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'The Union Club'

2 of 6 portraits of George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford

'The Union Club', by James Gillray, published by  Hannah Humphrey, published 21 January 1801 - NPG D12754 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

'The Union Club'

by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey
hand-coloured etching, published 21 January 1801
11 3/4 in. x 17 1/4 in. (299 mm x 437 mm) plate size; 12 in. x 17 5/8 in. (305 mm x 448 mm) paper size
Purchased, 1947
Reference Collection
NPG D12754

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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.

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This portraitback to top

This scene of drunken debauchery was a response to a formal print published to celebrate the first meeting of the Union Club, founded after England and Ireland were united in 1800. In the original illustration of the grand inaugural dinner, the Prince of Wales presided over a convivial scene seated on an elaborate throne. Gillray's version highlights the contentious nature of the Union by showing the Prince lying drunk under the table. Above him, the opposition leader Charles James Fox is collapsed in a chair, his feet propped on the table. All those not incapacitated or fighting drink a toast to the Union. Prominent among them are the Irish MP Lord Moira in a green jacket and Lord Cholmondely who raises his hat. The well-known fop Sir Lumley St George Skeffington dances in tipsily from the far right on the arm of an Irish friend.