The circlet of crabs carved in low relief on the frame of this painting is integral to its success as a work of art. Echoing the seaside theme, and offering closure to an otherwise excessively open composition, the frame participates in the painting quite as constructively as the bending figure and wave-lapped beach. The cool monochrome of the location suggests an English coastal resort, though clearly Margetson had the Mediterranean in mind. His lovely fossicker is dressed to evoke the ancient classical past more than late Victorian England. Indeed, Margetson's rather dry application of pale pigment echoes Roman fresco technique. Like most of the lesser genre painters and portraitists of his day, he succumbed to the ever-virulent strain of Victorian classicism, being influenced by better-known contemporaries such as Leighton and Poynter. It goes without saying that the pearl of the title is a punning allusion to the maiden herself.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999.


  • Title: The sea hath its pearls
  • Creator: William Henry Margetson
  • Date Created: 1897
  • Physical Dimensions: 132.3 cm diam. stretcher; 163.2 x 162.5 x 9.0 cm frame
  • Provenance: William Henry Margetson, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from the artist 1897. Chosen for the Gallery by the Council of the Royal Academy.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Purchased 1897
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Signature & Date: Signed and dated l.l., oil "W H Margetson 1897".
  • Artist Country: England

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