Francis Wheatley’s paintings of London street criers represent the century’s most successful depiction of hawkers, albeit also the most idealized. This is not surprising given that they appeared at the Royal Academy from 1792 to 1795 when romantic aesthetics and neoclassical sentiments were reaching their zenith. But I must say they are pleasant enough to look at. A sense of healthfulness pervades. The hawkers are rosy-cheeked and clean, going about their day to day business in a tidy, calm manner.
“Hot Spice Gingerbread, Smoking Hot!” (1796)
“Sweet China Oranges!” by Luigi Schiavonetti after Francis Wheatley (1794)
“Old Chairs to Mend!” by Giovanni Vendramini after Francis Wheatley (1795)
Thankfully, though, for those of us who like variety, Wheatley wasn’t the first to start the trend. The first prints of London criers date from 1600 and enjoyed three decades of popularity. For comparison to Wheatley, take a look at Marcellus Laroon’s “Cryes” first published in 1687; Paul Sandby’s in 1760s; and my favorite, Thomas Rowlandson’s satirical Cries of London, which first appeared in 1799. As is expected of Rowlandson, the latter are delightfully absurd. I personally like ‘Letters for Post’.
A Girl with a Basket on Her Head, “Lights for the Cats, Liver for the Dogs” by Paul Sandby (1759) — Doesn’t she look like she’s having tooth pain? I vote “most realistic”.
The Merry Milk Maid by Marcellus Laroon (1688) — aka, the miss who has mastered the fine art of balance.
If you guys are interested in learning more, check out Old London Street Cries and the Cries of To-Day from 1885. It’s loaded with pictures and all the cries you would ever want to learn.