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Thomas Rowlandson (London 1756-1827)
Thomas Rowlandson (London 1756-1827)

The Triumph of Bacchus

Thomas Rowlandson (London 1756-1827)
The Triumph of Bacchus
pencil, pen and sepia ink and watercolour, on paper
10 x 16 5/8 in. (25.4 x 42.2 cm.)
Leggatt's, London, where acquired in 1952.

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Lot Essay

Rowlandson was fascinated by classical imagery of all kinds and made numerous drawings from sculpture and prints. In this drawing he has blackened the background to give his composition the appearance of a frieze on a Greek red-figure vase. The scene is one of classical antiquity as filtered through the eyes of Dürer, Titian, Raphael and other Renaissance artists. The whole extraordinary amalgam is a testament to Rowlandson's visual memory and, very probably, to the breadth of his print collection. Just one figure, the vase-carrying woman seen from behind at the far right, illustrates the complexity of this thought processes. The idea of the silhouetted vase carrier in a Bacchic scene seems to come from Titian's The Andrians (Prado, Madrid), but the image is derived from Raphael's water carrier in the Stanza dell'incendio del Borgo in the Vatican, a figure that was particularly admired by British eighteenth century artists and was recommended by Reynolds to students in his Discourses. As in The Andrians, the whole composition is supported in the foreground by a reclining female nude.

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