Thomas Rowlandson after James Dunthorne.
The Hypochondriac .
The Mind distemper'd, say what potent charm,
Can Fancy's spectre, brooding rage disarm?
Physics prescriptive, art assails in vain,
The dreadful phantom floating cross the brain.
26.25 x 20.5 inches
A rare and large-scale aquatint etched on copper by Thomas Rowlandson after the drawing by James Dunthorne and published in London in 1788.
The theme of this most unusual of prints is self-evident from the title; a troubled man sits in a chair beset by his demons and doubts, consumed with anxiety for his mental and physical wellbeing. He is offered all manner of means to end his life from a noose to a loaded pistol. A menacing skeleton looms over him all set to impale an arrow through his heart. Waiting in the wings are a venomous snake, a poisoned chalice and a cut throat razer: cheerful stuff!
To the right of the scene help is at hand. The man's mistress, maidservant or mother converses with the doctor who leans on his cane, eyes closed and deep in thought. After careful consideration, he prescribes a "pitying bolus" to reduce the mania and put the patient to sleep. Mental health was a very topical subject at this time because, in the very year this print was made, King George III suffered his first bout of mental illness, an infliction that would return again briefly in 1801 and then, from 1810 onwards blight the remainder of his reign and necessitate the installation of his eldest son, Prince George, as Regent.