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The Comforts of Matrimony: A Good Toast

Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827)


Inscribed 'Matrimony' on reverse in a contemporary hand

Pen ink and watercolour

6 ¾ x 9 ¼ inches

Christie's London, 18 October 1966, No 50, 'A Family Tea'

'Chris Beetles Summer Show', 2021, No 16

The present watercolour relates to the aquatint of the same title that was published by Reeve and Jones, 7 Vere Street, London, on 21 April 1809. It was issued as one of a pair of contrasting images, with The Miseries of Wedlock: The Tables Turned. The general composition of the present work is replicated in reverse in the printed aquatint. However, the print is not only coarser that this watercolour, but contains many small differences from it, which suggests that there was probably another, intermediary drawing on which it was directly based.

The essence of both the present watercolour and the aquatint has been described by Joseph Grego in the following way:

The picture represents a scene of domestic felicity of the most touching completeness. The husband is browning a muffin for tea; his wife’s arm is wound around his neck during this delicate operation; his children are enjoying their peaceful meal; an infant is tranquilly slumbering in the cradle; and a cat, surrounded by her family of kittens, carries out the unity of her subject. (Rowlandson the Caricaturist, London: Chatto and Windus, 1880, vol 2, page 134)

Yet, in the watercolour, the husband looks not at his wife but at the viewer, as if acknowledging and sharing his good fortune. Indeed, he and his pets are more fecund than his aquatinted counterpart, for he has four children (rather than three) and the cat has two kittens (rather that one), while all are far more alive and alert.

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