|Artist||Richard Houston after Philippe Mercier|
|Published||Published according to Act of Parliament October 1st 1760. London Printed for Robt Sayer opposite Fetter Lane Fleet Street|
|Dimensions||Images 318 x 250 mm, Plates 355 x 253 mm, Sheets 365 x 263 mm|
A complete set of four fine mezzotints depicting the elements; Water, Fire, Earth, and Air.
'Water': A three-quarter length depiction of a young woman, standing, and looking towards the viewer. She wears a gown with ribbons looped over the bodice, and with lace around the shoulders and neck. Her hair is worn up, and adorned with flowers. Between her hands, she holds a shallow basin, which she fills with water from a fountain, with a fish shaped spout, beside her. A classical garden stretches behind her, with another fountain visible. To her right, a third fountain sits at the foot of a tree. A putto supports the basin.
Inscription reads: 'From Noise where Streaming Fountains rise / And Spout their Gushing Torrents to the Skies / There the blest Nymph obeys her Strephon's call / And sings responsive to the Waters Fall.'
'Fire': Presented in three-quarter length, a young woman sits before a fire, set to the right. Her gaze is fixed on the viewer whilst she stokes the fire with a pair of bellows. She wears a gown with gathered lace flounce sleeves, and a fur tippet around her neck. Upon her head, she wears a cap, which ties beneath her chin. A window in the background presents a view of smoking chimneys and rooftops.
Inscription reads: 'Here blooming Beauty beams celestial Fire / And warms the youthfull heart with fierce desire. / Happy the Fair whose ev'ry look can charm / And like the Sun with chearfull Influence warm.'
'Earth': A young woman, depicted in three-quarter length, stands beside a table, leaning forwards whilst planting a young carnation into a pot with a trowel. She wears a gown with a ribboned bodice, and on her head, a straw hat that rests slightly over her brow. Set within a garden, roses are depicted to the left, and a tree to the right.
Inscription reads: 'As the sweet Flower from Earth delightfull springs, / And rivals in it's Pomp the Pride of Kings / So the bright Maid not deck'd with Pride or Birth / An Angel seems and makes a Heaven of Earth.'
'Air': Standing in three-quarter length, and leaning slightly to the right, a young woman lifts her right arm as a small bird perches on the index finger of her right hand. She gazes and smiles towards the bird. Her gown, with a low-cut neckline, is embellished with ribbons, and her hair is adorned with a plume. In the background, to the right, the battlements of a castle are depicted with a flying flag.
Inscription reads: 'Soft blowes the Vernal Zephyr o'er the fields, / And newblown Sweets from Flora's bosom yields, / Delightfull Breeze that sooths the Lovers Smart, / And cools the Fervor of an anxious Heart.'
Dublin-born Richard Houston (c.1721-1775) was apprenticed to John Brooks as a draughtsman and mezzotint-engraver and studied drawing at the Dublin Society Schools. He moved with Brooks to London in 1746 and established himself as an independent printmaker and publisher
Philippe Mercier (c.1689-1760) was a French painter and engraver, who lived and worked principally in London. The son of a Huguenot tapestry worker, Mercier was born in Berlin, where he studied painting at the Akademie der Wissenschaften, and later under Antoine Pesne. He travelled to Italy and France before settling in London in 1716. Painter to Frederick Prince of Wales (1729-36), Mercier mainly specialised in portraits, but in later years he made fancy pictures in the manner of Watteau for engraving. His wife Dorothy ran a print shop in London.
Chaloner Smith 134 ii/ii, Lennox Boyd ii/ii
Condition: Each sheet is trimmed with small margins, minor areas of discolouration to margins. 'Earth' is torn to plate mark in upper left corner, and a small tear to lower margin is present.