THE INSCRIPTION ON EVENING AMUSEMENT
Geoffrey Keynes, in his book on Engravings by William Blake: The Separate Plates (Dublin, 1956), (p. 64), reconstructs the last line on Blake’s engraving after Watteau’s Evening Amusement on the basis of that on the companion print of Morning Amusement. However, the discovery of a third, untrimmed impression in red shows that in fact the wording is slightly different. As Keynes’ transcription is not entirely accurate even in the first line, I give the full inscription:
Watteau pinxt. W. . Blake fecit / EVENING AMUSEMENT / From an Original Picture in the Collection of M.r. A. . Maskin. / Pub.d. as the Act directs August 21. . 1782 by T. . Macklin. N.o. 39 Fleet Street.
The punctuation after certain initials and in abbreviations such as “M.r.”, which is represented here by two full-stops, is in fact more in the form of two little dashes. It is also found in the inscription under Morning Amusement as can be seen from Keynes’ reproduction though not from his transcription (Separate Plates, p. 63). In this connection it should be pointed out that the “s” of “sculpt” is lower case, not a capital. In addition, at least on the copy of the print belonging to me, there is no full-stop at the end of the last line but there are two little dashes above the stop following “Tho” suggesting a slightly fuller form of the abbreviation for Thomas, though they do not appear to take the form of an “s”: “Tho...”
It should be noted that the inscription on Evening Amusement gives the name of the owner of the original painting as “Maskin” without a concluding “s”. This is in fact correct. However, even allowing for the fact that the oval format of the engravings does not necessarily represent the shape of the original paintings, it appears that Maskin’s paintings are not those now in the Wallace Collection. The provenances of Les Champs Elysees and Le Rendez-vous[e] de Chasse (as the paintings related to Blake’s Evening Amusement and Morning Amusement are now known) seem to exclude Maskin’s ownership, neither having left France till 1787 at the earliest (see Wallace Collection Catalogues: Pictures and Drawings, 1968 edition, pp. 360, 364-65).
Martin Butlin is Keeper of the British Collection at the Tate Gallery, London, and a specialist on the work of Blake and J. M. W. Turner. He is the author of William Blake: A Complete Catalogue of the Works in the Tate Gallery, and he is compiling a complete catalogue of Blake’s paintings, watercolors, and drawings.