• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 11787

    Old Master & British Drawings

    5 July 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 84

    Thomas Rowlandson (London 1756-1827)

    Tight Lacing

    Price Realised  


    Thomas Rowlandson (London 1756-1827)
    Tight Lacing
    pencil, pen and ink and watercolour
    11 5/8 x 9 5/8 in. (29.5 x 24.5 cm.)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    The present watercolour demonstrates Rowlandson's extraordinary facility for capturing the comic in every day life. This subject was conceived with another watercolour showing a portly gentleman being measured for new clothes and titled A Little Bigger and together they poke gentle humour at the vanity of fashionable society: the effort required of the lady's tailor in fitting his buxom client into a new corset, as Grego noted, appears to necessitate 'an enormous exertion of muscular vigour' (Grego, op. cit. p. 293).

    Ladies struggling with their corsets was not a new subject and had been explored in various prints of the 1770s. Rowlandson's interpretation of the subject a few years later proved hugely popular. It was initially published as an etching by Samuel Fores in May 1791 and copies of it and its companion subject were subsequently included in a French print of 1796.

    Another, less colourful, version of this watercolour, along with its companion subject, both signed and dated 1790, is in the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. A later drawing based on this watercolour is in the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Collection, Harvard.

    Joseph Grego, the first recorded owner of this drawing, was a writer and collector of British drawings, particularly of the work of James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, George Cruikshank and George Morland. The publications he was involved with on Gillray, The Works of J. G. the Caricaturist, with the History of his Life and Times (1873) and Rowlandson, Rowlandson the Caricaturist (2 vols., 1880) both became standard books of reference and are still widely used today.


    Joseph Grego.
    Colonel Humphry Sibthorp.
    Mrs Andra, California.
    Maurice Saffron, New York, 1980.


    J. Grego, Rowlandson the Caricaturist, London, 1880, I, pp. 292-3, II, p. 420.
    R. Southey, Mr Rowlandson's England, London, 1985, p. 67, illustrated.