Going to the Drawing-Room
Oil on canvas; signed and dated 1863.
25 x 30 inches
The debutante is now a forgotten creature, a young, usually innocent and privileged lady who was launched on the London social scene when she came of age. Debutantes were presented at Court at the beginning of the ‘Season’, a series of balls and receptions that ran from about Christmas to Midsummer Day. For some mothers, it was a safe way their daughters could meet suitable husbands. When this painting was exhibited in 1863, young aristocratic beauty was a topical subject, for Edward, Prince of Wales had married the beautiful and young Danish Princess Alexandra earlier that year in a sensational wedding. Alexandra held her first reception at St James’s Palace later that year. An art critic observed: ‘Those who happened to have passed down St. James’s-street on the afternoon of the first drawing-room day held by the Princess of Wales will recognise the picture of many carriage interiors on that day, with the fair prisoners of fashion looking like some kind of fairy-like birds of Paradise, with tails of wondrous expanse, filling the carriage like a cloud. Mr. Hayllar has amused himself with painting this somewhat odd subject, but not without throwing a great interest into his picture. One might fancy a world of sentiment surrounding the destiny of those two lovely girls and their first drawing-room’. (London Daily News, 1863)