Surtees, A Catalogue
Raisonné, vol. 1, 11 (no. 41).
It is interesting that the first watercolour DGR completed should illustrate a poem by Robert Browning—
“The Laboratory (Ancient Regime)”, which is set in pre-revolutionary France. Generalizing the scene (she is not wearing the “mask” mentioned at the beginning of the poem), DGR nicely captures the vicious and cool passion of the unnamed woman who has sought out the old apothecary.
The exact date of the picture, which was owned by William Bell Scott, is not known.
Although it is sometimes said that the subject of Browning's poem was Marguerite D’Aubray Brivilliers (1630- 76), who had poisoned her father and brothers and planned to poison her husband, this is clearly not the case. Whether Browning's monologue was partly inspired by his recollection of this scandalous afffair from the court of Louis XIV is another matter.