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Thomas Rowlandson, 1756–1827, British

Vauxhall Gardens

Former Title(s):

Old Vauxhall Gardens

Additional Title(s):

Old Vauxhall Gardens (Vauxhall Gardens)

ca. 1784
Watercolor, pen and black ink, pen and gray ink, and graphite on medium, sligtly textured, cream laid paper
Mount: 15 1/16 x 20 11/16 inches (38.3 x 52.5 cm) and Sheet: 13 3/16 x 18 3/4 inches (33.5 x 47.6 cm)

Inscribed in black ink, on mount, lower left: "Thomas Rowlandson. (underlined) - Old Vauxhall Gardens (underlined) - The earliest version of the subject. | Mrs. Weischel, mother of Mrs. Billington, singing in the orchestra. Portraits of the Prince of Wales, Mrs. Robinson and her husband, | Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Duncannon, Captain Topham, Admiral Paisley, James Perry, Parson Bate Dudley, Mrs. Hartley and others. | In a supper-box, Dr. Johnson, Boswell, Mrs. Thrale, and Oliver Goldsmith. ----"; in black ink, on mount, lower right: "Ce dessin provient de la collection de Sir William Aug. Fraser, Bart M.A. | I la figure en 1899 a I'exposition des oeuvres des 'English humourists in Art' | No. 32 du catalogue. - Cette exposition eut lieu dans les galeries du | 'Royal Institue of Painters in Water-colours.'---"

Collector's stamp of L.S. Delatigny (Lugt 1768a), lower left

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
arch | audience | balcony | concert | costume | entertainment | gardens | genre subject | leisure | men | music | musical instruments | musicians | orchestra | organ | park (grounds) | performance | pleasure garden | rotunda (interior space) | satire | spectators | trees | women
Associated Places:
England | Europe | Lambeth | London | Southwark | United Kingdom | Vauxhall Gardens
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Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens had been a fashionable resort since the times of Charles II. In 1732 the gardens reopened to the public after extensive renovations under the proprietership of Jonathan tyers. The entrepreneurial tyers has the gardens embellished with walks, ruins, statues, Chinese pavilions, triumphal arches, and a "Gothik" orchestra, and his continuing program of improvements included several important art commissions, most notably Luis-François Roubiliac's celebrated statue of Handel, four patriotic modern history subjects by Francis Hayman, and an extensive sequence of decorative paintings designed for the supper-boxes by Hayman, and an extensive sequence of decorative paintings designed for the supper-boxes by Hayman and William Hogarth. Vauxhall was almost universally popular, despite (or because of it) its reputation for frivolity and moral laxity, and typified the egalitarian nature of British social life of the period. James Boswell, and inveterate commentator on metropolitan life observed: Vauxhall Gardens is peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English nation; there being a mixture of curious show - gay exhibition, musick, vocal and instrumental, not too refined for the general ear; - for all which only shilling paid. And, though last, not least, good eating and drinking for those who wish to purchase the regale. Rowlandson frequently visited Vauxhall, finding there, as his friend Henry Angelo noted, "plenty of employment for his pencil." The subject of his watercolor is the orchestra outside the Rotunda during and evening concert. The concert was one of the few professional ensembles of the period, renowned for the high quality of its playing. Many of the figures can be tentatively identified, including the Prince Regent whispering to the actress "Perdita Robinson, his former lover, shown arm-in-arm with her husband, and, in the foreground, the playwright and dandy Edward Topham peering through his monocle or "quizzing glass" at Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, and her sister Harriet (see cat. 7).

Timothy J. Barringer, Art & music in Britain, four encounters, 1730-1900 (exhibition and label text) , New Haven, 2006, [p. 37], V 1699:1 (YCBA)

Timothy J. Barringer, Art & music in Britain, four encounters, 1730-1900 , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2006, pp. 6-7, 12, 3, V 1699 (YCBA)

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 280-1, fig. 8, N5220 M552 A7 1977 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Published as April 1977 issue of Apollo; all of the articles may also be found in bound Apollo Volume [N1 A54 105:2 +]

Jonathan Conlin, The pleasure garden , from Vauxhall to Coney Island, , University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2013, p. 113, fig. 4.4, SB451.36.G7 P54 2013 (YCBA) Also available online (ORBIS) [Project Muse]

Patricia Phagan, Thomas Rowlandson, pleasures and pursuits in Georgian England , Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. London, 2011, pp. 58-59, no. 1, NJ18 R79 P53 2011 + OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Simon Schama, Rowlandson in the Round, TLS, the Times Literary Supplement, Issue no. 3963, March 10, 1978, p. 282, Film S748 (SML) Also available Online in TLS Historical Archive (ORBIS)

The Cunning Eye of Thomas Rowlandson, Apollo, vol.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 280-1, fig. 8, N1 A54 05:2 + (YCBA) Also available: N5220 M552 A7 1977 + (YCBA)

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