The Chamber of Genius

Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827), The Chamber of Genius, 1812. Hand colored etching. Inscribed below the title: Want is the Scorn of every wealthy Fool / And Genius in Rags is turn’d to Ridicule— Juvenal Satire. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895. Graphic Arts Rowlandson collection.

Described by M. Dorothy George in the Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum as follows:

“In a squalid room a man in a frenzy of inspiration, stern and intent, sits at an easel painting on a canvas on which is the large head of a (?) minatory Hebrew prophet. He wears a shirt with one tattered boot and one slipper, and a cloth tied over his head. In his left hand is a pen, and he appears unconscious of a large cat which claws at his bare legs. His pretty wife sleeps with a carefree expression on a make-shift bed (across which his breeches are thrown), while a naked infant beside her pours the contents of a bottle into a glass. On the table are coffee-pot, &c. An older child, almost naked, sits in a tub facing the fire plying a pair of bellows and is in great danger from a kettle and a red-hot poker. The other pursuits of the genius are indicated by two large books, on which he rests a foot, a violin and a French horn, a syringe, a pair of scales, a retort standing on a small furnace; a classical bust on a bracket. A cord stretches across the room on which hang tattered stockings and a piece of drapery. On the wall hang a sword and tricorne hat, with three prints: ‘Araeostation’ [sic], a balloon ascending, reminiscent of Rowlandson’s ‘Aerostation out at Elbows …’; a woman ballet dancer, and an ugly profile head inscribed ‘Peter Testa’. Above the fireplace (right) are a string of onions and a bunch of tallow dips. A dish of food with knife and fork is on the floor.”

*Note, what is the youngest child getting ready to drink?