The Story of the British Museum, £8.99
Height: 213.000 mm
Width: 156.000 mm
Bequeathed by William Sandby
Prints and Drawings
Paul Sandby, Street Crier 7: Rare Mackerel, etching
From the series Twelve London cries done from the Life, Part 1st published in 1760
Series of prints of street vendors with their characteristic cries appeared from the sixteenth century onwards in all European countries. Sandby's Cries are a particularly stylish series, etched with a freedom that was new to English printmaking. Sandby titled them in English and French, either for a potential export market, or for an audience that appreciated the current fashion for all things French.
The prints present convincingly realistic images of the poor of the streets of mid-eighteenth century London with their ragged clothes and care-worn faces. The seller of mackerel was the lowest of the street trading hierarchy: a person with no change of clothing or facilities for bathing would have smelt permanently of fish. Here she is shown face-to-face with a respectable woman at her (or her master's) front door, chained against just such an intrusion. The confrontation is echoed in the snarls of the dog and terrified cat.
In the background is the shop or tavern sign of 'A man loaded with mischief' showing a man carrying a drunken wife and a pet monkey on his shoulders. The mysterious shadow in the foreground suggests that two men are watching the scene.