Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Carlo Pellegrini (1839-1889), 'Ape'; caricaturist

Caricaturist (‘Ape’, ‘Singe’); born March 1839, in Capua, southern Italy, into an aristocratic landowning family. Educated in Naples; apparently no formal artistic training but drew caricatures from an early age; volunteered with Garibaldi 1860; acquaintanceship with Edward, Prince of Wales (Naples 1862) useful on arrival in London 1864; career launched by coloured portraits chargés of Disraeli and Gladstone 1869 for recently founded Vanity Fair; though never the most prolific Vanity Fair artist, [1] he was certainly the most influential, [2] and created the portrait type; died of tuberculosis at his home, 53 Mortimer Street, London, on 22 January 1889.

Accounts of his foreign habits and eccentricities abound in memoirs of the period. [3]

In person he was little and stout, and extremely fastidious. He always wore white spats, and their whiteness was ever immaculate, for he rode everywhere […] His boots, too, were the acme of perfection, and his nails were as long and pointed as those of a Mandarin.[4]

Louise Jopling wrote the following account of his working methods:

He did not give his sitters much trouble, in the way of posing. He would make a note of any personage on his thumb nail, or on his shirt cuff, but generally it was sufficient for him to follow his intended victim about, for two or three days, and he would thus learn him by heart, and, in his Studio, with only the mental image of the man before his mind’s eye, he would produce the salient points that made a smile come to the lips of the observer, as he saw the cartoon of the week. [5]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Sir Leslie Ward (‘Spy’) produced 1325 cartoons as against Pellegrini’s 333.
2) For instance, Max Beerbohm dedicated his first book of drawings (Caricatures of Twenty-Five Gentlemen, 1896) to ‘the Shade of Carlo Pellegrini’.
3) See Carr 1908; Furniss 1901, [1919], 1925; Ward 1915.
4) Ward 1915, p.96.
5) Jopling 1925, pp.251–2.

Referencesback to top

Alley 1981
Alley, R., Tate Gallery’s Collection of Modern Art, London, 1981.

Carr 1908
Carr, J.C., Some Eminent Victorians: Personal Recollections in the World of Art and Letters, London, 1908.

Fredeman 2002–10
Fredeman, W.E., ed., The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 9 vols, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2002–10.

Furniss 1901
Furniss, H.,Confessions of a Caricaturist, 2 vols, London, 1901.

Furniss [1919]
Furniss, H., My Bohemian Days, London, n.d. [1919].

Furniss 1925
Furniss, H., The Two Pins Club, London, 1925.

Harris 1976
Harris, E., ‘Carlo Pellegrini: Man and “Ape”’, Apollo, vol.103, 1976, pp.53–7.

Harris & Ormond 1976
Harris, E., and R. Ormond, Vanity Fair: An Exhibition of Original Cartoons, NPG, London, 1976.

Jopling 1925
Jopling, L., Twenty Years of My Life, 1867 to 1887, London, 1925.

Matthews & Mellini 1982
Matthews, R., and P. Mellini, In ‘Vanity Fair’, London, 1982.

Mellini 2004
Mellini, P., ‘Pellegrini, Carlo [Ape] (1839–1889)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004.

Naylor 1965
Naylor, L., The Irrepressible Victorian: The Story of Thomas Gibson Bowles, London, 1965.

Symon 1896
Symon, J.D., ‘A Visit to “Vanity Fair', The Windsor Magazine, vol.3, 1896, pp.703–14.

Ward 1915
Ward, L., Forty Years of ‘Spy’, London, 1915.

Wood 1995
Wood, C., Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1995.