James Gillray after ‘an Amateur’
Progress of the Toilet, – The Wig. -Plate 2
London, H. Humphrey Feb. 26th 1810
Plate 2 of a set of three. A lady sits on a small stool in her untidy boudoir, reading the novel Delphine by Madame de Staël, before a long pier glass. Her hair has been cropped, and behind stands her plump maid, tweaking at the curls of a brown wig, which she is about to place on her mistress’s head. Her dressing table has been pushed to one side, and is covered by bottles labelled HoneyWater, Otto de Rose, Eau de Cologne &c. while the wig box on another table is inscribed Russ’s Elastic Wigs, with several brushes and combs and a bottle of Huile Antique. Dresses spill out of a trunk on the floor, a bonnet lies on a chair, a cloak hangs over the back of a chair, several scandalous novels are displayed in a small bookshelf hanging on the wall and an open music book on the floor is inscribed Opera Dances. Madame de Staël’s novel Delphine was a politically ‘potent story of women’s destiny’, written to probe the limits of women’s freedom in an aristocratic society, and its epistolary form masked a subversive questioning of accepted values and norms. Although Madame de Staël disclaimed any political intentions, the controversy that followed the publication in 1802 provoked Napoleon into exiling the author. BM 11609.