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Throwing the peel to get a letter

pencil on paper, titled on the reverse

15 X 11 cm (image); 19.2 x 14 cm. (sheet)

Exhibited/Provenance: Chris Beetles Gallery. The British Art of Illustration, 1800-1998, no. 278.


This pencil drawing relates to the early period of Greenaway’s career when she produced a number of similar drawings of figures in Medieval dress for valentine cards and for the book “The Quiver of Love” published in 1876 which consisted of colour plates of medieval couples by Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane to accompany love poems in the form of valentines. “Miss greenaway worked very hard at the production of the designs for birthday cards and valentines. They constantly improved in harmony of colour and delicacy of effect. A curious chance revealed to her the wonders of medieval illumination.” Indeed, the drawing’s caption “Throwing the Peel to get a letter” implys that the girl is attempting to secure a valentine or love note from her companion. It seems likely that this was a sketchbook drawing produced around 1876 given the piece’s strong relationship with those designs finally published as valentine cards and in book form. (Spielman and Layard. Kate Greenaway. 1905)

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