The Sculptor [Preparations for the Academy, Old Joseph Nollekens and his Venus]
Rowlandson caricatures Sir Joseph Nollekens, who sculptures of classical gods and contemporary busts helped popularize Neoclassical taste in Britain. The sculptor’s collection of plaster and terracotta casts and antique fragments, brought back from Rome, crowds his studio. Shown in his sixties, Nollekens needs spectacles to work on a clay model of Venus and Cupid intended for the next Royal Academy exhibition, but his lecherous expression and flushed cheeks suggest his undiminished ability to appreciate the nude who perches amidst the statuary. A large sculpted head of Jupiter, a god notorious for his many affairs, also eyes the model and the image suggests high-minded aesthetic pursuits falter when confronted with the attraction of living beauty.
Thomas Rowlandson (British, London 1757–1827 London)
English painter and caricaturist, Thomas Rowlandson (13 July 1756 – 21 April 1827) was noted for his political satire and social observation. The son of a tradesman, Rowlandson became a student in the Royal Academy. At age 16 he went to study in Paris. After establishing a studio as a portrait painter, he began to draw caricatures to supplement his income, and this soon became his major interest. Like other contemporary caricaturists, he produced erotica which was censured by the 1840s. He created comic images of familiar social types of his day and also wrote satirical verse under the pen name of Peter Pindar. His characters ranged from the ridiculous, pretentious, enormous bosoms and bottoms.