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'The Republican rattle-snake fascinating the Bedford-squirrel'

7 of 44 portraits of Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford

'The Republican rattle-snake fascinating the Bedford-squirrel', by James Gillray, published by  Hannah Humphrey, published 16 November 1795 - NPG D12547 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

'The Republican rattle-snake fascinating the Bedford-squirrel'

by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey
hand-coloured etching, published 16 November 1795
13 7/8 in. x 9 3/4 in. (351 mm x 247 mm) plate size; 14 5/8 in. x 10 1/4 in. (370 mm x 260 mm) paper size
Purchased, 1947
Reference Collection
NPG D12547


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Sittersback to top

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

Anthropomorphism, through which Gillray reduced his victims to the form and status of animals chosen to match their personalities, was one of the ultimate tools of caricature. Here the opposition leader, Charles James Fox, appears as a fanged rattlesnake rearing towards a plump squirrel with the head of the Duke of Bedford. Bedford was an ardent Fox devotee. A week before this print was published, in November 1795, he had spoken out at a Whig Club meeting against the anti-radical Treasonable Practices and Seditious Meetings Bill to which Fox was vehemently opposed. Fox's defence of democratic liberties and his campaign for peace with France had already made him a figure of suspicion in certain political circles who were beginning to suspect that treason was being hatched under cover of his demands for reform.