The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe ('Black-Dick turn'd taylor')

© National Portrait Gallery, London

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe ('Black-Dick turn'd taylor')

by James Gillray, published by George Humphrey
hand-coloured etching, published 4 February 1788
9 1/4 in. x 8 7/8 in. (235 mm x 227 mm) plate size; 9 5/8 in. x 9 3/8 in. (243 mm x 239 mm) paper size
Purchased, 1947
Reference Collection
NPG D12371

Sitterback to top

Artistsback to top

  • James Gillray (1756-1815), Caricaturist. Artist associated with 881 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.
  • George Humphrey (active 1783-1831), Publisher and printseller; nephew of Hannah Humphrey. Artist associated with 88 portraits, Sitter associated with 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

This is a historic work of art which reflects the attitudes and viewpoints of the time in which it was made. Whilst these may differ from today's attitudes, this image is an important historical document.

Richard Howe rose through the ranks of the Royal Navy, becoming Commander-in-Chief during the American War of Independence (1775-83), and eventually rising to First Lord of the Admiralty (1783-88). This print satirises Howe at a time when his promotion of junior officers over more senior men was so unpopular that it occasioned debates in Parliament and personal attacks in the press. Howe was also criticised around this time for his regulation of naval uniforms, which Gillray mocks through this depiction of Howe as an obsessive tailor, hunched over a pile of sewing.
The moniker 'Black Dick' referenced in the title is the nickname given to Howe by the men serving under him. In the berth beneath him is a figure if the Devil, whose speech indicated that it is he who controls Howe's actions: "And I'll have a general Reform soon, as I shall get you before you are aware of it. I've ting'd your Heart so may safely leave you to go on."

For this central figure Gillray drew on the on the then-common Western iconography of a black Devil, which had its basis in Christian theological theories and religious imagery of brightness (whiteness) as a sign of holiness, and darkness (blackness) as a sign of evil. The grotesquely caricatured black imp on the left roasts a hawk, a reference to Howe's rejection of the methods of Sir Edward Hawke, under whom Howe had served at the beginning of his career.

Placesback to top

Events of 1788back to top

Current affairs

Parliament begins an investigation into the slave trade, led by reformers Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce.
Regency Crisis; George III's madness is announced provoking a political storm.
Former Governor-General of Bengal Warren Hastings' trial begins before the House of Lords.
Henry Benedict Stuart becomes the new Stuart claimant to the British throne.

Art and science

Artist Thomas Gainsborough dies.
First edition of The Times newspaper is published in London.
Scottish engineer and inventor William Symington demonstrates the first paddle steamer on Dalswinton Loch near Dumfries.
Robert Burns writes his version of the Scots poem Auld Lang Syne.


Ministers of the French King, Louis XVI, reluctantly announce that the Estates General will meet the following year, for the first time since 1614.
United States constitution comes into force when New Hampshire becomes the ninth state to ratify it.
First Fleet reaches Australia, anchoring in Botany Bay. Arthur Phillip, selecting a suitable site for the first Australian penal colony, names the place Sydney Cove.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.