Not currently on display at the V&A

Auguste Vestris

Print
16/05/1781 (printed and published)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Highly paid performers have always come in for criticism, and this print satirises the great male dancer August Vestris and the huge sums he earned for his performances in London in 1781. The caption and vignette monkeys imply that what he does is an unsuitable occupation for a man - nothing more than any animal does naturally but, as the caption also says - he should care! Although the print is intended to be satiric, it actually shows a charming, ebulliant and charismatic performer, an evocative image of one of the greatest male dancers of all time.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Aquatint
Brief description
Auguste Vestris. Engraving by Bartolozzi and Pastorini after an aquatint attributed to Nathaniel Dance, 1781.
Physical description
In a roundel a male dancer stands on a stage against wooded scenery; his back is to the viewer, looking back over his left shoulder; he stands on his right leg, his left raised to hip height, and his arms are oustretched. In his left hand he holds a netted purse with a label inscribed 'English Guineas' and in his right is a hat holding banknotes inscribed 'gui. £1100' and '£20,000'. He wears a dark 18th century wig, a skirted jacket, swirling out from his waist, and tight knee-breeches. In the lower edges of the surrounding square frame is a monkey, similarly dressed, mimicking the dancer's pose.

Inscription: Oh qui GOOSE-TOE!

'He Dan'd like a Monkey, his Pockets well cram'd; / Caper'd off with a Grin, "kiss my A*** & be D-d.'
Dimensions
  • Right hand side height: 384mm
  • Lower edge width: 338mm
Irregularly cut down
Credit line
Given by Dame Marie Rambert
Object history
The print is part of the collection of dance prints amassed by Marie Rambert and her husband, Ashley Dukes in the first half of the 20th century. Eventually numbering 145 items, some of which had belonged to the ballerina Anna Pavlova, it was one of the first and most important specialist collections in private hands.

Rambert bought the first print as a wedding present but could not bear to give it away. As the collection grew, it was displayed in the bar of the Mercury Theatre, the headquarters of Ballet Rambert, but in 1968, Rambert gave the collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum; seven duplicates were returned to Rambert, but these are catalogued in Ivor Guest's A Gallery of Romantic Ballet, which was published before the collection came to the V&A. Although often referred to as a collection of Romantic Ballet prints, there are also important engravings of 17th and 18th century performers, as well as lithographs from the later 19th century, by which time the great days of the ballet in London and Paris were over.

The aquatint is a companion print to S.4965-1968.

The inscription relates to an anecdote in Plutarch’s Laconic Apothegms.
Subject depicted
Summary
Highly paid performers have always come in for criticism, and this print satirises the great male dancer August Vestris and the huge sums he earned for his performances in London in 1781. The caption and vignette monkeys imply that what he does is an unsuitable occupation for a man - nothing more than any animal does naturally but, as the caption also says - he should care! Although the print is intended to be satiric, it actually shows a charming, ebulliant and charismatic performer, an evocative image of one of the greatest male dancers of all time.
Collection
Accession number
E.4966-1968

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Record createdAugust 31, 2004
Record URL
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