- Museum number
Head of a sleeping child; lying, head to right, wearing frilled bonnet. c.1740-42
Black and red chalk, with stump, heightened with white on grey paper, the upper left and lower right corners made up
- Production date
- 1740-1742 (?)
Height: 228 millimetres
Width: 270 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This drawing is a portrait of Thomas Graham (1740 – 1741/2), son of the prosperous apothecary Daniel Graham (1695-1989), and functioned as a study for the group portrait ‘The Graham Children’ (National Gallery, London). Mary Webster suggests the commission for the group portrait of the children may have come in 1741 when Graham was rebuilding his Pall Mall houses, and the painting was completed in 1742. The youngest child Thomas died before the painting was finished, and although this drawing has often been called ‘Head of a Sleeping Child’, it was probably made by Hogarth on the child’s deathbed. Judy Egerton, in ‘National Gallery Catalogues: the British School’, provides the most extensive discussion of Hogarth’s ‘The Graham Children’ and the present drawing, quoted below:
“For his portrait of the baby, Hogarth almost certainly referred to a chalk study. The features of the baby in that study [the present drawing in the British Museum] bear a sufficient close resemblance to those of Thomas Graham in the oil to justify [Mary] Webster’s suggestion that his is a study of Thomas made for the group portrait. Webster, following Oppé, calls the study ‘Head of a Sleeping Child’. Binyon, who has catalogued the drawing in 1900 as ‘Study of a dead child’s head’ appears to this compiler to have been more perceptive. Hogarth’s study is close in feeling to Samuel Cooper’s chalk drawing ‘Dead Child’ and to the ‘Portrait of the Painter’s Son, Allan’ by Allan Ramsay at the deathbed of his fourteen-month-old son in 1740. The sense of unreal pallor and almost marmoreal stillness in Cooper’s and Hogarth’s drawing… is very different in mood from, for instance, Henry Moore’s studies of ‘Gus Asleep (in his boiler suit)'. Though there can be no certainty as to whether Hogarth made this study from a sleeping or dead child, it is difficult to account for this drawing (Hogarth had, by 1742, portrayed all manner of children without having to rely upon catching their features while they slept) except as a case of last resort, made because the Graham baby had died before ‘sitting’. Ten minutes’ walk would have taken Hogarth from his own house in Leicester Fields to the Graham’s house in Pall Mall to make this tender study. In the finished picture, Thomas is portrayed clutching a rusk, partly nibbled; possibly this symbolises the unexpectedness of death, which can take an infant as well as a man, ‘with meat in his mouth, that is suddenly’. (Egerton, The British School, p.139)
Egerton, J., National Gallery Catalogues: The British School, National Gallery Publications Ltd, London, 1998, pp.134-45.
Einberg, E., William Hogarth: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven and London, 2016, pp. 242-44.
Oppé, A.P., The Drawings of William Hogarth, Phaidon, London, 1948, p. 57.
Webster, M., 'An Eighteenth-Century Family: Hogarth's Portrait of the Graham Children', Apollo, September 1989, pp. 171–3.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1877/8 London, Grosvenor Gallery, no.1016
1934 BM, Exhibition of English Art, no.287
1954 Oct-Nov, Manchester, City AG 'William Hogarth 1697-1764', no.60
1956/7 London, Royal Academy, 'British portraits', no.641
1964 Dec-May, BM, Hogarth, no.98
1974 Jul-Dec, BM, Portrait Drawings, no.288
1989 Aug-Nov, Venice, Cini Foundation, 'Hogarth', no. 54
2005 Mar-Jun, Bath, Holburne Mus of Art, 'Pictures of Innocence:...'
2019, 16 Mar - 16 Jun, Compton Verney, Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park, Painting Childhood: portraits of children from Holbein to Freud
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- For the December 1895 exchange with Colnaghi of duplicates valued at £1,050 for a mixture of drawings and prints from the stock of Messrs Colnaghi, see Colvin's report dated 6 December 1895.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number