The Old Harlot's Dream
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- A grotesque erotic portrait of a sleeping woman with exposed breasts, one hand holding a penis, surrounded by vignettes (two of them, "The First" and "The Last," showing her explicit sexual encounters) as well as 19 facial caricatures of her leering clients and 9 large representations of male sexual organs in various states of arousal, all in a shadowy wash. This is surely one of Rowlandson's most grotesque erotic works, verging on the pornographic. It is not reproduced in The Amorous Illustrations of Thomas Rowlandson.
- The Old Harlot's Dream (undated) is an elaborate fantasia featuring a recumbent, sexed-out, desiccated hag asleep and while asnooze dreaming of her past professional life as a prostitute. Leering clients, disembodied virile members, and tableaus of her first and last sexual encounters swirl around her as if in an opium pipe-dream phantasmagoria. The wages of sin appear to be poverty, premature aging, and nightmares, the golden years of retirement turned to lead by the alchemy of too much fornication for hire - and the sharp eye of Thomas Rowlandson. So much for a life of pleasure; the road of excess leads not to wisdom but to wizendom. --Stephen J. Gertz
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