Samuel Alken after Thomas Rowlandson
An Italian Family A French Family
London, Dec. 1785 and March 1786
Etching and aquatints
385 x 500 mm
French Family trimmed within publication line. Slight overall browning.
£3600 the pair.
A famous pair of Rowlandson prints. The Italians, in a poverty-stricken room, practise for opera. A young man stands full-face, singing; he bends forward, fingers interlaced across his chest. He wears open shirt (ruffled), waistcoat, breeches, and ungartered stockings. Beside him (right) an old man plays an enormous ‘cello. A middle-aged man, seated in profile, singing, plays a low harpsichord; he wears open ruffled shirt and breeches, with bare legs. Beside him on the extreme left a little boy dressed in a shirt plays the violin. On the extreme right a pretty young woman sits over the fire with an infant on her knee; she holds out a cloth to dry, looking over her shoulder to sing. Her score (‘Affetuoso’) is pinned to the chimney-piece, on which stands a crucifix with a tankard, &c. A lean greyhound howls up the chimney. All but the old man have fashionably dressed hair, and a certain elegance. The room is lit from an open casement window (left); there are dark cast shadows and the bare room has no ceiling. On the wall are a print of ‘Vestris’ [Resembling BMSats 5905, 5906.] dancing, a sword, a playbill: ‘l’Avaro Deluso’ (opera by Paisiello, libretto by Vulpius), and a bunch of farthing dips; on the window ledge a cracked mirror, cocked hat, bottles, &c. Beneath the harpsichord is a large bowl: Macaroni; and in the foreground lie a violin, music-books, earthenware pots, &c.
The French, also in a poverty stricken room, are playing music and dancing. A fashionably dressed yound woman, with a feathered head-dress dances with a bare-legged skinny old man wearing tattered garments. She holds the hem of her skirt in her left hand, he has his left hand bent behind his back, their right arms extend upwards gracefully, fingers pointed as about to touch. Behind the couple, two children mimic their movements. To the right an old man plays the viola and beneath him a child stands skirt lifted as she bends down to look at her feet pointed outwards, as if in a dancing posture. On the left, a seated boy plays the flute with one hand, and a tambourine with the other. Two dogs are standing on their rear legs, one of them dressed in a coat and hat, they look upwards at the boy playing. A rustic straw bed is leaning against the wall in the background, a pair of breeches hang from it, and other garmants hang from pegs further along the wall. A print of a tavern dancing scene is pinned to the wall, besides which hangs a mirror. On a window ledge are a number of bottles and jars, and a cat is seen drinking from one of them. B M 9670 and 96 86