Graphic Art

Thomas Rowlandson and Samuel Alken – An Italian Family – 1785

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Graphic Art

Thomas Rowlandson and Samuel Alken – An Italian Family – 1785

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This famous Rowlandson print entitled “An Italian Family”, represents a humble artistic Italian family practising opera. A young man stands in the centre of the image, singing energetically with his hands on his chest. Beside him to the...Read more

This famous Rowlandson print entitled “An Italian Family”, represents a humble artistic Italian family practising opera. A young man stands in the centre of the image, singing energetically with his hands on his chest. Beside him to the right, an old man plays a baroque 4-string double bass. To the singer’s left, a man seated on the floor sings along while playing a harpsicord low to the ground and next to him on the far left a little boy plays the violin. On the far right, a young woman sits next to a fireplace with an infant in her lap; she holds up a cloth to dry, while singing over her shoulder. Her score, 'Affetuoso', is pinned to the mantlepiece in front of her. A greyhound sits at her side, appearing to partake in the singing. Several elements throughout the room further attest that we are viewing an Italian scene: a large macaroni bowl below the harpsicord on the far left, scattered wine bottles and an amphora to the right, a cross on the mantlepiece, Italian playbills, etc. This is part of a two-print companion series that included another print entitled: The French Family”. Below the image: “London, Pub. Dec. 1785 by S Alken. N°3 Dufours Place Broad Street Soho. Sold by W. Hinton N°5 Sweeting Alley Cornhill”.

Thomas Rowlandson (London, 13 July 1756 – 21 April 1827, London) was a prolific British artist, caricaturist and printmaker, noted for his political satire and social observation. He produced a wide variety of illustrations for novels, joke books, and topographical works. As a schoolboy at the school of Dr. Barvis in Soho Square he drew humorous characters of his master and class-mates before the age of ten. At 16, he was sent to Paris for two years, where he studied in a drawing academy and developed his skills drawing the human figure and caricature. On his return to London, he took classes at the Royal Academy. In 1775 he exhibited a drawing at the Royal Academy and two years later received a silver medal for a bas-relief figure. He was spoken of as a promising student. His drawing of Vauxhall, shown in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1784, had been engraved by Pollard, and the print was a success. Rowlandson was then largely employed by Rudolph Ackermann, the art publisher, where he illustrated many popular publications. Rowlandson died at home in London in 1827 after a prolonged illness. He was buried at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden. 

Samuel Alken Sr. (London, 22 October 1756 – 9 November 1815, London) was an English artist, a leading exponent of the newly developed technique of aquatint. He entered the Royal Academy Schools, London, as a sculptor in 1772. He published A New Book of Ornaments Designed and Etched by Samuel Alken in 1779, and later established himself as one of the most competent engravers in the new technique of aquatint.

Sources: The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Encyclopedia Britannica; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Sherry, James (1978). "Distance and Humor; The Art of Thomas Rowlandson". Eighteenth-Century Studies.


 

Artists: Thomas Rowlandson / Samuel Alken (aquatint)

Medium: Hand-coloured etching and aquatint.

Condition: Very good condition.

Dimensions: 40 x 52 cm. / 15 ¾ x 20 ½ in. (View).

Frame: 56.2 x 66.5 cm. / 22 ¼ x 26 ¼ in. Gilt wood, contemporary classic. Matting and glass.

Origin: Canada.