'The death of the Great Wolf'

1 portrait of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham

'The death of the Great Wolf', by James Gillray, published by  Hannah Humphrey, published 17 December 1795 - NPG D12551 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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'The death of the Great Wolf'

by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey
hand-coloured etching and engraving, published 17 December 1795
12 7/8 in. x 17 1/2 in. (326 mm x 444 mm) paper size
Purchased, 1947
Reference Collection
NPG D12551

Artistsback to top

  • James Gillray (1756-1815), Caricaturist. Artist associated with 881 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.
  • Hannah Humphrey (circa 1745-1818), Publisher and printseller. Artist associated with 718 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

Sittersback to top

This portraitback to top

This caricature of the Tory administration and its supporters is a brilliant parody of The Death of Wolfe of 1771; Benjamin West's heroic history painting commemorating the 1759 Siege of Quebec. Published the day before the passing of the Treason and Sedition Bills in 1795, it mocks the government's over-reaction to domestic radical agitation in light of the revolutionary events in France. The heavy ministerial forces in the background are clearly disproportionate to the small number of unarmed sans-culottes visible to the far left. In the foreground, the mortally wounded Prime Minister, William Pitt is supported by the conservative political writer Edmund Burke and the Secretary of State for War Henry Dundas. Instead of staunching the wound, Dundas offers a glass of port - one of Pitt's well known weaknesses. In the place of the Mohawk Indian of West's original sits a near-naked Baron Loughborough, the Lord Chancellor, with the purse of the Great Seal and a monstrous wig of office replacing the Mohawk's beaded bag and headdress.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D1356: 'The Death of Wolfe' (James Wolfe) (source portrait)

Placesback to top

Events of 1795back to top

Current affairs

George, Prince of Wales is forced to marry Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick, despite having secretly married Maria Fitzherbert in 1785.
Widespread rioting prompts the introduction of the Speenhamland system of welfare supplements which are linked to the price of bread.
Treasonable Practices Act is passed against open criticism of government.

Art and science

The MP Matthew Gregory 'Monk' Lewis publishes his notorious gothic novel The Monk to success and scandal because of its immoral content.
Mungo Park explores the course of the River Niger.


Wolfe Tone, founder of The Society of United Irishmen, departs for America after being implicated in high treason in Ireland. Exiled in Philadelphia, he soon leaves for France to ask revolutionaries for assistance.
Joseph Haydn composes the English Canzonettas during his second stay in London.

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