The first Piano Lesson by Charles West Cope ~ 1850s
A mother who holds a young child in her arms and seated on her lap allows him to press his hands on the keys of an upright piano. The sheet music which rests open is of a piece entitled Palermo.
Charles West Cope, who was a prominent artist in the middle years of the century as a prize-winner in the 1843 competition for the decoration of the Palace of Westminster (for the subject Trial by Jury), also made a speciality of domestic genre subjects of this type, representing, it is assumed, his own wife and child. James Dafforne, in an article on Cope in the 1869 Art Journal, noted that ‘from the circle of Mr Cope’s own immediate family have arisen not a few of those pleasing pictures that, in connection with his name, have long been familiar to habitués of the Academy’, concluding that ‘these, and other pictures of a similar kind, are characterized by elegance of composition, truthfulness of sentiment, and sweetness of colour’. Although the original title and exhibition history of the present painting are not known, the same dark haired woman and fair-headed child appear in a number of works of the 1850s, for example his Mother and Child of 1858 – itself also a tondo and well known from a reproductive engraving.