|Mrs. Mills in "The Spoiled Child," 1802|
Samuel de Wilde
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This three-quarter length drawing, dating to 1802, of a young woman depicts the sitter dressed in the tight blue tail coat and soft, frilled white shirt which was the typical costume of a young boy in the early nineteenth century. The girl’s hair is short and she carries a small whip with a top hat, balanced on its tip, in her right hand.
The painting is entitled “’Mrs. Mills’ as ‘Little Pickle’ in ‘The Spoiled Child.’” Clearly, this is an actress playing a part. The play, “The Spoiled Child,” was a farce in two acts which we know was performed at the Theatre Drury Lane in 1790 and, in 1804, as well as in Covent Garden in 1820, Haymarket in 1826 and the English Opera in 1926. The character seen pictured here is “Little Pickle,” who, as his name might suggest, was a cheeky and troublesome schoolboy—originally played by a woman.
In this watercolor image, we see one of the first actresses to play “Little Pickle” in the original production. The painting was created by Samuel De Wilde (1748 - 1832).