Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827) was one of the greatest of the British caricaturists. Critic Robert Hughes wrote “William Hogarth invented the panorama of social class as a subject in English painting. Rowlandson, who was eight when Hogarth died, continued the tradition, with an equal gusto but greater humor. The dark side of Hogarth, his capacity for moral rage, is largely missing in Rowlandson, and his interest in art theory is entirely absent.”
Theodore Lane (1800-1828) on the other hand, was a lesser known British caricaturist who worked around the same period as Rowlandson. A savant, who had his debut at the age of 16 with an exhibition of paintings at the Royal Academy, Lane is only known today for his humorous work, such as his caricatures of George IV.
The graphic arts collection holds a scrolling panorama made up of 12 unsigned, hand-colored etchings, with a narrative in verse, attributed to Rowlandson and titled Mister O’Squat. This year, a search for more information about this item uncovered an unbound series of 12 panoramic colored prints that were sold in a 1906 book sale under the title Mister O’Squat and the Widow Shanks. This title corresponds to a listing in OCLC for a series of prints with verse attributed to Lane and titled The Misadventures of a Pair of Newlyweds who Leave the Country for the Superior Pleasures and Society of London, also called Mister O’Squat and Widow Shanks. Published in 1818, this is also a panorama in 12 sections, each 13 x 73 cm. the same as Princeton’s.
Were these prints just reconfigured to be viewed as a continuous scene through the window of a small box (sometimes called a myriopticon)? Did Rowlandson know of Lane’s prints and reproduce them for the publisher William Sams? Is the 1818 series misattributed to Lane and really the work of Rowlandson? These are still unanswered questions that deserve further research before an answer is given.