Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827). "A maiden aunt smelling fire."
London: Thomas Rowlandson, May 1, 1812. Hand colored etching. Originally published May 1, 1806. 12 1/8 x 8 3/4 (neat lines) plus margins. Old mat burn visible. Complete margins.
Trained at the Royal Academy Schools and in Paris, Thomas Rowlandson quickly earned a reputation as a caricature expert. His sharp eye, comic renderings, and delicate use of color soon established him as one of the important English artists of his period. In order to fund his expensive, convivial lifestyle, he produced numerous prints and series of prints, poking cleverly at British society and popular culture.
This print is an example of what Ronald Paulson in Rowlandson: A New Interpretation (1972) called "Youth and Age; The Romantic Triangle." Although not appearing in M. Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, the print is described by the Museum thusly:
"A grotesque old maid having woken at night, the open door of her bedroom behind at left, approaching the foot of a staircase with a candle, only partly dressed and with her bosom hanging outside her dress, led on by a cat; above at left, the young niece appearing at her own bedroom door as if only just awake, her lover escaping in his nightshirt up the stairs at right; at the foot of the stairs, a paper lettered 'Old maids are doomed to lead apes in hell'." Scarce.
Other caricatures by Thomas Rowlandson: