Thomas Rowlandson (British 1756-1827)
Dr. Syntax loses his hat and wig in the wind by the sea
Signed or inscribed l.r., pen and grey ink and wash over traces of pencil
13 x 19.7 cm
A drawing, Dr. Syntax alarmed by a whale, which shows Dr. Syntax losing his hat and wig to the wind, as in the present drawing, is in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Paul Mellon Collection (see John Baskett and Dudley Snelgrove, The Drawings of Thomas Rowlandson in the Paul Mellon Collection, 1977, no. 321 ill.)
by Samuel Alken as the fourth of four images relating to dining published as a single sheet with the title ‘Different Sensations’ (with subtitles: Preparing for Supper; Waiting for Dinner, At Dinner and After Dinner), 22 October 1789; reissued in 1792 by S.W. Fores
Rowlandson drew portly diners and gouty gourmands throughout his career. This fine drawing can be dated to circa 1785-9 and shows a maid preparing the diner for his meal. I am grateful to Nick Knowles for his comments about the etching of this subject, notably his view that Rowlandson made the image for the etching in 1792 rather than Samuel Alken who issued the print.
This subject was aquatinted by Rowlandson and published by S. W. Fores in 1798, as plate 7 of Christopher Anstey’s The New Bath Guide or The Memoirs of the Blunderhead Family, 1766. There are numerous small differences between the present drawing (and the other three known versions of it) and the aquatint: notably the central structure with a tower is missing in the aquatint.
Another, smaller, version of this composition, measuring 18 x 18.1 cm, is in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Paul Mellon Collection (see John Baskett and Dudley Snelgrove, The Drawings of Thomas Rowlandson in the Paul Mellon Collection, 1977, no. 299 ill.). Another version can be found in the William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, Rockland, Maine.
Bath was the most fashionable spa in England in the late eighteenth century, with several public and private baths. The King’s Bath, named after Henry II and built on the foundations of the old Roman reservoir enclosing the hot spring, was a rich source of public amusement. From 6 to 9 o’clock in the morning bathing took place, when fully dressed patients waded through the hot water. The spectacle is wittily described by Lydia Melford in Tobias Smollett’s Expedition of Humphrey Clinker, I, 77, for which Rowlandson made ten illustrations in 1793:
‘Right under the Pump-room windows is the King’s Bath; a huge cistern, where you see patients go up to their necks in hot water. The ladies wear jackets and petticoats of brown linen with chip hats, in which they fix their hankerchifs [sic] to wipe the sweat from their faces; but, truly, whether it is owing to the steam that surrounds them, or the heat of the water; or the nature of the dress, or to all these causes together, they look so flushed, and so frightful, that I always turn my eyes another way. ’
Provenance: Chris Beetles Gallery; Private collection UK until 2017
French prisoners under escort to Exeter Castle for forfeiting their parole
With signature and date l.r.: Rowlandson 1799, inscribed l.l.: FRENCH PRISONERS under
escort to EXETER CASTLE for forfeiting their parole, pen and ink and watercolour over pencil
26.5 x 40.5 cm; 10½ x 16 inches
Christie’s, London, 7 April 1998, lot
There is another drawing of French prisoners on parole at Bodmin in 1795, in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.145). During the wars which followed the French Revolution, French prisoners were a not unusual sight on the streets of England, and in the present drawing they were presumably being marched to the gaol inside the castle. Another, undated, view of the South Gate, Exeter, is also at Yale (B1975.4.703). Rowlandson seems to have used artistic licence with the architecture, which does not appear to be strictly accurate.
Rowlandson worked extensively in the West Country, where he made annual tours. He usually stayed with his friend Matthew Michell, who had an estate at Hengar near Bodmin in Cornwall, where the artist would base himself.
In 1068, William the Conqueror selected Rougemont as the site of a larger and more strongly fortified castle than had existed before at Exeter. Baldwin de Moles, or de Brionus, the husband of the king’s niece Albreda, oversaw the castle’s construction and became hereditary sheriff of Devonshire. His son Richard died without issue, and the castle was granted to Richard de Redvers, who was created Earl of Devon by Henry I.
In 1232, Exeter Castle was seized by Henry III, who gave it to his younger brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall. It remained mainly in the possession of the Earls of Cornwall, and in 1337, when Edward, the eldest son of King Edward III, was created Duke of Cornwall, the castle became part of the Duchy of Cornwall.
After its surrender to General Fairfax in 1646 during the Civil War, the castle ceased to be a military fortress. Within the ancient walls, much of the original structure of the Devon County Court was erected in 1774, but it has undergone frequent alterations and some enlargements.