“The Quaker Meeting” is a caricature of an anonymous Friends Meeting, c. 1810. It was drawn by Thomas Rowlandson. Friends sprawl or squat on the benches, some with heads bowed, some with hands to their foreheads. A few of them stand in the foreground. Curiously, despite contemporary Quaker custom, men and women are intermixed. An elderly woman stands, preaching.
“The Quakers’ Meeting” is a drawing of another anonymous Friends Meeting, 1809. It was etched by Thomas Rowlandson, based on a design by Augustus Charles Pugin and inspired by earlier pictures from John Bluck, Joseph Constantine Stadler, Thomas Sutherland, J. Hill, and Richard Bankes Harraden. Friends sit in orderly rows, women to the left, men to the right. Some Friends are visible in the balcony. Elders and ministers are stationed on the facing benches.
Several other Quaker drawings were created by Rowlandson. Among them were “Spiritual Love”; “The Quaker”; and “The Quaker and Commissioners of Excise”, the latter of which was a collaboration with George Moutard Woodward. Some of the pictures were bawdy or outright obscene: “Quaker in Love”; “The Unwelcome Visitor or the Quaker in a Quake”; and “Crimping a Quaker”. Two “Scene from a Farce Called ‘The Quaker’” drawings exist, both suggestive.
Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) was an English caricaturist, noted for his political and social satire. His main subject was London street life. His most popular works were the “Tours of Dr. Syntax” series. He also illustrated many contemporary novels, including books by Goldsmith, Smollett and Sterne. As well, he produced numerous erotic drawings. Along with other English artists, he created the “John Bull” character, the personification of the United Kingdom.
Rowlandson occasionally worked with other artists. Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832) was an Anglo-French artist, who worked mostly as an illustrator. George Moutard Woodward (1765-1809) was an English artist, sometimes credited with inventing the comic strip.
“The Quaker Meeting” is a plain, funny portrait of Friends. “The Quakers’ Meeting” is a gorgeous, reverent depiction of Friends. Two sides of the same coin.
Above is “The Quaker Meeting”; below it is “The Quakers’ Meeting”.