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British Caricature

Drawing on themes of archetype and folklore, caricatures employed easily recognizable setups that let the viewers in on the joke. British caricature artists were merciless, lampooning both general types and specific personalities. By manipulating recognizable faces and forms into comical distortions, artists employed by England's publishing houses helped the public poke fun at figures from every level of society. Imagination was the key to successful caricatures, and different artists imagined different exaggerations for their subjects. Artists like Thomas Rowlandson infused ordinary situations with ridiculous figures, like Dr. Syntax, in order to criticize popular ideas and trends. Famed satirist James Gillray, in contrast, often inserted well-known personalities into fanciful scenarios, making pointed observations about character flaws or public foibles. Exaggerating features and costumes, they created humorous prints that sold primarily to the educated well-to-do. Though some English publishers exported their wares, caricatures by Gillray, Rowlandson, and others were most popular at home, where viewers could easily identify and laugh at the subjects. For those who could not afford the two-shilling price tag on a colored print, printsellers created colorful window displays, allowing every passer-by to share the joke. These displays were a prominent feature of the London commercial landscape that mirrored the interests and concerns of popular society. The lively prints that came out of them offer modern collectors a fascinating glimpse into eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British culture.

[ Henry Alken | Henry Bunbury | George Cruikshank | Isaac Cruikshank | Isaac Robert Cruikshank | Robert & Richard Dighton | HB (John Doyle) | James Gillray ]
[ Henry & William Heath | Theodore Lane | Lewis Marks | Peter Pasquin | P. Roberts | Thomas Rowlandson | James Sayer | Charles Williams | George Woodward | Unattributed ]


Henry Alken (1785-1851)

Henry T. Alken is one of the most renowned and popular of British sporting and genre artists and engravers. He was the son of another engraver, Samuel Alken--known for his topographical as well as sporting scenes--, and father of Samuel Henry Alken, who followed in the steps of his forbearers as an engraver and artist. Alken is famous for his sporting prints (indeed on some of his early plates he used the name 'Ben Tally-Ho') as well the many humorous series he produced in the 1820s.

Popular Songs

While happy....
From Illustrations to Popular Songs. London: Thomas M'Lean, 1822. Octavo. Soft-ground etchings. Original hand color. Octavo. Very good condition.

Illustrations of popular songs of the day, Alken's imaginative vignettes illustrate the songs line by line. Their fine execution and hand-color make them wonderful examples of Alken's work. $125 each

Symptoms of Being Amused

A dose after dinner
From Symptoms of Being Amused. London: Thomas M'Lean, 1822. Octavo. Soft-ground etchings. Original hand color. Very good condition.

A series of caricatures of people in different situations. Each plate has a number of delightful vignettes, showing Alken's wit and skill. $125 each

Fine Arts

A Forcible Effect
From A Touch at the Fine Arts. London: Thomas M'Lean, 1824. Octavo. Soft-ground etchings. Original hand color. Very good condition.

Another series exhibiting Alken's humorous, yet sensitive view of his fellow man. $65 each


From Ideas. London: Thomas M'Lean, 1826-1827. Octavo. Soft-ground etchings. Original hand color. Very good condition.

In this series, Alken combines his expertise in sporting prints and caricature. $175 each

Political Quadrille
Ansell. "Political Quadrille - the Game Up. Plate 2d." London: Walker, August 1808. Etching. Original hand color. 12 1/8 x 14 5/8. Minor wear at edges; expertly repaired tear through upper right corner. Else, very good condition. George 11015.

In this skillful caricature, the artist arranges eight European nations in a farcical card game (Quadrille, a four-handed version of the popular Ombre). As George III looks on from the edge, Tsar Alexander (marked by the bear on his seat-back) re-evaluates the alliance he formed with Napoleon at Tilsit (July 1807). His ally is thrashed by an angry Spanish patriot, who demands the return of his king, Ferdinand VII, who had been ousted when Napoleon installed his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne (June 1808). Meanwhile, Prussian King Frederick William III (in blue coat), still smarting from defeats suffered from France in 1806, determines to take advantage of the fray, as does Austrian Emperor Francis II (in white coat), who had recently been dethroned as Holy Roman Emperor by Napoleon's formation of the Confederation of the Rhine (July 1806). At the right edge of the scene, Pope Pius VII remains soundly dominated by Napoleon, whose boot rests on the upturned symbol of the Catholic Church. Indeed, a few years after this caricature, Napoleon would arrest the Holy Father for excommunicating the "despoilers of the church" (May-July 1809). The final member of Napoleon's table, a squat Dutchman with a pipe moves to leave the game, removing himself from the struggle. Though Napoleon imposed his brother Louis as ruler of Holland, the little nation was not entirely ungrateful - the alternative was complete annexation by France, and their new French king actually managed some beneficial public works projects during his reign. This savvy Dutchman decides it in his best interest, then, to avoid the fracas altogether. All in all, this is a masterful satirical interpretation of Europe's tangled political situation.

*Note: Broadley credits this to an artist named only as "Ansell." George identifies no artist. $1,450


Henry William Bunbury (1756-1811)

Henry William Bunbury, known as the "gentleman draughtsman," was a graduate of Cambridge and equerry to the Duke of York. As one of the most popular caricaturists of his time, Bunbury produced gently satirical illustrations of social life that were used by many of the leading engravers of the day, including Bartolozzi, Rowlandson, Dickinson and Gillray. Because his caricatures were not as caustic as some, he was able to appeal to the most fastidious of connoisseurs, such as Horace Walpole. His illustrations, however, show wit and insight.

Prints by H.W. Bunbury. London, ca. 1806. Engraved by Rowlandson after Bunbury. Narrow margins. A few spots. Else, good condition. $45 each


George Cruikshank (1792-1878)

As a child, George Cruikshank learned to etch and draw from his father Isaac, a caricaturist who was credited as the first to lampoon Napoleon Bonaparte. At 19, George replaced his father, who was completing James Gillray's final, unfinished work. With this auspicious project, the younger Cruikshank began a working career that would span over 70 years and earn him the title "Gillray's heir." Among his noted works are caricatures of Napoleon's exploits as well as the exaggerated fads and fancies of the English gentry. In addition to his humorous topics, Cruikshank used his art to address concerns about alcohol and its effects on society and the family. Today, art historians view him as the last great master of the etched caricature.

Life in London

Life in London
From Pierce Egan's Life in London; or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq. and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, The Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis. London: R. Ackermann, 1813. Aquatints. Octavo. Very good condition.

In these wonderful prints, Jerry Hawthorn and Corinthian Tom are shown in various scenes of Regency London. Not only are these charming examples of the Cruikshanks' work, they also provide an insightful glimpse of 'Life in London.'

GoGo to our page of rare British books to see a set of volumes: The Genius of George Cruikshank.


Isaac Cruikshank (1764-1811)

Isaac Cruikshank, Scottish painter and caricaturist, was born in Edinburgh. His sons Isaac Robert and George also became artists, and the latter in particular achieved fame as an illustrator and caricaturist. Cruikshank is known for his social and political satire.

Cruikshank: Necessary War
Isaac Cruikshank. "A Necessary War, or Quixotism Revived or the Knight of the Little House." London: Jno. Sqabble [sic] Oxford St, March 12, 1792. 8 3/4 x 13 (image). Engraving. Original hand color. Full margins. George 8165.

Sir George Younge holds a pen (instead of a match) to the touch hole of his cannon so that he can blast the door off an outhouse. One pane is already blown off, and a young lady prepares to chop the door with a huge axe. An elderly lady resists the other one. Dorothy George relates that this caricature depicts a squabble over possession of a house that Younge sold to Sir John de la Pole. Possibly the property is the Great House at Colyton, which is reduced here to a "necessary house." A wonderful image intended to feed gossip and mirth. $850

A Magisterial Visit
Attributed to Isaac Cruikshank. "A Magisterial Visit." London: Fores, 1795. 11 7/8 x 8 3/4. Etching. On laid paper with fleur de lis watermark. Hand color. Very good condition. George 8686.

Three British drinkers are alarmed when a magistrate exercises his license to disperse meetings by drinking their punch. The greater implication of the law is under the table where a dog labeled "Pitt" (Prime Minister William Pitt) snatches a bone from a muzzled "John Bull" dog. $1,200

Cruikshank: Solomon
Isaac Cruikshank. "Solomon in all his Glory!!" London: T. Tegg, 1807. Engraved by George Moutard Woodward for his The Caricature Magazine, or Hudibrastic Mirror, vol. IV. 13 1/2 x 9 1/4 (sheet). Original hand color. George, 10908. Trimmed margins, but otherwise very good condition.

Set at the corner of "Petticoat Lane," location of a clothing market operated after the Great Fire of London by Huguenot and Jewish merchants, the print is described by the British Museum's Web site this way: "A stalwart bearded Jew stands surrounded by courtesans: one puts her arms round him, his right arm round her waist; he smiles back knowingly, while he holds the left hand of the woman on his left. A third looks over his shoulder. He wears a cocked hat and a garish old-fashioned waistcoat, heavily trimmed with gold. The women are comely and fashionably dressed." $650

Isaac Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856)

Like his brother George, Isaac Robert Cruikshank learned his trade from his father, Isaac. Originally setting himself up as a portrait and miniature painter, he later returned to printmaking, often collaborating with George. In 1830, he left caricature work to focus on book illustration.

IR Cruikshank: Freedom
"The Freedom of Election or Hunting for Popularity and Plumpers for Maxwell." Engraving with original hand color. London: G. Humphrey, 22 June 1818. 10 1/4 x 14 1/4 (platemarks) plus thin but complete margins. George, 12999.

This ingenious caricature shows twelve politicians on a stage representing various views of the election with Hunt and Maxwell as the major speakers. The audience is comically represented by fourteen heads expressing over 28 opinions of the election. A fine and vivacious representation of a British election at Covent Garden. $650

IR Cruikshank: No Sham
"By St. Peter this is no Sham - or - a New Cut for the Groom of the Stool." London: G. Humphrey, April 1821. Hand colored engraving. 14 3/4 x 10 3/4 (sheet). Light soiling, some chipping and loss of margin, especially at bottom right margin. Fair condition.

In 1810, James Wedderburn-Webster (1788-1840) had married Lady Frances Caroline Annesley (1793-1837) who reputedly flirted - or more than flirted - with men ranging from Lord Byron to the Duke of Wellington. Major-General Charles Stanhope, 4th Earl of Harrington (1780 - 1851), styled Viscount Petersham until succeeding the 3rd Earl in 1829, was an English peer and man of fashion. The Prince Regent, later George IV, was highly impressed with Petersham, emulating his dress, his tea-drinking and his use of snuff. Worthy of note here is that Petersham had a collection of 365 snuff boxes, using a different one each day! Oftentimes, comments were made that Petersham looked Jewish.

From 1812 until 1820 Petersham served as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, first for George III then for George IV. The origin of the position in Tudor times was "Groom of the Stool" which means exactly what it sounds like: assisting Henry VIII at the toilet, helping him disrobe, watching over what he "passed" for signs of illness, and eventually controlling access to the King in his personal chambers. By the Stuart era the position emphasized the disrobing/robing function and was known as "Groom of the Stole," which position was held by the first among the several "Gentlemen of the Bedchamber" who took turns in personal attendance to the monarch. By Hanoverian times this had become a position of honor (and payment).

Petersham was infamous for his attentions to any and every lady he found attractive, and this print caricatures an incident that took place when Wedderburn-Webster became outraged by Petersham's flirtations with Lady Frances. In St. James's Street the outraged husband accosted the roué and applied a whipping with a whip, as shown here, or perhaps a cane. This would lead to a farcical "duel" wherein neither was injured, leading to a reconciliation. $400


Robert Dighton (1752-1814) & Richard Dighton (1795-1880)

Robert Dighton was a painter of portraits and decorative subjects and also an etcher of caricatures. Many of his portraits were made into prints by Carrington Bowles and beginning in the 1790s, he began to draw and etch caricatures, mostly humorous portraits. His son, Richard, followed in Robert's footsteps, producing caricatures in the same style after his father's death in 1814. Robert Dighton achieved some notoriety when he was found to have taken some Rembrandt etchings, without permission, from the British Museum. The caricatures of the Dightons prefigured the Vanity Fair portraits of the late nineteenth century period.

Dighton: View from Magdalen Hall, Oxford
Robert Dighton. "A View from Magdalen Hall, Oxford." London: Robert Dighton, June 1808. Etching on wove paper. 10 x 7 (image) plus borders. Hand color. Very good condition. George, Brit. Mus. Catalogue, 11074.

A nice example of Dighton's caricature portrait style. Depicted is Dr. Henry Ford wearing his academic gowns. He matriculated in 1776 and from 1788 to 1813 was a professor of Arabic. $325

Dighton: Seyd Umschlungen Millionen
Richard Dighton. "Seyd umschlungen, Millionen!" (Nathan Mayer Rothschild). London: 1817. 10 x 7 3/4. Original hand color. Full margins. Some expected toning; else, good condition.

Appearing as one of Dighton's City Characters in October 1817, this portrait is also known as "A View from the Royal Exchange." Born in Frankfurt, Nathan Rothschild (1777-1836) became a textile merchant in Manchester in 1798 and a London financier in 1804. Trading in gold bullion beginning in 1809, Nathan Rothschild would eventually be accounted the wealthiest man in the world. His financial success allowed him to become the financial mainstay of the British government during more than one crisis. The title of this caricature derives from the first chorus of Schiller's 1785 Ode to Joy and translates as "Be embraced, Millions." Dighton is likely satirizing the wealthy financier embracing millions in currency, rather than humanity. $300

Dighton: Moses Haim Montefiore
Richard Dighton. [Sir Moses Haim Montefiore.] London: Drawn, etched, and published by Richard Dighton, June, 1818. Reissue published by Thomas McLean, 26 Haymarket, 1824. 11 3/4 x 8. Original hand color. Full margins. George: 14686? Very good condition.

Italian-born English philanthropist Moses Haim Montefiore (1784-1885) was raised and went to school in London, then was apprenticed to a provision merchant. Later, he entered a counting-house in London, eventually becoming one of the twelve Jewish brokers then licensed by the city. In 1812 Montefiore married Judith, daughter of Levi Barent Cohen. His brother Abraham joined him in a business partnership until 1816; as brokers for Nathan Rothschild the brothers became quite wealthy. Moses was able to retire from the Stock Exchange in 1821, and in 1824 he assisted in founding the Alliance Assurance Company, of which he was the first president. $400

Dighton: Friend Rothschild
Richard Dighton. "Is Friend Rothschild on 'Change." (Samuel Gurney). London: Drawn, etched, and published by Richard Dighton, March 17, 1823 and inscribed in pencil "Mr. Gurney." 11 7/8 x 8 5/8. Original hand color. Full margins. Extensive spotting. Else, good condition.

A Quaker banker, Samuel Gurney (1786-1856) was a member of Parliament where he campaigned for good causes, such as the abolition of slavery. Along with Jews Sir Moses Montefiore and Nathan Mayer Rothschild, leading financiers such as John Irving and Francis Baring, and fellow Quakers, Gurney was instrumental in founding of the Alliance Assurance Company in 1824. In 1849, in the middle of the Great Famine, in which a million people died, he toured Ireland, making generous donations. He also sent money to Liberia, founded by former American slaves; a town there was named after him in 1851. He advocated for, and helped to fund, Britain's first hospital for dock workers, established in 1855 in east London. $300

Dighton: Cohen
Richard Dighton. "Mr. Cohen." London: Drawn, etched, and published by Richard Dighton, November 5, 1817. Reissue published by Thomas McLean, 26 Haymarket, 1824. 8 3/4 x 6. Original hand color. Full margins. Very good condition.

This portrait is often identified as Levy Barent Cohen (1740-1808), father-in-law of banker and businessman Nathan M. Rothschild. However - despite the title on this print - some authorities claim that it is of someone named "Mr. Ripley," a name that appears on some impressions. Thomas Ripley and his son James were mathematical instrument makers in London, so possibly the image represents one of them. $300

Dighton: Great Man on Change
Richard Dighton. "A Great Man on Change" (Samuel Samuel). London: Drawn, etched, and published by Richard Dighton, January, 1818. Reissue published by Thomas McLean, 26 Haymarket, 1824. 9 3/4 x 8 5/8. Original hand color. George: 13015. Full margins; archivally repaired tear across. Else, very good condition.

Samuel Samuel (1775-1873) was a Jewish merchant in London. $200


HB [John Doyle] (1797-1867)

By writing his initials twice-over, John Doyle manipulated the letters to create the pseudonym signature "HB". Born in Catholic Dublin, HB arrived in London in 1821, after the death of James Gillray. Thomas Rowlandson had aged, as well, and with him the era of biting, pointed caricature in London. As HB began his career, he introduced a gentler sort of satire, making soft jokes calculated to avoid strong offence. Rather than exaggerating physical features and pushing the bawdy laugh, Doyle employed reasonable likenesses with circumstantial humor. Even the subtle, sketchy appearance of his lithography marked a change from the loose, brash lines of colored etchings, a medium that had dominated caricature printing for the previous half-century.

A new style of caricature entered the English world in 1828 with the advent of HB's (John Doyle) Political Sketches. They were a departure from what Dorothy George called "the uninhibited old school to a decorous new one." See her English Political Caricature: II, 218-19. The fine tonal qualities of lithographic drawing replaced the strong and angular etched lines of Gillray and Rowlandson. Most important though, reform was in the air as the Test Act was repealed and the Corn Laws and Catholic emancipation held up new hopes for the growing middle class. The death of George IV necessitated a new parliamentary election in which the Whigs gained and the old Tory leadership was lost with the resignation of Wellington. Doyle's prints signed "HB" were issued regularly from 1829 to 1849 with a tapering off thereafter to a final plate #917 issued in 1851.

References in this list to "George" refer to Mary Dorothy George's Catalogue of Personal and Political Satires in the British Museum. Some citations will be given to the best monograph on the period of King William, which is George M. Trevelyan's The Seven Years of William IV.


James Gillray (1756-1815)

One of the best-known British caricaturists, James Gillray made a name for himself through his witty compositions, capable draftsmanship, and exquisite detail. Through his copious political satires on the era of King George III, he set a new standard for the genre, becoming a measure by which his successors were judged. The prints he published through Hannah Humphrey's shop in London have become archetypes for caricaturists and include such famous images as world rulers carving up the globe at dinner.

"Franco." Written in pencil in bottom margin: "Yonny Franco, a young Jew Buck, well known from the alleys of the Stock Exchange to the alleys in St. James St." London: H. Humphrey, May 25th 1800. Etching. 11 1/2 x 7 1/8. Top and side margins trimmed to neat lines. Else, very good condition.

Also known as "Large Boots," this print depicts London merchant Jacob Franco (1762-1817), a member of a prominent Sephardic Anglo-Jewish family. Some art critics believe the pigs running away from Franco indicate his Jewishness, others that their appearance at all indicates Franco converting from Judaism, and still others that the pigs recollect Edmund Burke's reference to the common people as "a swinish multitude." $425

Every Rogue is a Coward
Attributed to James Gillray. "Every Rogue is a Coward." London: Hannah Humphrey, 6 June 1801. Etching. Hand color. 10 x 14 (neat lines and plate marks). Full margins. Excellent condition.

Two riders on the road to Hounslow when Hounslow Heath was famous as a dangerous area due to highwaymen. The joke here is that each man is a highwayman and so each spontaneously assumes that the other is about to rob him. Being cowardly robbers, they spontaneously surrender to each other. A fine comedy of men, manners and understanding. $750

A Lyoness
"A Lyoness." London: H. Humphrey, July 13th 1801. Etching. Original hand color. 13 1/2 x 9 5/8. Narrow margins. George, 9758. Very good condition.

In this scene, an obese, vulgar and arrogant-looking woman wears a very low-cut gown and a large plume with a small bunch of flowers in her hair. The woman is reputed to be Polly Goldsmid Symons (1753-1841), whose husband "Baron" Lyon de Symons was a diamond merchant, financier and loan contractor. In that period "lioness" was a term for a female celebrity. $900

Metallic Tractors
"Metallic Tractors." London: Hannah Humphrey, November 11, 1801. Hand colored etching. 8 5/8 x 11 1/4, trimmed just at or within plate marks. Some staining in lower margin, plus a relatively recent (1957) inked gift inscription.

As described in M. Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, #9761:

A fat citizen (three-quarter length), seated in an armchair, endures an operation upon the carbuncles of his bloated nose. The operator (left), thin and high-shouldered, holds the patient's forehead and applies a small pointed instrument (a metallic tractor) causing flames to gush from nose and nostrils. On a small table (left) are a decanter of 'Brandy' with a jug and steaming glass, lemon, and sugar, the patient's pipe lying across a newspaper: 'The True Briton. Theatre Dead Alive. Grand Exhibition in Leicester Square, just arrived from America the Rod of Æsculapius. Perkinism in all its Glory - being a certain Cure for all Disorders, Red Noses, Gouty Toes, Windy Bowels, Broken Legs, Hump Backs. Just discover'd, the Grand Secret of the Philosopher's Stone with the True way of turning all Metals into Gold, pro bono publico.' On the wall (right) is a picture of an infant Bacchus, astride a cask, holding out a decanter and a glass.
Born in Connecticut in 1741, Elisha Perkins practiced medicine there. Responding to consumer demand for new therapies, such as therapeutic devices and inventions, in 1796 Perkins patented his "Tractors," which consisted of two 3-inch metal rods with a point at the end. Claiming the steel and brass devices were made from unusual alloys, Perkins used his rods to cure inflammation, rheumatism and pain in the head and the face. Applying the points on the affected body part, Perkins claimed they could "draw off the noxious electrical fluid that lay at the root of suffering." Condemned by physicians for "delusive quackery," Perkins nevertheless managed to convince several medical faculties in the United States and Denmark that his method worked, while he charged critics with elitism and professional arrogance. Perkins boasted of five thousand cures. Expanding the market to London, his son, bookseller Benjamin Perkins, published The Influence of Metallic Tractors on the Human Body in 1798. Benjamin, noting that one set had been purchased by none other than George Washington, boasted that the "President of the United States, convinced of the importance of the discovery from experiments in his own family, availed himself of its advantages by purchasing a set of the Tractors for their use." Eventually, the "Tractors" were proved to be fraudulent, a circumstance satirized in this Gillray caricature. $650

The Magisterial Bruisers
Attributed to James Gillray. "The Magisterial Bruisers." London: W. Humphrey, 1779. 8 x 12 3/4. Etching. Heavy laid paper. Very good condition. George 5616.

A brawl amongst magistrates in the Old Bailey. Samuel Plumbe is the Lord Mayor and William Plomer is his antagonist. A man behind Plomer resembles John Wilkes. $900

Posting in Ireland
James Gillray. "Posting in Ireland." Etching. Ca. 12 x 15. Original printing, London: Hannah Humphrey, 5 April 1805; these from a later strike. Hand color. George 10478. Trimmed to title and laid down on period paper. Overall, very good condition.

Showcasing Gillray's great humor and visual wit, this print plays off English stereotypes of Irish peasants. $650

Gillray: Revolution of 1831
James Gillray. "The Revolution of 1831. As Prophecyed by that learned Astrologer General, Ikey Wether-bridge. to whom this plate is dedicated, (Ex officio) by his Admiring Friend the Publisher -- 'die hard, die nobly, die like demi-Gods!!!' 'It is supposed, if the dog Johnny were permitted he would soon destroy the whole Breed.'" London: S.W. Fores, 1831. 8 1/4 x 12 3/8. Etching. Original hand color. George 16690.

Left to right, William IV protruding from Windsor Castle observes Lord Grey with a broom and a Bull Dog (John Bull) sweeping reform through rat burrows (Borough politics). One rat (Wetherell) has a human head. $850


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