'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 718 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.

Placesback to top

Events of 1792back to top

Current affairs

The famous seven year trial of Warren Hastings, Governor-General of Bengal, on charges of embezzlement and murder, ends with his acquittal. Pro-Revolutionary philosopher Joseph Priestley's house is destroyed by a mob on the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. Their actions are later seen as a key moment in the defeat of Enlightenment ideals in England.

Art and science

Mary Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Women; a radical work which called on women to be allies to one another; fearless in their support and free in their criticism. Sir Joshua Reynolds dies and is succeeded by Benjamin West as President of the Royal Academy.

International

The mob invades the Tuileries and the French Royal Family is imprisoned marking the end of France's experiment with constitutional monarchy and the declaration of the first French Republic. The Revolutionary Commune is established in Paris. France declares war on Austria and then Prussia.

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