I was determined not to do any research for my comic strip, working title Adam and the Gargoyle, but here I go again . . .
My characters might have been reasonably convincing in the pencil roughs but, when it came to inking and resolving the details, it didn’t seem to be working. I realised that, for instance, I don’t know what kind of tailcoat my architect character, Robert Adam, might have been wearing c. 1770, when he was busy with improvements and decorative schemes for Nostell Priory.
Of course, I’m creating a pantomime version of Adam but it needs to relate the historical character so I was delighted when Google turned up a caricature, an etching dated 11th October 1773, by the prolific satirist Matthew Darly (fl. 1741-1778), now in the collections of the British Museum. It occurs to me that this might be the work of his wife Mary Darly (fl. 1756-1779), who was was also a publisher, satirist, teacher and caricaturist.
The ‘Antique Architect’, one of a series of Characters, Macaronies & Caricatures that Darly published, most probably depicts Robert Adam (1741-1797) as Robert and his brother James had recently published their first volume of Works in Architecture.
As I copied the etching on my iPad (in Clip Studio Paint, as usual), one detail that I found odd was the writing implement. It looks like a double-ended pen, topped and tailed with steel nibs, which I imagine would have been impractical to use.
Again, thanks to good old Google, I’m able to identify it as a porte crayon, a travel pencil: a piece of bamboo split at both ends to accommodate two crayon leads, with two brass rings to keep the leads in place. In the one that I’ve drawn from a photograph on an auction site, there’s red at one end and graphite at the other.
Robert Adam portrait
The Antique Architect, etching by M Darly at the British Museum
Nostell Priory and Parkland, National Trust