A young countryman is playing cards with a distinctly sharp group of companions, rather less naive than he. They appear to be seeking to encourage him to drink heartily, in the hope that his wits will be dulled to their advantage.
Rowlandson represents himself in this watercolor as the leading card sharper who 'with blustering front, is fleecing the simple youth at cards, in defiance of his well-accepted reputation for rigid integrity'.1 This drawing represents the most generally recognised likeness of the artist before 1799. Rowlandson himself was a keen gambler as a young man and in 1789, he inherited from an aunt a substantial legacy with which, according to The Gentleman's Magazine, he subsequently 'indulged his predilection for a joyous life...was known in London at many of the fashionable gaming houses, alternatively won and lost without emotion'. However the magazine goes on to say that he was 'scrupulously upright in all his pecuniary transactions, and ever avoided getting into debt'. The young countryman was drawn with the likeness of J.K. Sherwin who engraved the subject in 1787.
1. Grego, op. cit.
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