Dr. Syntax Visits a Boarding School for Young Ladies
One of the most unexpected (and wonderful) finds in the Emporium at the 2012 JASNA meeting in NYC were the four Rowlandson prints that I purchased. One, entitled “Dr. Syntax Visits a Boarding School for Young Ladies” is charming. I included a number of images I found online to accompany this post. Except for the composition, t is remarkable how strikingly different each looks. My print resembles none of the ones displayed here – it is slightly yellowed and delicately colored, but the colors are neither bright nor faded. I can’t wait to frame it.
This 190+ year old hand-colored aquatint came from The Tour of Doctor Syntax, published by Ackermann’s Repository in London from 1812-1821. Dr. Syntax, a British clergyman, sits under a tree next to a stern looking Lady Governess, who addresses the young pupils arrayed around them. The scene accompanies text in The Second Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of Consolation. The illustration reveals how Rowlandson works, outlining the figures with a reed pen and then delicately washing certain areas of the print with color. His pen and inks were then etched by a professional engraver, an artist in his own right. The impressions were then hand colored.
Rowlandson was prolific. Art historians deem his earlier works to be more artistic and carefully observed. As his reputation spread, he began to produce his designs in haste and the quality of his art began to suffer. His caricatures became predictable and in some instances overly exaggerated, but he never lost the facility with which he handled his pen.
In this series, Rowlandson created the illustrations first. Writer James Combe then wrote the narrative that accompanies the images. “This series is one of the best parodies of the more traditional narratives on journeys to different parts of England featuring more “serious” landscape illustrations and prose.” ( Prints from The Tours of Dr. Syntax, Prints With a Past.)
Doctor Syntax talks to the Young Ladies at Boarding School
Below sits the text (in verse) that accompanied this image, in which Dr. Syntax expounds on his listeners’ youth and character, and how they can learn from good example:
In the following page, Dr. Syntax exhorts his young charges to never swerve from virtue’s path and to take care of their good looks, for “flowing looks display’d to view, of black or brown or auburn hue, and well combin’d in various ways, a certain admiration raise…”:
Dr. Syntax does not want for words. In fact, he is a bit of a windbag. How those girls could sit enraptured during this speech is a marvel to me. In this section the rich graces of the mind hold the beauty of the whole, the mortal form, th’ immortal soul.
I wonder if Dr. Syntax even drew breath! In this section the good doctor reinforces the concept that a woman’s place is in the home, overseeing the family and household.
The Doctor says his goodbye, admonishing the listeners to pay attention the kind preceptress, who “will explain what of this subject doth remain, and bring the whole before your view, to prove my solemn doctrine true.”
- Rowlandson the caricaturist: a selection from his works, with anecdotal descriptions of his famous caricatures and a sketch of his life, times, and contemporaries, Volume 2 (Google eBook)Joseph Grego, Thomas Rowlandson, Chatto and Windus, 1880
- Dr. Syntax’s Three Tours Doctor Syntax’s three tours in search of the picturesque, consolation, and a wife. By William Combe. The original ed., complete and unabridged, with the life and adventures of the author, now first written, by John Camden Hotten. Eighty full page illustrations drawn and coloured after the originals by T. Rowlandson. Published 1868 by J. C. Hotten in London . Library of Congress, PR3359.C5 D6 1868
Other posts about the JASNA NYC 2012