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The Cauldron or Shakespeare Travestie 1820

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The Cauldron or Shakespeare Travestie 1820

published by John Fairburn
hand-coloured etching, published August 1820
9 3/4 in. x 13 7/8 in. (248 mm x 351 mm) plate size; 10 7/8 in. x 15 3/8 in. (277 mm x 391 mm) paper size
Bequeathed by Sir Edward Dillon Lott du Cann, 2018
Reference Collection
NPG D48672

Artistback to top

  • John Fairburn (active 1793-1843). Artist or producer associated with 29 portraits.

Sittersback to top

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Events of 1820back to top

Current affairs

George III dies at Windsor Castle on 29 January and George IV ascends to the throne.
'Trial of Queen Caroline' in the House of Lords; Parliament drops the Bill which was to legitimise a divorce between Caroline and George IV.
Cato Street Conspiracy to assassinate the cabinet discovered. Arthur Thistlewood and fellow conspirators are hung.

Art and science

Sir Thomas Lawrence becomes President of the Royal Academy.
Astronomical Society is set up by John Herschel and Charles Babbage.
First iron steamship is launched.


Actor, Edmund Kean goes on a successful tour of America after making his name at the Drury Lane Theatre.
Revolutions begin in Spain, Portugal and Naples.
The famous ancient Greek statue of the Venus de Milo is rediscovered on the Island of Melos and purchased by the Louvre in Paris.

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Julian Crowe

19 June 2021, 14:22

Further to my earlier message about Mary Ann Hunn, there is another possibility, which now seems quite likely -- viz that the features that I take to be caricatures of African features are rather due to the fact that she is blowing the fire, and the model used by the artist is the way the winds are conventionally represented.

Julian Crowe

19 June 2021, 11:21

The representation of Mary Ann Hunn in Fairburn's 'The Cauldron or Shakespeare Travestie' is puzzling. It is unlikely that Fairburn had ever seen MAH or the only known portrait of her. The face on the bellows resembles a generalised caricature of African features, and I don't know why Fairburn has chosen to represent her in this way, unless he saw it as a way of being randomly offensive. Two possible explanations occur to me, but neither is terribly convincing. The first is that he intended to represent her as of Irish extraction (which she was). Later in the 19 century there was a similarity between offensive caricatures of African and Irish faces, although I've not seen examples as early as 1820. The other is that the reason for including 'Mother Hunn' in the cartoon has to do with her pension, which was the cause of regular complaints levelled at her son George Canning. The pension was derived from the sugar revenues -- that is from the products of slave plantations. I'd be interested in your comments on this.

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