The Last Drop

Artist and publisher Thomas Rowlandson British

Not on view

Standing on tiptoe, a short, heavy-bellied "cit," or City of London tradesman, struggles to drain a large punch bowl. In his haste, the tippler has abandoned ladle and glass and fails to notice the menacing skeleton, a literal representation of his fast approaching demise. Empty wine bottles on the floor signal hours of past indulgence, while the port and ale on the table indicate his intended future imbibing. The bottle marked Usquebaugh, a Gaelic word from which "whiskey" derives, contains a liquor used to make punch. Rowlandson’s humorous take on humanity’s capacity for self-destruction relies on a late medieval moralizing conceit, The Dance of Death, famously embodied by Hans Holbein the Younger in a woodcut series of 1538.

The Last Drop, Thomas Rowlandson (British, London 1757–1827 London), Hand-colored etching

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