Note on Art
This note from LeRoy Neiman concerns Thomas Rowlandson's A Gaming Table at Devonshire House. The pen and ink drawing with watercolor features a selection of British aristocrats gathered around a gambling table. (Working and living on the Upper West side, Neiman first saw this piece at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the work is accessioned.)
Neiman had a longstanding fascination with gambling, rendering many works engaging the subject—e.g. Chemin de Fer (1966), two related pieces entitled Working Girl at Caesars Palace (1980), Casino du Monte Carlo (1981), Baden-Baden (1987), and Desert Inn Baccarat (1997)—as well as partnering with former CEO of Caesers Palace, Cliff Perlman, on a number of occassions. The majority of these pieces were either completed onsite or made from sketches done onsite, professing to the artist’s not only interest but participation in leisure culture.
The note then confirms this interest. Rolandson’s drawing is somewhat of a critique of British aristocratic life. The image, a tableau, zeros in on two members of the Spencer family, sisters Georgiana and Harriet Ponsonby, who hold elusive eye contact. Georgiana was at that point what would be nearly $6 million today in debt. The other figures in the work also seem to have partner off, depicted in contorted asides laced with dubious smirks. Although Rolandson gives no indication on what exactly is going on, it’s clearly not the most flattering portrait. (Neiman himself describes the work as disclosing the “greed of gambling females and the brutish attention of men [in British high society].”)
Text Item Type Metadata
(Met Museum drawing collection)
social satire, storytelling sequences
ridiculing the pretentions and vulgarities of British society
“A gambling Table at Devonshire House”
the lascivious corruptibility and greed of gambling females and the brutish attention of men.
The gambling table