(click image to enlarge)
Thomas Rowlandson’s great Victorian champion, Joseph Grego, describes the present etching in general terms as ‘a young nobleman ... receiving visits of certain usurers’ (Rowlandson the Caricaturist, London: Chatto & Windus, 1880, vol 1, page 175). However, later commentators have drawn attention to the Garter star on the nobleman’s coat in order to identify him as George, Prince of Wales (the future George IV). George did himself acquire an uncoloured copy of this etching soon after it was published, and Kate Heard, of the Royal Collection Trust, notes that the image
‘is thought to be the earliest satire on his increasingly large debts’. She adds that ‘In 1784 ... he clearly found this image amusing rather than offensive, an attitude reflected in the pose of the borrower in the print, who seems to care little for the debt in which he is miring himself’ (High Spirits: The Comic Art of Thomas Rowlandson, London: Royal Collection Trust, 2013, page 82). However, while the nobleman may be the portrait of an individual, the moneylenders are generic caricatures of Jews.
Published as an etching by William Humphrey, No 227 Strand, London, on 8 November 1784