A Gaming Table at Devonshire House

Thomas Rowlandson British
Portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire British

Not on view

Rowlandson underscored gambling’s grip on British aristocrats at the end of the eighteenth century by centering the action in this drawing upon two sisters from the Spencer family, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Henrietta (Harriet) Ponsonby, Viscountess Duncannon. They preside over a nighttime game of hazard. The setting is likely Devonshire House, Piccadilly, where the duchess often turned the drawing room into a private gambling salon. Hazard, which involves two dice and a stepped betting system, is being played for high stakes. One die has already fallen, and the other hovers in midair transfixing those at the table. The young gambler at right wears the star of the Order of the Garter, which identifies him as the Prince of Wales. Georgiana, the seated dice-thrower, was by 1789 more than £60,000 in debt (almost $6,000,000 today).

A Gaming Table at Devonshire House, Thomas Rowlandson (British, London 1757–1827 London), Pen and ink, brush and wash, watercolor

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