Between 1996-1998 Rego worked on a suite of twelve etchings titled ’The Children’s Crusade’. The artist contributed a thirteenth etching, ’Bait’, to the series which accompanied the deluxe edition of the book of the same title published by Enitharmon Press in 1999.
Bait, 1999Paula Rego
Etching with aquatint, on Somerset Velvet
Signed and numbered from the edition of 75
From the deluxe edition of The Children's Crusade
Accompanied by the signed deluxe edition volume
Printed by Culford Press, London
Published by Enitharmon Press, London
Plate: 29 × 19.4 cm (11.4 × 7.6 in)
Sheet: 43.5 × 30 cm (17.1 × 11.8 in)
’Bait’ is a prime example of Rego’s use of sexual ambiguity and of the disturbing erotic undercurrents of transactions between adults and children. In the background a clothed boy on horseback - perhaps the leader of the Crusade- rides alongside a cheerful naked young girl. On the left another, clothed, girl receives in her mouth the index finger of a tall man in black gown and fur cape, who could well be a priest. The image of abusive sexual play between grown man - and an authority figure - and young girl is a disturbing evocation of the fate of those captured by the Saracens and 'carefully raised...in slavery.'
— T. G. Rosenthal, Paula Rego: The Complete Graphic Work (London: Thames & Hudson, 2012), 135.