'French liberty British slavery'

1 portrait

'French liberty British slavery', by James Gillray, published by  Hannah Humphrey, published 21 December 1792 - NPG D12466 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

'French liberty British slavery'

by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey
hand-coloured etching, published 21 December 1792
9 3/4 in. x 13 7/8 in. (249 mm x 353 mm) plate size; 10 1/4 in. x 14 3/8 in. (260 mm x 364 mm) paper size
Purchased, 1947
Reference Collection
NPG D12466


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Artistsback to top

  • James Gillray (1756-1815), Caricaturist. Artist associated with 881 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.
  • Hannah Humphrey (active 1778-1822), Publisher and printseller. Artist associated with 717 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

Contrasting the lean and the fat was a traditional yet highly compelling satirical staple. Combined here to great effect with national stereotypes, a ragged, starving sans-culotte sits to one side eating raw onions and a chamberpot full of snails in front of a miserable smoking fire. Despite the mean circumstances that reflect the very real economic crisis France was facing at this time, he revels in his freedom and delightedly proclaims 'we swim in the Milk & Honey!' The comparative image is a bloated Englishman, with face blotched from drink and shoes slit to relieve his gout. He carves a large side of beef, accompanied by a foaming tankard of ale yet decries the present government for enslaving him and starving him to death. Gillray was later paid an annual pension for his satiric service to the Tory Anti-Jacobin Review.