This website is part of The New York Public Library's Online Exhibition Archive. For current classes, programs, and exhibitions, please visit

James Gillray

Checklist Part 8

Published by Hannah Humphrey: November 11, 1801
Etching and aquatint with engraving and roulette, hand-colored

Here Gillray appears to debunk a charlatan, Benjamin Perkins, an American who set up shop in Leicester Square. Perkins promoted the efficacy of the “metallic tractor,” a device invented by his father, which he claimed cured many afflictions, including “tumors, epilepsy, burns, inflammations and the gout.”

While this print could simply reflect Gillray’s lifelong dislike of “humbugs and publicity seekers,” there may have been more to this story. Perkins wrote Gillray: “Mr. Perkins presents his compliment to Mr. Gillray. with many thanks, and the enclosed acknowledgement, for the print, which he has seen, with great satisfaction.” Perkins goes on to ask that Gillray not divulge the details of their transaction, and concludes his letter: “Will Mr. Perkins be gratified in his wishes to see his print exhibited in the other print shops also? He likewise begs to ask what would be charged him for a dozen impressions?” Possibly Perkins refers to another commission, but if not, as Draper Hill comments, this print demonstrates Perkins’s unique perspective on merchandising.

The COW-POCK – or – the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation! – Vide. the Publications of ye Anti-Vaccine Society.
Published by Hannah Humphrey: June 12, 1802
Etching and aquatint with soft ground, hand-colored

Gillray shows Dr. Edward Jenner administering smallpox vaccinations at the Smallpox and Inoculation Hospital at St. Pancras. He had been conducting experiments with cow-pox for several years, supported by a parliamentary grant of £10,000, and in 1799 he began to test his vaccine on human subjects. Jenner’s inoculations were highly controversial and the subject of contemporary satires, which were almost uniformly anti-Jenner. Here Gillray imagines some unfortunate “side-effects” of Jenner’s vaccine, possibly influenced by a French print of 1801, Admirable effet de la Vaccine. The Anti-Vaccine Society mentioned in the title had warned that the vaccine might produce “bovine characteristics.” Gillray injects a final jest: the picture on the wall shows worshippers praying before the Golden Calf.

Scientific Researches! – New Discoveries in PNEUMATICKS! – or – an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air.
Published by Hannah Humphrey: May 23, 1802
Etching with engraving and roulette, hand-colored

Gillray pokes fun at the fashionable lectures sponsored by the Royal Institution. Founded in 1799 by an American-born physicist and government administrator, Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford (seen standing to the right of the open door), and Sir Joseph Banks, the Royal Institution hoped to educate the public about new scientific experiments and discoveries. In this lecture, Thomas Young, Professor of Natural History, is experimenting on Sir John Coxe Hippsley, manager of the Royal Institution and a member of Parliament. Young holds his subject’s nose, while Hippsley inhales gas from a retort with dramatic and explosive results. Scholar Katherine Hart suggests that this or a similar experiment was witnessed by Lady Holland, who observed at the time that the “effect upon him [perhaps Hippsley] was so animating that the ladies tittered, held up their hands, and declared themselves satisfied.”

Published by Hannah Humphrey: May 14, 1799
Soft ground etching with engraving and roulette, hand-colored

Historian M. Dorothy George considered gout to be “pre-eminently the disease of the century.” Usually associated with men of high social rank who overindulged in food and drink, it often afflicted the joint at the base of the big toe, which would become swollen, red, and very tender. Gillray focuses on the affected area in what must be one of the most painful visualizations of a disease. A tiny devil attacks the inflamed toe with tooth, claw, and barbed tail.

ci-devant Occupations; – or – Madame Talian and the Empress Josephine dancing Naked before Barrass in the Winter of 1797. – A Fact! –
Published by Hannah Humphrey: February 20, 1805
Etching with engraving and roulette, hand-colored

Inspired by Napoleon’s coronation on December 2, 1804 (see Gillray’s The Grand Coronation-Procession of Napoleone the 1st, on view in the current Salomon Room [316] exhibition), Gillray here dreams up a fantastic account of Napoleon’s introduction to Josephine, Madame de Beauharnais, in 1795. Comte de Barras, a member of the Directory from 1796 to 1799, seen here slouched in a chair, was said to have tired of his mistress, Josephine, then a leader of fashionable French society, and had become smitten with the beautiful, considerably younger, Madame Thérèse Tallien, the daughter of an important Spanish banker. Napoleon allegedly took Josephine, penniless and widowed with two children, off Barras’s hands in exchange for a promotion. Napoleon peeks at Josephine and Madame Tallien from behind a screen decorated with a cupid mounted on a crocodile, a reminder of his Egyptian campaign. In fact, Barras and Madame Tallien probably played cupid to Napoleon and Josephine, convincing each party that the other was a “person of means.” Napoleon and Josephine were married in a civil ceremony on March 9, 1796.

Tentanda via est qua me quoque possim Tollere humo – Virgil, Geor: –
Published by Hannah Humphrey: August 8, 1810
Etching and aquatint with engraving, hand-colored

On July 3, 1810, Baron Grenville was installed as Chancellor of Oxford, and Gillray took full advantage of the Baron’s size and his association with Catholic Emancipation (see End of the Irish Farce of Catholic-Emancipation, #102). The Baron, with a cross on his posterior, ascends into the air in a balloon, tailored to his ample girth. He tosses aside a Cardinal’s hat, rosary, and mitre, and he dons a papal tiara. Among the witnesses to the ceremony, who received degrees, were past supporters of Grenville’s ministry: Grenville’s brother, the Marquis of Buckingham (seen on the left in the top window of the Radcliffe Camera tower), the radical Tierney (without mask, holding a mortarboard on the right), and Grenville’s nephew, Temple, whose rotund body is outlined on the balloon. It was alleged that the shirtless Fox, standing in front of Tierney, had been offered a degree, but he could not afford a gown. In fact, he had withdrawn his name when he learned there was growing opposition to his award. However, Oxford undergraduates demanded that he be seated at the installation ceremonies with the doctoral recipients. Etched after an amateur’s suggestion, this satire is Gillray’s last print on a political theme.

Published by Hannah Humphrey: May 12, 1787
Etching, hand-colored

In this parody of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces (or possibly John Hamilton Mortimer’s caricature Iphigenia’s Late Procession from Kingston to Bristol), Gillray unleashes his venom on several leading pillars of society, who here are feigning youth. Proceeding toward the altar of love, Lady Archer (known for her riding and hunting) carries a whip and leads a lamb; Lady Mount-Edgecumbe offers a pair of doves; Miss Jeffries brings flowers; and Lady Cecilia Johnstone, known as “St. Cecilia,” plays the lyre. Lady Buckinghamshire (Mrs. Hobart), known for her gambling tables and amateur theatricals (see #150 and #132), pours incense on the altar. This procession offers a striking contrast to the sculptural Three Graces on the wall. In the distance, Apollo plays his violin.

Discipline à la Kenyon.
Published by Hannah Humphrey: March 25, 1797
Etching, hand-colored

Gambling was a favorite target of satirists in the 1790s, and aristocratic women who engaged in card playing were the object of especially zealous attacks by moral reformers. Joining in these assaults on the morals of the upper classes, Gillray indicted gaming and gambling women in several satires, which were drawn rather crudely, most likely to suggest the vulgarity of his subjects.

In May 1796, the Lord Chief Justice and Evangelical sympathizer Lord Kenyon proclaimed from the King’s Bench, “If any prosecutions [against gambling] are fairly brought before me … and the parties are justly convicted, whatever may be their rank or station in the country, though they should be the first ladies in the land, they shall certainly exhibit themselves in the Pillory.” Lady Buckinghamshire (Mrs. Hobart) was one of a number of fashionable women who held regular gaming parties in their homes. When a strongbox with 500 guineas belonging to Lady Buckinghamshire and her partners went missing, the footmen who had been dismissed as a result of the theft reported the illegal game of faro to the authorities, and the women were fined. Here, Lord Kenyon (who did not, in fact, preside over the Lady Buckinghamshire incident) whips Lady Buckinghamshire, while Lady Archer and Lady Mount-Edgecumbe observe from a pillory.

La Promenade en Famille. – a Sketch from Life.
Published by Hannah Humphrey: April 23, 1797
Etching, hand-colored

As Diana Donald points out, while the moralists of the mid-eighteenth century focused on the unseemly social climbing of the lower classes, the radicals of the 1790s, and even the reform-minded Tories, perceived the “idle rich” as a threat to the well-being and the strength of the country. The aristocracy as a caste found itself under attack. Donald believes that “Gillray’s savage caricatures of the royal family and more loose-living members of the aristocracy” – personal attacks that were intertwined with a political agenda – “must also have had a powerful effect on reformist opinion within the elite itself.” Here Gillray ridicules the Duke of Clarence, whose liaison with the actress Dorothy Jordan lasted from 1791 until 181l and produced ten children (ennobled as the Fitzclarences). The Duke shows the effects of hauling three of his illegitimate progeny on the eight-mile trek between Richmond, Mrs. Jordan’s home, and Bushy Park, a royal preserve near Hampton Court. Less taxed, Mrs. Jordan reads from the script for The Spoiled Child, a farce which she wrote and in which she acted. The faux coat of arms on the cart combines a crown and a chamber pot, colloquially known as a “jordan.” The Duke ended the relationship when, as William IV, he had to find a potential queen and to sire legitimate children.

The ORANGERIE; – or – the Dutch Cupid reposing, after the fatigues of Planting. – Vide. The Visions in Hampton Bower.
Published by Hannah Humphrey: September 16, 1796
Etching with engraving, hand-colored

The British royal family and the aristocracy were not the only targets of Gillray’s social satires. Here he ridicules William V of Orange, who emigrated from Holland in January 1795. Lord Holland wrote of the Dutch Stadholder at the time, “When the Prince of Orange resided at Hampton Court, his amours with the servant maids were supposed to be very numerous.” Usually shown with his eyes shut (as in The Bridal-Night, #154), the Prince, here in the guise of a cupid-gardener, dreams of phalanxes of young women, who, thanks to his dalliances, are all in advanced stages of pregnancy. The little orange trees in the foreground bear fruit progeny, which resemble the sleeping Prince.

While many of Gillray’s prints evolved from his own designs, as was the case here, still others were based on the suggestions of amateurs (prints commissioned after others’ designs were an important source of income for Gillray). With this print Gillray begins to sign his own designs as “inv: et fect” (“invented/created and made/engraved”), distinguishing those satires from prints made after the suggestions of others, which were inscribed as “d: et ft,” “des: et fect,” or with some slight variation, or were left unsigned.

PANDORA opening her Box.
Published by Hannah Humphrey: February 22, 1809
Etching, engraving, and aquatint, hand-colored

Gillray shows Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke, former mistress of the Duke of York, testifying before the House of Commons on the charge that she plotted with the Duke to sell Army commissions. In 1806, the Duke had ended their relationship because of her “pecuniary
transactions,” but promised her a yearly stipend if her conduct was “correct.” The plot thickened when the Duke cut off her allowance, and in retaliation she threatened to publish “everything which has come under my knowledge during our intimacy, with all his letters.” The scandal came to a head in 1809 when a member of Parliament, an ex-colonel named Wardle, who had been refused a commission, challenged the Duke’s ignorance of these transactions, and provided evidence of Mrs. Clarke’s business dealings.

Mrs. Clarke, in the guise of Pandora opening her box, testified before the House of Commons, and apparently handled all questions and charges with aplomb. William Wilberforce noted in his diary that she “clearly got the better in the tussle.” The crown paid some £7,000 and an annual pension of £400 to silence her and to destroy all published copies of the love letters. She also issued an exposé, in which she denounced Wardle.

Published by Hannah Humphrey: May 18, 1797
Etching and aquatint, hand-colored

Gillray imagines the events that might have transpired after the wedding of the Princess Royal and the Prince of Württemberg on May 17, 1797. The King, immediately recognizable though partially hidden by a pillar, accompanied by Queen Charlotte (for once not travestied by Gillray), leads the contingent to a dinner party at the Royal Lodge, Windsor. Gillray delights in emphasizing the groom’s girth. The Prince of Württemberg is preceded by his immense stomach (he was known unceremoniously as the “great bellygerent”), and the Princess wears around her waist a miniature of her husband, which echoes the shape of his silhouette. To reinforce the point, Gillray includes on the wall behind the newlyweds a picture of a cupid riding an elephant. Others in the procession following the Princess are the Prince of Wales and his three siblings, all sharing a strong family resemblance. Next to Lady Derby, bedecked with feathers on the far right, is the ever-sleepy Dutch Stadholder, William V of Orange (see The Orangerie, #152). In the background, William Pitt carries a bag of money, inscribed £80,000, alluding to the Princess’s dowry.

Ancient Music.
Published by Samuel W. Fores: May 10, 1787
Etching, hand-colored

Gillray satirizes George III’s enthusiasm for “ancient” music and Handel, who, from the time he settled in London, had flattered his royal and patrician patrons by associating England with heroes of the Old Testament. By 1785, the King had begun attending programs arranged by “The Concert of Ancient Music,” founded in 1776 by Joah Bates (here portrayed as an ox). In 1784, the first Handel Commemoration was celebrated at Westminster Abbey, with burgeoning numbers of performers in subsequent years. Richard Godfrey quotes Horace Walpole’s response to one of these concerts: “the chorus and kettle drums for four hours were so thunderfull, that they gave me a head-ache.” Gillray incorporates nonmusical instruments into the orchestra: two screeching cats, hung by their tails; two caterwauling, thrashed schoolboys serving as kettledrums; a cluster of fishwives; a pig whose tail is being tweaked; and William Pitt on whistle. The King and Queen seem delighted with the concert, though the Queen, ever a target of Gillray’s ridicule, is given facial bristles and an unsightly nose drip in this, the second state of the print.

The Reception of the Diplomatique & his Suite, at the Court of Pekin.
Published by Hannah Humphrey: September 14, 1792
Etching, hand-colored

Gillray here concocts a scenario that foretells actual events. A year after Gillray’s account, on September 14, 1793, the Emperor of China in Peking received the 1st Earl Macartney and an eager and obsequious British mission, armed with a letter from George III. The British had hoped to promote British products, from weapons to toys, but the Emperor along with his retinue showed no interest, but instead replied to George III, “I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures.”

Gillray shows here that he was a master of printmaking, skillfully weaving together hatching, cross-hatching, and stipple to evoke the spirit of Rococo chinoiserie. The hand-coloring is purposefully delicate so as not to obscure the refinements of Gillray’s etching technique.

Published by Hannah Humphrey: May 1, 1809
Etching and engraving, hand-colored

The charges leveled by Mrs. Clarke against her former lover, the Duke of York (portrayed in Gillray’s Pandora opening her Box, #153, on view above), top off a Tower of Babel composed of Republican plots and plans. However, the verbal blasts from Foreign Secretary George Canning, Robert Castlereagh, then serving in the War Department, and the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, and a stream of water from the “Royal Water-Spout” topple the Tower and, with it, various Republican causes. Mrs. Clarke and ex-colonel Wardle, who was later revealed to have been Mrs. Clarke’s lover and co-plotter against the Duke, tumble down from the broken “Broad-bottom Ladder of Ambition.” In the related print, Pandora opening her Box, the Broad-bottom Ministry (appearing there as a privy labeled “Broad Bottom Reservoir”) is also implicated in the plot to discredit the Duke. The House ultimately found the Duke “innocent of corruption or connivance.” Though he resigned as commander in chief, he was reinstated in 1811.

Overthrow of the Republican-Babel
Pen and ink with white body color and traces of red chalk, squared for transfer, 1809

The figure of the Speaker of the House of Commons has greater prominence in this preparatory sketch, but Mary Clarke is still sent flying in this frenetic composition, squared for transfer. By this technique a design is broken down into small increments to facilitate copying, particularly when the artist is enlarging or reducing a composition.

Sketch for Tentanda via est qua me quoque possim Tollere humo – Virgil, Geor: – (#148)
Pen and ink and gray wash, squared for transfer in pen and ink, 1809

Sketch for balloon for Tentanda via est qua me quoque possim Tollere humo – Virgil, Geor: – (#148)
Graphite, 1809

Gillray develops his “portrait” of Grenville’s rotund nephew, Temple, as the hot-air balloon.

Sketch for lower left corner of Tentanda via est qua me quoque possim Tollere humo – Virgil, Geor: – (#148)
Gray wash with inscriptions in pen and ink, squared for transfer in graphite, 1809

In the contest for the Chancellorship of Oxford, Gillray portrayed Grenville as the candidate who favored the Catholics, as opposed to the unsuccessful candidate Lord Eldon, who was considered the guardian of Protestant interests. In this detailed sketch, Gillray defines a row of Anglican bishops, seen in the left foreground of the print, who eagerly reach up to catch the Catholic regalia tossed to them by Grenville.

Prince of Wales gambling
Pen and ink and wash, 1797

The Prince of Wales was one of Gillray’s favorite targets. The Prince’s affairs, his profligacy, his debauchery, and his Whig alliances offered endless topics for satire. Gillray here shows the Prince losing at dice; seated opposite him is the infamous madam, Mother Windsor, who also appears in The Presentation – or – The Wise Men’s Offering (see #15, in the North Hall). This drawing, however, was never realized as a print. Draper Hill hypothesizes that Gillray most likely at that moment was negotiating his government pension, a stipend that would restrain him from attacks on the royal family. There was a single exception to this truce: Duke William’s Ghost (see #16, in the North Hall), in which the drunken Prince is visited by the ghost of his uncle. Hill suggests that George Canning, Gillray’s primary supporter in government, may have permitted this solitary satire in light of Canning’s sympathy for the Princess of Wales, who had been ill-treated by her husband.


Next Section

Privacy Policy | Rules and Regulations | Using the Internet | Website Terms and Conditions | © The New York Public Library