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A Sale of English-Beauties in the East Indies
London: circa, 1810. Etching with original handcolouring, 332 x 225 mm. (image size); in fine condition, with title intact, framed. Satire on the marriage market. Superb caricature satirising the shortage of marriageable women in the East Indies. The eighteenth century saw a massive expansion of British trading operations in India with numerous trading posts established along the coasts and large expatriate communities developing in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. With the escalation in English colonial activity, and the resultant vast increase in the size of the English community, the lack of wives for the traders became an acute problem. Stories abound of widows receiving marriage proposals at their husbands' funerals. The scene here shows the intense interest on the docks following the arrival of a boatload of marriageable women from London. Corpulent colonials and turbaned locals alike tweak and prod the ladies, like so much livestock, whilst a punctilious auctioneer asks for bids. In the background a singularly obese woman is sitting on a set of scales, slightly outweighing a barrel inscribed 'Lack of Rupees'. At the far right some sorrowful women are filing into a warehouse 'for unsaliable (sic) goods from Europe'. This scarce image was executed circa 1810, and is closely based on an earlier James Gillray aquatint cartoon of 1786 which is of even greater rarity. Rowlandson was a close friend of Gillray, and his revival of the image showed that the joke was still current, even if the fashions on display had been updated. The image is a neat counterpoint to Cruikshank's later cartoon on an opposite theme, the shortage of women in Britain now that so many have emigrated (see catalogue number XXX).
      [Bookseller: Hordern House Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2014-08-13           Check availability:      Biblio    

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