Life and Death contrasted_or, An Essay on Woman / Death and Life contrasted_or, An Essay on Man

Method Copper engraving with original hand colouring
Artist after Robert Dighton
Published Printed for & Sold by Bowles & Carver, No. 69 in St. Paul's Church Yard. London. [1793]
Dimensions Woman: Image 322 x 240 mm, Plate 348 x 247 mm, Sheet 352 x 250 mm
Man: Image 318 x 240 mm, Plate 345 x 247 mm, Sheet 350 x 250 mm
Notes A pair of full length portraits of Woman and Man, functioning as a candid allegory of mortality, published by Bowles & Carver after the watercolour drawings by Robert Dighton. The two figures are bisected by an invisible line that separates the realms of life and death. On one side, left for the woman and right for the man, the figures are dressed in the extravagant attire of Georgian high society. An elaborate ballgown, ribbons, gloves, a fan, and a tall hairstyle are counterbalanced by frock-coat, cocked hat, powdered wig, sword, and the starred badge and stocking of the Order of the Garter. On the other side of each figure, however, is the constant spectre of their own mortality, shown as grinning skeletons. Woman holds the fatal dart, point turned down, while Man rests casually on the gravedigger's spade. The backgrounds to the figures are also shown in constrast. Landscaped gardens for life, monuments of the graveyard for death. Woman's monument is a large obelisk, featuring a prominent inscription from Proverbs, reading Favour is Deceitful, and Beauty is Vain, as well as numerous biblical and literary quotations about vanity, and the ever present spectre of death. Man's monument, a large burial altar, is likewise covered in biblical and literary references, the most prominent coming from Romans VI.23, The Wages of Sin is Death. On the side of life, the vanities of modern society are spread at the feet of the figures: invitations to balls and masques, cards, dice, and other gambling accoutrements, a book of romances, and a noble pedigree.

Although the Bowles catalogue lists this pair as having been engraved and printed in 1784, the address listed in the inscription indicates a publication date of 1793.

Robert Dighton (1752 - 1814) was an English draughstman and printmaker. He was the son of the art dealer John Dighton, and father of the artists Robert Junior, Denis, and Richard. Dighton was especially well known for his satirical prints, which he initially supplied to Carington Bowles and Haines. Later plates he etched, published, and sold himself. Dighton infamously stole prints from the British Museum to stock his shop in Charing Cross. When this was discovered in 1806, Dighton escaped prosecution, but was forced to lie low in Oxford until the scandal died down.

Bowles & Carver was a publishing partnership between Henry Carington Bowles II (son of Carington Bowles I) and Samuel Carver. It was a continuation of the Bowles' business in St Paul's Churchyard, London, between 1793 and 1832. In 1818, Bowles built Myddelton House in Enfield. A view of the shop when trading as Bowles and Carver appears in Thomas Hornor's Prospectus: View of London and the surrounding country (1823).

BM Satires 3793 & 3792, Bowles/Bowles & Carver Posture Mezzotints 518 & 519.

Condition: Trimmed just outside plate marks. Minor time toning and discolouration to plates. Small repaired chip to top left of 'Man.' Framed in a matched pair of period black and gold frames.
Framing framed
Price £4,500.00
Stock ID 47971