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This painting by the London-born artist John Collet satirises the city's May Day procession which includes a milkmaid wearing traditional garland, a hurdy-gurdy player, a black servant, a soldier and children. The procession was depicted by a number of eighteenth-century artists, including Francis Hayman whose 'May Day or The Milkmaid Garland' in the Victoria and Albert Museum presents a more orthodox view of the festivities.
Here, the Lord and Lady of May can be seen on the left-hand side of the painting (although the 'Lady' may in fact be a man). The milkmaid, who is usually an attractive girl and the centre of attention, is cross-eyed and made to look ridiculous with flowers and utensils on her head. She has been relegated to the back of the procession, close to a couple involved in some shady dealings. Collet's painting is the earliest caricatured portrayal of the May Day festival and records the event during a transitional stage when separate processions merged into one.
Collet took great delight in parodying the daily events and celebrations of city life. He is often referred to as the 'Second Hogarth' because he drew upon the artist William Hogarth's legacy of satire. Collet studied at the St. Martin's Lane Academy and became a painter of narrative and genre scenes, as well as views of London. There was a considerable demand for his genre pictures which were also engraved.
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