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'Introduction of Citizen Volpone & his Suite at Paris'

  • Object:

    Print

  • Place of origin:

    London

  • Date:

    15/11/1802

  • Artist/Maker:

    Gillray, James, born 1757 - died 1815 (artist)
    Humphrey, Hannah (publisher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand-coloured etching

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:

    1232:14-1882

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case GG, shelf 138, box N

This satire was published during the Peace of Amiens (1802-03), the shortlived break in hostilities between Britain and France, who were otherwise continuously at war between 1793 and 1815. It depicts Napoleon Bonaparte, who at this point was 'First Consul' of France, holding a levée or reception. Sitting on a gilded throne, he is flanked by figures in 'Arab' dress, possibly referencing his 1799 campaign in Egypt. He receives a host of British dignitaries, who could now safely travel to France. Central among these are the radical Whig MP Charles James Fox, and his wife, the former courtesan Elizabeth Armitstead. Fox is shown in elaborate court dress, in contrast to his casual 'man of the people' image, while Mrs Fox is depicted (inaccurately) as grossly obese.

The print is intended to criticise Fox as uncomfortably sympathetic to Napoleon, bowing and paying court to a figure who had been Britain's enemy until a few months prior. Fox had been criticised for his pro-French and pro-revolutionary views during the 1790s. He is implied to be a double-faced figure, which is supported by the title of the print's reference to 'Citizen Volpone'. 'Citizen' recalls his revolutionary sympathies, being the official and egalitarian mode of address adopted in republican France, while 'Volpone' is Italian for 'sly fox', and also refers to a Ben Jonson play of the same name, wherein the title character Volpone is a greedy and sly nobleman.

Physical description

The print depicts a reception or levée held by Napoleon Bonaparte, at that time First Consul of France. Napoleon, in military uniform and seated on an elaborate throne, is flanked by figures in 'Arab' dress. He receives a delegation of British politicians, central among whom are the figures of radical Whig MP Charles James Fox, in court dress, and his wife, who is depicted as grotesquely fat and covered in patches.

Place of Origin

London

Date

15/11/1802

Artist/maker

Gillray, James, born 1757 - died 1815 (artist)
Humphrey, Hannah (publisher)

Materials and Techniques

Hand-coloured etching

Object history note

Object originally bound in a guard-book containing one hundred and fifteen caricatures by T. Rowlandson, W. Heath, J. Gillray, R. Dighton, G. Cruikshank and others

Descriptive line

Satirical print, 'Introduction of Citizen Volpone & his Suite at Paris' by James Gillray, London 1815

Techniques

Etching

Categories

Satire; Prints; Politics

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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