- Museum number
The procession of the flitch of bacon at Dunmow, Essex; married couple on horse in centre, preceded by musicians and by man on horse carrying side of hog, and followed by other figures mounted and unmounted, scattering flowers, landscape in distance with gate to right
Graphite, pen and grey ink, with grey wash, on two joined sheets
- Production date
Height: 310 millimetres
Width: 770 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The celebration of the flitch of bacon took place every four years or so, when a salted side of bacon was carried in procession at Great Dunmow, Essex, after the mock trial of married couples to test whether they had repented of marriage within a year and a day. An unrelated version of the same subject, a painting, was sold at Christie's 16.vi.61/96.
A painting of the same subject by John Masey Wright was exhibited at the Society for Painters in Water Colour in 1828 (278) accompanied by the explanation: ' This singular custom was instituted by Sir Richard de Sommerville, of the Manor of Whitchmore, in the county of Stafford, about the time of Edward the Third...'. This large watercolour is now in the Williamson Art Gallery and Wirral Museums (exh. in T. Wilcox, 'The Triumph of Watercolour', exh. Dulwich Art Gallery, Jan. 2005, repro. in cat. p. 104, no. 73). But the frieze like composition was also a format used by Blake for his own version of the Canterbury Pilgrims and who argued that Stothard had taken his idea for the composition (he had also been commissioned by Cromek who dropped Blake). In fact contemporary sources support the view that Stothard was the originator of the concept and design and J T Smith and Allan Cunningham claim Blake saw Stothard's design and stole it from him. (see the entry on a later watercolour version by Stothard in Lowell Libson's annual catalogue 2014, pp. 86-7).
The long processional format of this drawing is the same as that used by Stothard for his most famous picture, The Pilgrimage to Canterbury (Tate Britain), commissioned in 1806 by the engraver Robert Cromek. He showed the finished painting in his house and throughout the country, for the admission price of one shilling per person, claiming that 3,000 people had seen it within a year. It was recorded in many oil copies and several watercolour reduced versions and of course in the print Cromek commissioned Louis Schiavonetti to make of it (etched state completed by his death, finished plate by James Heath published 1817 and enormously popular). (See Shelley M Bennett, 'Thomas Stothard, the mechanisms of art patronage in England c. 1800', 1988).
For prints made in 1832 after the present drawing of the Flitch of Bacon, see 1981,U.3123 and 1837,0513.246.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number