Skip to content

What is this my son Tom


A satire on the English macaroni

Artist: Robert Sayer and John Bennett (publishers)
Title: What is this my son Tom
Date: 1774
School: British XVIIIth-century
Medium: hand-coloured mezzotint
Dimensions: 350 x 250mm (plate), support trimmed to plate mark
Watermark: indistinct, see image below

Inscriptions/marks: Lettered below the image with the title, eight lines of verse in two columns <<Our wise Forefathers would express … What will it be another Year?>> and <<London, Published by R. Sayer & J. Bennett No. 53 Fleet Street, as the Act dircets [sic] 24 June 1774.
Condition: hand-coloured with gouache, printed on laid paper with indistinct watermark. Trimmed to the plate mark with some losses at edges, foxing visible on verso
Description: Satire on fashion. On the right, a country squire, come to town, starts back amused to be greeted by his son dressed as a macaroni with huge wig topped by a small tricorn hat, and carrying a tasselled cane and sword. Difficult to tell which of the three states this impression is, due to the extensive hand-colouring. On the phenomenon of the macaroni, see Peter McNeil, Pretty Gentlemen: Macaroni Men and the Eighteenth-Century Fashion World, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2018.
Reference: According to the British Museum description of their impression, see BM 2010,7081.1436, this anonymous print is derived from a composition by Samuel Hieronymus. Grimm (1733-1794) published the previous year by Carrington Bowles and Sledge, see BM Sat. 4536; 2010,7081.1434 and 1435
Provenance: Cordy’s, Auckland, 2023

You may also like…