The drawing by Maclise seems to be related to the caricature of the famous dandy Count d'Orsay (1798-1852) that was published in Fraser's Magazine in December 1834. As Richard Ormond observed in a letter to James Byam Shaw dated 23 September 1977 (preserved on the back of the drawing), it is 'not identical...(but) must be from the same time and perhaps a variant idea for the design'.
The drawing in Fraser's is one of nearly eighty caricatures that Maclise, using the pseudonym Alfred Croquis, contributed to the journal between 1830, the year it was founded, and 1836. Published singly in each monthly issue under the collective title 'Gallery of Literary Characters', the drawings were accompanied by waspish biographical sketches penned by the editor, William Maginn, who, like Maclise, was a native of Cork. Maclise used a lithographic pen to produce the drawings, which are in his most mannered linear style, stopping just short of grotesque distortion. The novelty of the concept, the wit and elegance of its execution, and the picture it evokes of literary London, combined to make it one of the magazine's most popular features during the first few years of its existence (see Daniel Maclise, exh. National Portrait Gallery, London, and National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 1972, cat. pp. 46-51).
The drawing by Nicholson is a 'reminiscence' because it is a posthumous likeness, executed nine years after Count d'Orsay's death in 1852. An illustrator and sculptor, Nicholson had known the Count well. He had taught him how to model equestrian statuettes and miniature busts; indeed, he and his fellow sculptor William Behnes had often had a hand in these productions, lending them a professional touch beyond the powers of the amateur artist. The Count's statuette and bust of the Duke of Wellington, both well known in their day, were examples of this collaboration.
As an illustrator Nicholson was prolific, producing numerous drawings for Cassell's Illustrated Family Paper, the Illustrated London News and the Illustrated Times. The present drawing, exemplifying his skill with equestrian subjects, may well have been made for reproduction, although his association with these publications had ceased by 1861. For further information, see Michael Sadleir, Blessington - D'Orsay: A Masquerade, London, 1933, p. 325, and Simon Houfe, Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists, Woodbridge, 1996, p. 241.