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Rare Favourite Birds

  • Object:

    Print

  • Place of origin:

    London (printed)

  • Date:

    1829 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    G. Humphrey (printmaker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching on wove paper coloured by hand

  • Museum number:

    E.268-2009

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case GG, shelf 176

English caricatures were at their most vigorous and original from the 1770s until the second decade of the nineteenth century. During this time printshops multiplied, each with their popular window display. Hand-coloured etchings were now the standard product, rapidly published, available for sale as single prints, or even to be hired out for the evening in volumes. However vitriolic their assaults on public figures, they were virtually immune from prosecution, and many of the great targets such as Charles James Fox and George IV were also eager collectors of caricatures. The great themes of war and revolution predominate, but no scandal was too trivial to be neglected - the scandals of George IV's private life provided continual material for the caricaturists. [From 'English Caricature 1620 to the Present'; Victoria and Albert Museum; London, 1984.

King George IV is shown in an interior reclining on a sofa surrounded by his 'pets'. There are two birds resting on each end with the heads of the Duke of Wellington (a cockatoo) and Robert Peel (a crow or raven). At the foot of the sofa is a cat with the head of Lord Eldon. On the king's finger sits a bird with the head of Lady Conyngham, the king's mistress, wearing a coronet. Outside the window can be seen a giraffe with the head of Henry Brougham. The image of the giraffe is an allusion to George IV's pet Nubian giraffe which had been given to the King by the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt in 1827.

Physical description

King George IV in an interior reclining on a sofa surrounded by his menagerie. The birds and a cat have the heads of political figures of the day (the Duke of Wellington and Robert Peel have the bodies of birds - a cockatoo (Wellington) and a crow or raven (Peel), Lord Eldon has the body of a cat). On the king's finger sits a bird with the head of Lady Conyngham the king's mistress, wearing a coronet. Outside the window can be seen a giraffe with the head of Henry Brougham.

Place of Origin

London (printed)

Date

1829 (printed)

Artist/maker

G. Humphrey (printmaker)

Materials and Techniques

Etching on wove paper coloured by hand

Marks and inscriptions

'A POLITICAL MENAGERIE'
Above and within the image

'RARE FAVOURITE BIRDS'
Below and within the image

'London: Pub. by G. Humphrey 24, Street James's Street / april 9, 1829'
To the right below the image

'ICR [or JCR]'
Below the image to the left. British Museum Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires suggests that this could be 'Sharpshooter'.

WesTbury PeTiTion
On a scroll within the image below the couch on which the George IV is reclining

Dimensions

Height: 30 cm size of sheet, Width: 43.2 cm size of sheet, Height: 24.9 cm size of plate, Width: 35.3 cm size of plate, Height: 23.1 cm image size, Width: 33.5 cm image size

Object history note

Engraving (coloured impression). Above the design, as alternative title: 'A Political Menagerie.' George IV reclines on a sofa holding on his finger a smallish bird with the (coroneted) head of Lady Conyngham. Two much bigger birds perch on the sofa: a cockatoo, having an enormously long tail, with the head of Wellington in profile to the right, watching the King; a crow or raven, with Peel's head, at the King's elbow. On the floor stands a large cat with Eldon's head, looking grimly confident of superiority to the birds. The sofa is against a large window, through which is seen the neck of the giraffe with the head of (?) Brougham. On the floor below Peel is a rolled document: WesTbury PeTiTion. [From Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum; Vol. XI 1828-1832; 1954]

Descriptive line

'Rare Favourite Birds' by G. Humphrey; etching coloured by hand; 1829.

Materials

Wove paper; Printing ink

Techniques

Etching (printing process)

Subjects depicted

Cockatoo; Crows; Giraffes; Raven (bird); Cat

Categories

Prints; Caricatures & Cartoons; Royalty; Scotland

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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