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Thomas Rowlandson, 1756–1827, British

A Worn Out Debauchée

between 1790 and 1795
Watercolor with pen and yellow and gray-black ink on moderately thick, moderately textured, beige, laid paper
Sheet: 11 13/16 x 7 13/16 inches (30 x 19.8 cm) and Mount: 12 1/4 x 8 1/4 inches (31.1 x 21 cm)

Inscribed in graphite, lower right: "A Worn-out Debauchée"; in black ink, lower left: "TEL" collectors stamp

watermarks: Fleur-de-Lis (Shorter 200) James Whatman II (1764 - 93)

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
genre subject | man | middle age | walking | woman
Associated People:
Douglas, William, 4th Duke of Queensbury (1725-1810)
Accessible by request in the Study Room [Request]
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By tradition Rowlandson's sprightly drawing of a decrepit bon vivant is a caricature of William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensbury (1725–1810), or “Old Q,” as he was popularly known. As the most famous rake of the later eighteenth century, his amorous exploits were the stuff of legend. The sexual appetites of this lifelong bachelor were prodigious and, according to one who knew him in his final years, “he pursued pleasure under every shape; with as much ardour at fourscore as he had done at twenty” (Wraxall, 1836, vol. 2, p. 160). Rumor had it he was even drawing up plans to build a seraglio onto his house at Richmond (Robinson, 1895, p. 203). Rowlandson exploits Queensbury's voraciousness to the full, allowing him to revel in the incongruous union of the eager young mistress and her geriatric lover. He is shown, as one wag described him in 1794, “insatiate yet with Jolly's sport . . . ogling and hobbling down St James's Street” (Thomas Mathias as cited in Godfrey, 2001, p. 222). Sadly for Queensbury, Rowlandson's caricature was right on the mark, for by this time “his person had then become a ruin” (Wraxall, 1836, vol. 2, p. 160). One eye had failed, his hearing was going, and he had lost nearly all his teeth. But despite his physical frailty he still cut a dashing figure. In this drawing Rowlandson portrays the old duke as an irrepressible dandy, his Star of the Thistle prominently displayed on his fashionably tight-fitting clothes (Ribeiro, 1989, p. 132). As one friend noted, in later life “even his figure, though emaciated, still remained elegant” (Wraxall, 1836, vol. 2, p. 160). Rowlandson inscribed the drawing in his own hand, describing Queensbury as a “Debauchee.” In eighteenth-century parlance the “debauchee” was wholly abandoned to the pursuit of sensual pleasure, inhabiting a totally different league of immorality from the merely occasional, or accidental, debaucher.

Matthew Hargraves

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, N5cat. no. 67, 220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, pp. 273-74, no. 67, pl. 67, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 284-5, fig. 19, 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 +]

Richard T. Godfrey, James Gillray, The art of caricature , Tate Publishing, London, 2001, p. 222, no. 207, fig. 207, NJ18 G3845 G63 2001 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

John Robert Robinson, 'Old Q'; a memoir of William Douglas, fourth Duke of Queensberry, K.T., one of 'the fathers of the turf,' with a full account of his celebrated matches and wagers, etc, London, 1895, p. 203, By54 184y (LSF)

The Cunning Eye of Thomas Rowlandson, Apollo, vol.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 284-5, fig. 19, N1 A54 05:2 + (YCBA) Also available: N5220 M552 A7 1977 + (YCBA)

Sir Nathaniel William Wraxall, Posthumous memoirs of his own time, Richard Bentley, London, p. 160 (v. 2), , DA506 W9 A33 1836 (YCBA Rare) (SML)

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