Feels Like This Today

William Ward after James Ward. Winter. London, 1795. 2005.108. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

It’s warmed up to a balmy 11 degrees here in Philadelphia, but 14 mph winds are giving us a wind chill of -4, so I can sympathize with the girl in this print. She definitely seems underdressed, even for a mild British winter–where are her gloves?

This print was engraved by William Ward after a painting by his younger brother, James Ward. It was published on February 15, 1795, when James was 25 years old. He had already been appointed engraver to the Prince of Wales (in 1794) but his career was just beginning. He would eventually become known for his pictures of animals; in 1811 his contemporaries considered him “the first of English animal painters now living.”

“Winter” is a mezzotint, a type of print that tries to replicate the tonal qualities of paintings through the use of  tiny dots. The dots are created by rocking a spiked tool called a “rocker” over the surface of the engraving plate. Mezzotints are about tone rather than line and have a soft, rich quality about them. This particular mezzotint is part of a set; it had a companion “Summer” image of a girl in a low-cut blouse holding a basket of flowers.

If the winter weather outside makes you want to stay inside, you can always curl up with a good book. The author of Wilde in America is coming to speak here on March 11, so if you haven’t read that you might enjoy it. Or, of course, Oscar Wilde’s own novel The Picture of Dorian Grey (then you can come see the original printing in our exhibition). Or, if you need a more physical challenge, check out this video from Seattle Public Library of the world record book domino chain (no we do not do this withe our rare books at the Rosenbach). Maybe you could do them one better.

Have fun and stay warm!

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog.