes that all bar one impression have wash on the dress over the hip and thigh and on the wall on which Mrs.Q sits; this wash is brown in two impressions only and grey in all others. He also notes that a few impressions have additional tinting on the hands, some having flesh-toned water colours on the left arm and breasts.

This exceptional impression is printed in black ink with colour printing on the hair, face and neck in shades of brown, flesh-tones, and rose-red. There is clear evidence of traces of mezzotint on the face, consistent with the only known first state proof of this engraving. The lips and eyes have been hand-tinted and brown wash has been painted throughout the dress, across the sitter’s hip and thigh, and on the wall. The waist ribbon has been painted blue and there is further delicate pink tinting to the hands and breast. In all respects, this is the very finest form of hand-coloured impression.

This fine hand-coloured and colour-printed engraving should not be confused with the facsimile reproduction of this subject which was produced in 1906. The facsimile is often dull and flat in appearance; it does not have hand colouring, and the ring on the third finger of Mrs.Q’s left hand is printed. In this original version, the ring is painted on by hand. The dimensions of the facsimile are noticeably smaller than this original, in both size of image and plate.

Very fine impression with excellent colours. Margins beyond the platemark at top, bottom and sides, but trimmed approximately on the platemark at the base of the sheet. Printed on cream wove paper with slight time tone, otherwise generally very fine condition.