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Launching a Frigate

  • Object:

    Satirical etching

  • Place of origin:

    London (published)

  • Date:

    1809 (published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Thomas Rowlandson, born 1756 - died 1827 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching coloured by hand

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Frank A. Gibson

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case GG, shelf 177

A frigate is a type of warship. This print compares a young woman beginning her career as a prostitute with the launching of a newly built ship. The seafaring theme is underlined by the scene taking place at Portsmouth docks. An important part of the power of this image is the contrast in appearance between the madam and the prostitute.

In the background of the image a chimney is on fire and a woman leaning out of a window calls to a black man below. Portsmouth played a part in Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade, although to a lesser extent than London, Liverpool and Bristol. Port cities often played host to free black seaman, who served on British ships, and to settled communities of free black people.

Physical description

Satirical etching

Place of Origin

London (published)


1809 (published)


Thomas Rowlandson, born 1756 - died 1827 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Etching coloured by hand


Height: 24.5 cm plate, Width: 34.4 cm plate

Descriptive line

'Launching a Frigate', satirical print, Thomas Rowlandson, London, 1809


Paper; Printing ink; Watercolour


Etching; Hand colouring

Subjects depicted

Hotel; Ugliness; Beauty; Brothel; Prostitution; Docks


Prints; Caricatures & Cartoons; Black History; Politics; Satire


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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