Celebrating a Birth

Mary Ann Orme 1778


The art of paper-cutting was a popular pursuit during the late eighteenth century amongst accomplished ladies and, whilst most favoured cutting individual profiles of friends and family, others were more adventurous creating scenes and conversation pieces. Two of George III’s daughters, Princess Charlotte and Princess Elizabeth, were ardent cutters, the latter creating an album of delicately cut scenes to illustrate the poem “The Birth & Triumph of Cupid”.

Tiny sharp scissors and pointed quill knives were used to cut the paper with great delicacy. Before black paper was commercially available, cutters either blackened their own paper or simply, as in this example, used white paper.

This picture shows a domestic scene of a lady holding a bird with a cat at her feet. The scene is enclosed within tasselled drapes and has a outer chain border with foliage. Details have been added, including flowers to the drapes, by pricking the paper with a pin.

The picture was created to mark the birth on 22 May 1778 of Mary Ann Orme to whom it is dedicated. Mary Ann was the only surviving child and heiress of David Orme MD of Lamb Abbey in Kent and his wife Elizabeth. She grew up to marry Neill Malcolm, a magistrate, of Poltalloch in Scotland; the couple had seven children.

The only clue to the artist lies perhaps in the cut letter A placed within the chain border. Sadly there is no inscription though to shed light on who she was.

Cut from white paper laid on pink paper, the picture is in good condition with just one broken chain link. There is some browning from the old gum. It is housed in what may well be the original Hogarth style frame with a somewhat distressed patina in keeping with the age and the style of this rare piece of folkart.

Item Ref. 6184

Size: framed, 234 x 278mm (9¼ x 10⅞")