This previously unrecorded drawing by John Hamilton Mortimer is a characteristic study of two heads, depicting a woman and a friar. Mortimer has included the line: ‘A lovely lass to a friar came to confess in the morning early’ a line from a popular, rather bawdy song. The song continues: ‘come tell to me sincerely I have done, sir, what I dare not name, with a lad that loves me dearly.’ The drawing is close to a sketch study now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington and both sheets were possibly made in preparation for a more finished, exhibition work which was never completed.
Drawn in black ink on buff coloured paper, the study is a rapidly made, boldly drawn example of Mortimer’s work as a draughtsman. The inclusion of the line from a popular song accords with the observations of several of his early biographers that he was used to a life of dissipation. The watercolourist Edward Dayes, who penned a series of essays, usually acerbic, on artists, claimed that in a bout of drinking Mortimer ate a wineglass, ‘of which act of folly he never recovered.’