James Gillray: A Revolution in Satire

Freya Johnston at Literary Review:

Children do not tend to feature prominently in the satirical works of the ‘Prince of Caricatura’, James Gillray. As someone professionally committed to excoriating the politicians and celebrities of his day, he was paid to train his eye on the grown-ups. One exception to this rule comes in A March to the Bank, a vast, elaborate print of 1787. It was published in the wake of the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots in London and reflects the city’s outrage at the subsequent military crackdown on public disorder. Gillray blends straight portraiture with lurid exaggeration in his etching: an absurdly dandified, impossibly skinny officer goosesteps over a mob of Londoners, who lie crushed and abandoned in various states of disarray. At the centre of the picture, with the officer’s foot daintily poised on her midriff, lies the grotesque, ungainly figure of a fishwife, still grasping a basket of eels, her hefty legs splayed wide open. A fragment of cloth barely covers her genitals. Next to her lies a baby boy, perhaps her son, who is naked from the waist down and spread-eagled on the edge of the pavement. An impassive-looking soldier has placed the tip of his boot squarely on the child’s face.

more here.