depicting two very fashionably dressed young mothers or nurses wearing the new style for the 1790s of very high waisted, light and long flowing dresses, instead of the heavy hooped designs of before, and plumed top hats in place of earlier wide-brimmed ones. The figure on our left is seen breastfeeding, which was still the preference for early infancy in the face of persistently high child mortality, despite advances in artificial methods. From the posthumously published ‘A Series of Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings by the Late John Kay, Miniature Painter, Edinburgh’.
John Kay (1742-1826) was born in Dalkeith where he became apprenticed to a barber at the age of 13. He moved to Edinburgh as a young man in the 1760s, still plying his trade as a member of the corporation of barber-surgeons. But, in 1784, he produced his first etching and was soon encouraged to convert his premises to a print shop, such was the popularity of his caricatures and portraits of local characters and figures of the day. The first published collection, gathered together by the Edinburgh publisher, Hugh Paton, didn’t appear until over a decade after Kay’s death, in 1838, with subsequent re-issues in 1842 and 1877, before the printing plates were formally destroyed,
hand-coloured stipple-engraving on wove paper, 165 x 115 mm. (6 1/2 x 4 1/2 in), signed with initials and dated 1795 in the plate, [BM Satires 8901],