Dec 062013

This is intended to mark the end of a week which sees a collection of blog posts under the banner of “Peckers, dildos and peccadilloes” – a miscellany of posts “with an adult theme” where the only link is bad taste and smutty humour. For some reason I thought it particularly appropriate to have a week of such posts in that dreary period leading up to Christmas…  If it is not to your taste, look away!

Some of you may know that Thomas Rowlandson was a promising art student who studied at the Royal Academy, who spent time in France, and who inherited a small fortune (well, £7000 was a lot of money in the 18th Century) and then blew the lot on riotous living, gambling and general dissipation. When the dosh ran out he sought to make a living drawing caricatures, and engraving plates for other artists. He also found a profitable side-line in making pornographic prints “for gentlemen” who, presumably, collected them to help pass the time of day amongst friends after a particularly fine  dinner.

I love the underlying theme – that old men are at risk from the predations of scandalously under-clad young ladies, that they are never safe from their womanly wiles. For anyone who is unaware that men and women have sexual organs, I must apologize for the shock, but the un-defaced originals are all there for you to see on Wikimedia Commons here.

3In this picture we have two elderly gentlemen who, for some reason which the artist does not explain, find themselves sans culottes. Maybe it has rained heavily and they found it necessary to lower their sodden trousers. Or maybe, being absent-minded, they had simply forgotten to pull them all the way up that morning. Whatever the reason, nothing can justify the behaviour of the wanton woman who assaults them both simultaneously. Rowlandson has done a wonderful job of catching their shock and horror at having their manhood seized by the well-endowed strumpet who seems intent on having her wicked way with them both. Well, what was a man to do?

Sometimes it looks as though the men are perhaps enjoying the experience, as in this gentle post-prandial scene:


But then look closely – one man in the foreground is being violently sick, but this does not stop the wicked minx lying on top of him. Other men are clearly discussing the cricket score or seeking to have a much-needed drink to quench their thirst. Rowlandson adds the words “With women and wine I defy every care. For life without them is a volume of aire” –  admittedly an ambiguous comment but I choose to think that what Rowlandson is saying here is that he welcomes a breath of fresh air after dinner – not more wine and women! Or perhaps I have mis-read the sorry scene…

4There was no safety in numbers – your friends are waiting outside the door wanting you to come and help them with that morning’s crossword puzzle and you find yourself accosted by a voracious vixen. Such bad form to cavort like that under the beady eye of your fore-father, looking down in a disapproving manner from the wall above! Our hero strives to put a good face on things, but you can be sure that he is an unwilling participant in the sordid scene….

5It wasn’t just above stairs that these unwelcome attentions occurred. Pity the poor manservant in this print. Clearly he has gone to the dairy to fetch a cup of milk, or perhaps to find a quiet spot to contemplate the latest score in the Federation League between Trinidad and Jamaica, and this young lady forces herself upon him. Somehow I think Rowlandson has failed to capture the anguish, the utter despair, on the young man’s face. Perhaps Rowlandson wasn’t too familiar with the Caribbean countenance, but the title (The Dairy Maid’s delight) makes it clear that the pleasure is all hers.

Mr Rowlandson: you were a voyeur and a Dirty Old Man. And also a fine artist with many talents for recording the world around you!

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