When this drawing was made in 1785, contemporary viewers would have easily identified the principal figure of the tall gentleman near the center of the crowded theater lobby as Colonel George Hanger, a friend of the Prince of Wales, later George IV. Thomas Rowlandson showed him assessing two pretty young girls, while a trio of older and less savory characters whisper to each other at the left. One of the gentlemen pays a fat older woman for an unspecified reason. To the right, a man in the crowd studies other young women through his lorgnette, while a short gentleman mistakenly approaches an annoyed middle-aged lady. The sharp linearity of the drawing emphasizes the rich variety of characters and the humorous, biting view of human foibles.Renowned in his lifetime as a political caricaturist, Rowlandson produced this large drawing for an etching that was published on January 5, 1786. In the printed version of this scene, the artist added a playbill to the wall that advertised: "The Way of the World" and "Who's the Dupe?", further emphasizing the drawing's satire.
Pencil, pen and black and gray ink, and watercolor (1785)
by Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1757-1827)
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