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Neoclassical, Art, Mythology, Sleeping Nymph, John Hoppner, Antique Mezzotint Print, London, 1808


John Hoppner (1758-1810) (after)
William Ward (1766-1826) (engraver)
Sleeping Nymph
William Ward, London: January 20, 1808
20.75 x 24.5 inches, overall
18.75 x 23.75 inches, image

Large mezzotint of Cupid encountering a sleeping nymph in the forest. The beautiful young woman seductively reclines on drapery on the forest floor as Cupid flies overhead, hiding his eyes, having dropped his bow and quiver of arrows at her feet. In the lower margin, the print is dedicated to John Fleming Leicester, Duke of York, patron of the engraver William Ward and owner of the original John Hoppner oil painted in 1806. Hoppner is said to have considered Sleeping Nymph his masterpiece, and it is still widely regarded as one of the great paintings of his later years. In 1827, the 3rd Earl of Egremont, an avid art collector, purchased the painting and brought it to his manor Petworth House in Warrington, England, where it remains on display today.

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Below the title and dedication are two verses describing the scene:

As on her arm reclines the sleeping fair,
And with her breath the loitering gale perfumes,
Love sees or thinks he sees his mother there.

And nearer earth directs his glittering plumes,
Lovers with fond delight around her bower,
And swells the fragrance with a roseate shower.

John Hoppner was a prominent British painter, known chiefly for his portraits, though he also produced several well-known works based on mythological subjects. His prodigious talent in drawing was noticed when he was a child by King George III, who employed Hoppner’s parents, and the king gave him encouragement and financial support. Hoppner entered the Royal Academy in 1775, began exhibiting there in 1780 and became a full Academician in 1795. In 1789 he was appointed portrait painter to the Prince of Wales; he was also patronized by the Dukes of York and Clarence and painted numerous members of the aristocracy and British statesmen. After the retirement of Joshua Reynolds, Hoppner and Thomas Lawrence were widely regarded as Britain’s foremost portraitists. Today his works are in museums throughout the world, including Britain’s National Portrait Gallery, the Hermitage, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

William Ward, a well-regarded British mezzotint engraver, was a member of a family of artists that included his brother James and his sons Martin Theodore Ward and William James Ward. He exhibited at the Royal Academy beginning in 1795, and was elected an Associate Engraver of the Academy in 1814. He also held appointments as mezzotint engraver to the Duke of York and to the Prince Regent. Ward married a sister of the artist George Morland, whose works he often engraved.

Title and inscription lower margin: John Fleming Leicester Bar’t. This Plate of the Sleeping Nymph From the original Picture in his possession is by permission respectfully dedicated by his very obliged & obedient Serv’t Wm. Ward. Painted by John Hoppner Esq’r. R.A. Engraved by Willm. Ward Engraver to H.R.H. the Duke of York. Published Jan. 20, 1808, by the Engraver, No. 24, Buckingham Place, Fitzroy Square.

Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with some light remaining toning, wear, soft creases,. Few short marginal tears and chips professionally restored as backed on Japanese paper. Margins a bit short and trimmed within platemark, typical for separately issued mezzotints of this period.


Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. U.K.: Devon Library and Information Services. 24 July 2001.

“Petworth House.” Ye Olde Sussex Pages. (15 June 2010).

Redgrave, Samuel. A Dictionary of Artists of the EnglishSchool: Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers and Ornamentists. London: Longmans, Green, and Col., 1874. pp. 433-434.

Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol. 3. pp. 73-74.

Additional information


19th Century