'The death of the Great Wolf'
11 of 32 portraits of William Wilberforce
'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
Artistsback to top
Sittersback to top
- Richard Pepper Arden, 1st Baron Alvanley (1744-1804), Judge. Sitter in 14 portraits.
- Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Statesman; orator; author. Sitter associated with 105 portraits.
- John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham (1756-1835), General. Sitter in 7 portraits.
- Charles Long, 1st Baron Farnborough (1760-1838), Paymaster General, art connoisseur, Chief Secretary for Ireland and politician; MP for Rye, Midhurst, Wendover and Haslemere. Sitter in 10 portraits.
- William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville (1759-1834), Prime Minister. Sitter associated with 70 portraits.
- Thomas Powys, 1st Baron Lilford (1743-1800). Sitter in 8 portraits.
- David Murray, 2nd Earl of Mansfield (1727-1796), Diplomat and statesman. Sitter in 19 portraits.
- Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742-1811), Statesman. Sitter associated with 82 portraits.
- William Pitt (1759-1806), Prime Minister. Sitter associated with 173 portraits.
- Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond and Lennox (1735-1806), Field Marshal, ambassador to France and politician, Secretary of State for the Southern Department. Sitter in 28 portraits.
- George Rose (1744-1818), Statesman. Sitter associated with 14 portraits.
- Alexander Wedderburn, 1st Earl of Rosslyn (Lord Loughborough) (1733-1805), Lord Chancellor. Sitter associated with 33 portraits.
- William Wilberforce (1759-1833), Philanthropist and reformer. Sitter associated with 32 portraits.
- Hon. William Windham (1750-1810), Politician; Secretary at War. Sitter associated with 52 portraits.
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.
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1795back to top
Current affairsGeorge, 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 scienceThe 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.
InternationalWolfe 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.