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Picture of London (Miseries of London—Traffic)

This drawing relates to a print from Rowlandson’s 1807 etchings based on James Beresford’s Miseries of Human Life (1806), a series of discussions between Mr. Sensitive and Mr. Testy. This scene illustrates the line: “In going out to dinner (already too late) your carriage delayed by a jam of coaches—which choke up the whole street and allow you at least an hour or more than you require to sharpen your wits for table talk.”

Rowlandson often repeated his cartoons after their initial design. The popularity of this image was likely based not only on continuing frustrations with London’s crowded streets, but with the caricaturist’s ability to humorously capture the sights, sounds, and characters of the growing city. With the spire of St. Giles looming in the background, we see the colliding carriages, workers pounding in the “Peter Thump Gold Beater” shop, street peddlers tumbling to the ground, a bricklayer losing his balance, and performers with their animals filling the foreground. Cutting across the social strata, it is "Breast against breast, with ruinous assault and deafening shock they come.”

Thomas Rowlandson
British, 1756–1827
Picture of London (Miseries of London—Traffic)
1812
Black ink and watercolor on paper
Image/sheet: 9 1/8 x 14 ¼ in. (23.2 x 36.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 76.29