Description: signed and dated l.r.: L Smythe/ 1861; inscribed with the title and the artist's address on an old label attached to the reverse oil on board
Dimensions: measurements note 28 by 20 cm.; 11 by 8 in.
Provenance: Mrs Charlotte Frank, London, where bought by Sir David Scott, 26 July 1961 for £45.
Notes: A mother and child seated together in an interior read from a copy of The Arabian Nights. Smythe was raised in London and educated at King's College School and then received training as an artist at Heatherley's School. The Arabian Nights was presumably painted at the Smythe family's London home in Gloucester Crescent, when the artist was twenty-two, and is one of his earliest works. The Arabian Knights, also known as The Thousand and One Nights, is a collection of stories written originaly in Arabic and first published in English by Edward William Lane in 1839-41. The story tells of a King who killed his wives successively on the morning after the consummation of their marriage, until he encountered the clever Scheherazade. She saved her own life by the tales she told him. The exoticism of these Arabian tales and the inherent theme of romance became widely popular. In 1866, the same year that the present work was first exhibited, Smythe settled at Wimereux in Normandy, where he remained - living with his wife and three children in a succession of fine old buildings. The countryside and rural life of this part of France became the central motif of his art.
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There is an intimacy of observation about the subject which suggests that it may represent members of the artist's own family.