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Edmund Burke ('Cincinnatus in retirement')

11 of 103 portraits of Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke ('Cincinnatus in retirement'), by James Gillray, published by  Elizabeth d'Achery, published 23 August 1782 - NPG D12313 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Edmund Burke ('Cincinnatus in retirement')

by James Gillray, published by Elizabeth d'Achery
hand-coloured etching, published 23 August 1782
9 7/8 in. x 13 5/8 in. (251 mm x 346 mm) paper size
Purchased, 1947
Reference Collection
NPG D12313

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Sitterback to top

  • Edmund Burke (1729 or 1730-1797), Statesman. Sitter associated with 103 portraits.

Artistsback to top

  • Elizabeth d'Achery (active 1782). Artist associated with 11 portraits.
  • James Gillray (1756-1815), Caricaturist. Artist associated with 881 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This satire uses a number of witty details to ridicule Edmund Burke, the Dublin born politician and writer. He is depicted as an Irish Jesuit because of his support for the unpopular 1778 Relief Act which relaxed long-standing restrictions on the political and civil rights of Catholics. Burke had recently retired from government after the death of his political patron, the Tory Lord Rockingham, and the title of the print makes an ironic reference to the honour of the Roman dictator who returned to his plough after saving his country. Catholicism and the poverty of the Irish are parodied through the inclusion of a mutilated crucifix, a picture of a monk preaching to fishes and the steaming potatoes Burke eats from a chamber pot, labelled as a relic of St Peter. The demons dancing under the table - a reference to perceived Catholic superstition - appear for the first time here but were to become a Gillray staple.